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What Tyler Lyons can improve on going into his second season with the Yankees

The Yankees are bringing Lyons back for 2020, and there are a few things he can work on to enhance his game.

Divisional Series - Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees - Game Two Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

On August 15th, the Yankees signed free agent reliever Tyler Lyons to a minor league contract. He didn’t have much of an impact or any prominent role in the 11 games he appeared in for the Yankees, but Lyons could get more reps once the 2020 season begins as they’ve re-signed him this offseason to another minor league deal.

That wasn’t the first time he was linked to the Bombers though. He was actually drafted by New York in the 2009 amateur draft, but elected to return to pitch at Oklahoma State University instead. A decade and two teams later, he eventually ended up in pinstripes. Perhaps it was just meant to be.

In the 8.2 frames he hurled last season, he had some good outings, but also some poor outings. Let’s start with where Lyons managed to find some success. Lyons was no stranger to the strikeout, and he missed plenty of bats in the little time he had. The left-hander recorded at least one strikeout in all but one of his appearances as a Yankee, and that’s only because he faced one batter in that game. If he’s able to keep that up, he’ll obviously put himself in prime position to help his team out. But while he was able to rack up some Ks, he also got tagged at times.

Lyons has four pitches in his arsenal: a slider, sinker, four seamer, and changeup. The slider is his go-to pitch as he throws it around 50% of the time, according to Baseball Savant. While it is an effective pitch, it seemed as though it became predictable and he ended up leaving it over the plate somewhat often. When a batter knows what pitch is coming and where it’s going to be, that’s a recipe for disaster. Consider this chart of Lyon’s sliders as a Yankee and the batting averages against in each location. It’s safe to say that when it hung over the middle of home plate, it got mashed.

Tyler Lyon’s location of his slider and opponent’s batting averages against it.

This is a small sample size as it’s only 37 pitches, but it’s still interesting to see. Once he strayed away from the middle of the plate, Lyons was highly effective. Locating his top pitch will be crucial for Lyons this upcoming season.

Another element of his game that he can work on is his ability to get right-handed hitters out on a more consistent basis. That will be especially important for him this season as the three-batter minimum rule will be in effect. Lyons can no longer be used for one out. Looking at his numbers against righties over his career, it’s clear that he’s had some trouble. The last time he got consistent innings he managed to cut down the amount of home runs he allowed though, so perhaps there’s still room to improve.

Tyler Lyon’s numbers against right-handed hitters throughout his career.

Lyons will have to fight for his spot on the major league roster during spring training. His main competition will be guys like Luis Cessa, Jonathan Holder and Jonathan Loaisiga, among others. It’s also interesting to note that Lyons has no more options left. It won’t be easy for him to make the opening day roster, but he definitely has a legitimate chance.