Brandon Lyon: From Abused To Admired

Johnny LawrenceCorrespondent IAugust 4, 2009

SEATTLE - APRIL 19:  Brandon Lyon #37 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the game on April 19, 2009 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Brandon Lyon came to Detroit with closer expectations, but a poor Spring Training and an awful first two months derailed the Tigers' plans.

Fernando Rodney landed the late-inning role by default.

Only the most ardent of Lyon fans can admit they weren't calling for his release around the time manager Jim Leyland made this proclamation.

In April, Lyon picked up two losses and blew a save, surrendering six runs in his first 11 innings.

And May proved almost fatal for Lyon, as he struggled much more noticeably than his debut month. In one fewer inning, he allowed nine runs on 11 hits, five walks, and three homers.

But since the calendar turned June, Lyon has been downright filthy.

His evolution began on June 2 against Boston when he pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

18 days passed before he gave up another run.

Then 11 more days, and so on.

In Lyon's 29 1/3 innings since turning the page in early June, the former Diamondback has fanned almost as many as he has allowed to reach base (25 baserunners-to-24 K).

More importantly, Lyon ceased giving up the late-inning homers (0 since May 26).

At Comerica Park, he is near flawless. In 19 1/3 innings, the opposition bats a measly .185. Against lefties, the split is a comparable .194 with no long balls.

According to Detroit's pitching coach, Rick Knapp, the addition of a cut fastball to his game day arsenal is responsible for the stark contrast.

"Lyon started using a cutter, something he had, but was not using," Knapp said. "And it's become a weapon."

"He throws his sinker in and his cutter away. And his velocity has come up from Spring Training, when it was 89-to-92 (mph). Now, it's 92-94. It makes him a different guy."

No more straight gopher balls from Lyon.

The one-year, $4.25 million contract General Manager Dave Dombrowski issued Lyon in the offseason is beginning to look like a bargain, as he has solved the Tigers' severe set-up issues.

If Rodney slips up in the late innings, Lyon will be the next to slide in, but Rodney's excellence in save situations will likely prevent Lyon from getting the opportunity he came to Detroit to receive.

Approximately 11,016,000 babies have been born since Lyon last watched the ball fly over a fence on his watch. At this current rate of success, the world will welcome another 11 million before Lyon gets taken deep again.