Just a year ago, Jordan Lyles defied the uninspiring 54-79 career record with which he started his first, and ultimately only, season with Baltimore. Working for his seventh club in 12 big league seasons, Lyles became the ace of the Orioles' starting rotation, going 12-11 and winning four more games than any other Baltimore starter. The effort helped the O's, who beat the KC Royals five times in six tries, to their first winning season since 2016.
And his 4.42 ERA, while not stellar, was better than four of the six hurlers who started at least 20 games for Kansas City.
Lyles tested free agency after the season and landed in Kansas City, something we suggested could happen before it did. The Royals obviously believed Lyles was part of the solution to an unreliable, inconsistent rotation.
To a certain but small extent, Lyles has worked out for the Royals. He's the innings eater everyone thought he'd be — he's tied with Brady Singer for the club lead in innings pitched (139.1), has one less start than Singer's 25, and his three complete games (the only ones on the staff) tie him with Miami's Sandy Alcantara for the big league lead.
Admirable feats, yes, but they tend to pale in comparison to Lyles' body of work. He pitched his third complete game Sunday but lost to the Cubs, a defeat that marked his 14th of the season, a number no other major league hurler has reached with over a month left in the regular season.
It also put him in range of establishing a new Royals single-season record, one that neither he or the Royals can be particularly interested in seeming him break.
Jordan Lyles could lose more games in a year than any other KC Royals pitcher
That Lyles leads the majors in losses is bad enough; that he might lose more games than any other Royal has in one season is worse. The club record of 19 losses, shared by Paul Splittorff and Darrell May, isn't that far away.
Splittorff lost 19 in 1974, his fifth season and the Royals' sixth. He'd won 20 times the year before, but losing his last seven games of '74 had much to do with it being the worst of his 15-season career. Despite that poor campaign, Splittorff ranks as one of the franchises' best pitchers ever, remains the club's career wins leader with 166, and was named to the team's Hall of Fame in 1987.
May suffered his 19 losses in 2004, the third and final season of his stay in Kansas City. Those 19 defeats unfortunately made him the major league leader in the category. In a postseason trade most KC fans long ago forgot, the Royals sent him and Ryan Bukvich to San Diego for Terrence Long, Dennis Tankersley, and some money.
Will Lyles, who still has a year remaining on his two-year, $17 million Kansas City contract (that deal notwithstanding, we recently suggested he's among players the Royals shouldn't bring back next year) break the Splittorff-May record? He'll have to lose five games to tie their mark and six to break it; including Monday night's series-opener at Oakland, 36 games remain on the Royals' schedule, which means Lyles could, barring injury, get between five and seven starts before the campaign concludes, so he'll have to lose almost every start to catch or pass Splittorff and May.
It can be done. After all, Lyles is 3-14. For him, losses are coming far more frequently than wins.