This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History: February 21st, Savage, Lyons and Jouett

No major transactions on this date, and just three former Pittsburgh Pirates born on February 21st, including a very recent one who didn’t last long.

Tyler Lyons, pitcher for the 2019 Pirates. He was originally drafted in the tenth round in 2009 by the New York Yankees out of Oklahoma State University. Lyons returned to school, where he was selected by the Cardinals in the ninth round in 2010. He debuted in the minors in 2011, going right to High-A Palm Beach of the Florida State League, where he split his time between starting and relief work. He went 9-4, 4.50 in 94 innings over 12 starts and 21 relief appearances. He attended the Arizona Fall League after the season and posted a 4.85 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 29.2 innings. In 2012, Lyons split the season between 12 starts for Springfield of the Double-A Texas League and 15 starts for Memphis of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He combined to go 9-13, 4.13 in 152.2 innings, with 143 strikeouts. He debuted in the majors in late May of 2013, but more of his time was spent in Triple-A. He had a 3.32 ERA in 100.1 innings with Memphis, and a 2-4, 4.75 record in 53 innings with the Cardinals, making eight starts and four relief appearances. In 2014, Lyons had a 4.43 ERA in 14 starts for Memphis, and an 0-4, 4.42 record in 36.2 innings over 11 games (four starts) with the Cardinals. He spent slightly more time in Memphis in 2015, where he had a 3.14 ERA in 96.2 innings over 17 starts. With St Louis that year, he went 3-1, 3.75 in 60 innings, making eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Lyons spent his first full season at the big league level in 2016 when he had a 3.38 ERA in 48 innings over 30 appearances, all coming in relief. He pitched well for the Cardinals in 2017, making 50 appearances, with a 2.83 ERA in 54 innings. That was followed by a rough 2018 campaign in which he twice missed time due to an injury and he finished the year in the minors. Lyons had an 8.64 ERA in 16.2 innings over 27 relief appearances for the 2018 Cardinals. He was granted free agency on October 1st and signed a minor league deal with the Pirates on Christmas Eve, but his big league time was extremely brief. He lasted just three relief appearances with the Pirates in early May of 2019, appearing in those games over a four-day stretch. Lyons allowed five runs in four innings before being designated for assignment. He remained with the Pirates in Triple-A Indianapolis of the International League for three months before they released him in August, so he could sign elsewhere. He finished the 2019 season with the New York Yankees, where he had a 4.15 ERA in 8.2 innings over 11 appearances. He pitched one big league game in 2020, allowing four runs in 1.2 innings. He re-signed with the Yankees as a free agent in January of 2021, but did not pitch during the season. Lyons has a 13-12, 4.30 record in 282.2 innings over 162 big league appearances, with 20 starts and three saves to his credit.

Ted Savage, outfielder for the 1963 Pirates. Savage debuted in pro ball at 23 years old, playing for Williamsport of the Class-A Eastern League. He hit .284 that season, with 83 runs, nine homers, 69 RBIs, 67 walks and 40 stolen bases. The next year he moved up to Buffalo of the Triple-A International League, where he established himself as a prospect. He batted .325 with 111 runs, 29 doubles, 24 homers, 31 stolen bases and 96 walks, though his 115 strikeouts in the minors during that era should have been a bit of a red flag. Savage had a strong rookie season in 1962 for the Philadelphia Phillies, hitting .266 with 54 runs scored, 20 extra-base hits, 40 walks and 16 stolen bases in 127 games, leading to a .718 OPS and 1.3 WAR. That November, the Pirates acquired him and infielder Poncho Herrera in exchange for third baseman Don Hoak. Savage was used mainly off the bench for the Pirates. He hit well through early May, but his average began to drop, and he made just five starts over the last 94 games of the season. He ended up playing 85 games for the Pirates, hitting .195 in 166 plate appearances, with a .590 OPS and he stole just four bases in seven attempts. He spent the entire 1964 season in Triple-A with Columbus of the International League, where hit he .230 in 115 games, with ten homers, 26 steals and a .692 OPS. The Pirates traded him after the season, along with pitcher Earl Francis, to the St Louis Cardinals for two minor leaguers (Ron Cox and Jack Damaska) who never appeared in a game for the Pirates.

Savage played parts of three seasons with the Cardinals, spending most of his time in Triple-A, where he put up big stats for Tulsa of the Pacific Coast League in 1966, hitting .317 in 108 games, with 34 doubles, 18 homers, 80 RBIs, 43 steals and 61 walks. His time with the Cardinals in 1965 was limited to a .159 average in 69 plate appearances over 30 games. He saw even less time in 1966, despite the minor league results, hitting .172 in 29 at-bats over 16 games. In 1967, Savage went 1-for-8 with a walk in nine games before he was sold to the Chicago Cubs on May 14th. He finished the year by hitting .218 in 96 games, with 16 extra-base hits, 40 runs scored, 33 RBIs and 40 walks. He played just three games with the 1968 Cubs before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he batted .206 in 61 games, with a .588 OPS. The Dodgers traded him to the Cincinnati Reds right before the 1969 season started. During that one season in Cincinnati, Savage batted 132 times in 68 games, finishing with a .227 average and a .689 OPS. The Reds sold him on April 5, 1970 to the Milwaukee Brewers, an expansion team in their second season. With Milwaukee that year, he hit a career high .279 with 12 homers, 50 RBIs and 57 walks in 114 games. His 343 plate appearances that year were his highest total since his rookie season. That 1970 season was the best of his career (1.8 WAR), but his big league career was over by the end of the 1971 season.  He batted .174 in 33 games in 1971, splitting his time between the Brewers and a another recent expansion team, the Kansas City Royals. Savage finished with a .233 career average, with 202 runs, 34 homers, 163 RBIs and 49 stolen bases over nine seasons and 642 games. He finished his pro career with two seasons in Mexico.

Jouett Meekin, pitcher for the 1900 Pirates. He debuted in pro ball in 1889 at 22 years old, playing for St Paul of the Western Association, where he went 13-13, 1.91 in 221 innings. He debuted in the majors in mid-June of 1891, after going 4-8, 3.51 in his third season with St Paul. He began his big league career with the Louisville Colonels of the American Association, where he went 9-16, 4.28 in 221 innings over 25 starts, with 24 complete games. That gave him a total of 333.2 innings pitched that season between the minors and majors. His 141 strikeouts with Louisville that year ended up being his career high. The American Association closed up shop after the 1891 season and Meekin moved with Louisville to the National League in 1892. He had a 7-10, 4.03 record in 156.1 innings, completing 17 of his 18 starts, before being released. He finished the year with the lowly Washington Senators, where he had a 3-10 record, despite a 3.46 ERA. He had a total of 20 losses that season and 268.1 innings pitched, posting a 126:125 BB/SO ratio. While his ERA went up to 4.96 in 1893, the entire league saw a rise in runs scored, so it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Washington finished in 12th/last place with a 40-89 record and Meekin had a 10-15 record. He completed 24 of 28 starts and threw 245 innings, but he was hurt by walks, which resulted in a rough looking 140:91 BB/SO ratio.

In 1894, which some consider the best year for offense in all of baseball, Meekin went 33-9, 3.70 for the New York Giants, who acquired him in a four-player/cash trade that February. He finished with the second best ERA and second most wins in the league, while throwing 418 innings and 41 complete games. When most pitchers had trouble adjusting to the new pitching rules during that time they favored hitters, he managed to have his best season. His 11.2 WAR that season trailed only Hall of Famer Amos Rusie among all players. For comparison sake, the Pirates have only had one better season for a pitcher in franchise history, back in 1885 when Ed Morris put up 13.3 WAR and set all kinds of single-season records that still stand. Honus Wagner had just one season with more than 11.2 WAR (11.5 in 1908), so Meekin’s season would have ranked as the third best in franchise history if it came with the Pirates. Despite all of those accomplishments that year, he finished with 176 walks, compared to 137 strikeouts, ranking third in the league in both categories.

Meekin went on to win 78 total games over the 1895-98 seasons, all spent with the New York Giants. Playing for a .500 team (66-65) in 1895, he posted a 16-11 record, while putting up a 5.30 ERA in 225.2 innings. He went 26-14, 3.82 in 334.1 innings in 1896, while the rest of the pitchers on the Giants combined for a 38-53 record that season. Meekin then had a 20-11, 3.76 season in 1897, topping 300 innings (303.2) for the fourth time in his career. The Giants were a third place team in 1897 (83-48 record), but they were back down to a .500 club the next year and it showed in his record. Despite an ERA just 0.01 higher in nearly the same amount of work, Meekin went from a 20-11 record in 1897 to a 16-18 record in 1898. He started off slow in 1899, going 5-11, 4.37 in 18 starts, before he was sold in early August to the Boston Beaneaters, who need an extra arm for their pennant run. He would bounce back with them, going 7-6 2.83 in 13 starts, completing 12 of those games. Boston released Meekin a month prior to the start of the 1900 season. He found a job with the Pirates a short time later, signing on April 10th under the recommendation of new manager Fred Clarke. Meekin would make just two starts for Pittsburgh, one in June and one in July, with his opponent in the pitcher’s box being Cy Young in his final big league game. He didn’t report to the Pirates until 13 days after he signed and was not ready to pitch at the time, so he worked out at Exposition Park while the team was on the road. Interestingly enough, before he pitched a game for the Pirates, Pittsburgh fans had something to look forward to when Boston manager Hugh Duffy said in the papers that he regretted releasing Meekin and it should have never happened.

Meekin returned home for a short time to get into shape, but on May 3rd he was ordered back to Pittsburgh by the team. News was then quiet until mid-June. The Pirates had him penciled in for a debut on June 16th, but poor weather conditions had Fred Clarke decide to use Jack Chesbro instead. Meekin pitched the next day and allowed solo runs in four of the first five innings, before the Chicago Orphans (Cubs) broke through for four runs in the sixth. Meekin lost 8-1 in his debut. There was word that he could pitch June 23rd against St Louis, but he ended up not pitching again until July 8th against St Louis. Meekin got hit hard, giving up 13 runs over five innings before being removed in favor of outfielder Tom McCreery, who pitched the final three innings. According to the game recaps, he had very poor velocity and no command of his pitches. Meekin was known as a pitcher who got by with a lot of velocity at his best and not much else, with decent control and a mediocre curve. The papers also estimated that he wouldn’t pitch again in St Louis and that proved to be correct, though an understatement. That one-sided affair would end up being the last Major League game for Meekin. The day after the Pirates said that they still had faith in him and thought he still offered plenty on the mound. However, he was released 15 days later. The Pirates reportedly stayed with him much longer than expected because his contract was set up to pay him only based on games played, so it cost them very little to keep him around for 3 1/2 months. A week after his release, he returned to the Pirates at the request of Fred Clarke, but never pitched and wasn’t back for long. He played two more seasons of minor league ball before retiring. He finished his major league career with a 152-133, 4.07 record in 2,605.1 innings, with 308 starts, 270 complete games and nine shutouts. He finished with a 1,056:901 BB/SO ratio. His first name was George, but he went by his middle name Jouett while playing in the majors.

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