I searched through the statistics of Brandon Lyon trying to find a reason the Astros wanted him and wanted him so much they gave him $5 million a year for three years. And I may have found one small thing that makes Lyon unusual and possibly more valuable.
He routinely pitches more than an inning. Last year, he got four outs or more 23 times in 65 appearances. In those 23 appearances, he pitched 43.2 innings with 19 walks, 26 strikeouts and 4 home runs, so he was reasonably effective in those longer appearances, at least no worse than he was in shorter appearances.
He is also, or at least was in 2009, reasonably effective against right- and left-handers. Before 2009, he had a reverse platoon split, tougher on lefties than righties.
Not saying the deal was good, but that ability to get four or five outs rather than a maximum of three has some value. The Astros had a bunch of one-inning guys last year, and it’s tough to live with that when your starters throw the fewest innings in the league.