Lance Lynn, Prove Us Wrong
Oh, Lance Lynn, probably the most perplexing pitcher in this rotation. For most of the season, Lynn has been a combination of consistent and inconsistent. He stands with a record of 11-10 compiling a 3.28 ERA, 8.76 strikeouts per nine innings, and 3.62 walks per nine innings.
On the surface those numbers aren’t bad. Lynn is a fastball pitcher primarily with a staggering 85.3% of his pitches thrown being a fastball of some kind. It looked like maybe Lynn was starting to come into his own before the injury to his ankle in San Francisco.
However, in three starts since the injury he he has only gone more than 3.1 innings once and it was Sep. 12 in Cincinnati where he went six innings allowing just three runs on four hits. His ERA over those three starts you ask? In the eleven and two thirds innings pitched, Lynn has a 7.23 ERA.
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I am not a pitching expert by any means. However, my initial thought was that Lynn has relied a bit too much on his fastball. According to Fangraphs, Lynn throws two fastballs (four seamer and two seamer), as well as a slider, a curve, and a changeup.
During spring training we were told Lynn was tinkering with a new changeup that was potentially going to be a pitch he was going to try to use more often. Of his four pitches, his fastballs are both more valuable in terms of runs saved per 100 innings than any of the three breaking pitches.
In fact when looking at his pitch percentage per game, it is clear that Lynn lives and dies on his fastball darting throughout the zone. When Lynn throws his Fastball 90% of the time or more he is much more successful than when he doesn’t, as he has a 2.50 ERA in those games. So, maybe Lynn ought to rely more on his fastball to get him through games as opposed to tinkering with new pitches.
The problem with this? Of late Lynn has really lacked command of that fastball and this season he has been out of the zone with his fastball too much which has got him into hitters counts and in trouble with walks. This is not to mention the high pitch counts Lynn has struggled with for portions of this season.
This lack of command is really evident against left handed hitters. These hitters are hitting .272/.369/.460 with a really good OPS of .830 resulting in ten home runs, fourteen doubles, thirty-nine walks, and fifty four strikeouts. All thus earning Lynn a 5.09 ERA. This is the issue that is holding Lynn back the most.
Take a look at this spray chart for Lynn against left handers. This chart represents the balls batted against left handers for Lynn.
As you can see, Lynn is allowing a lot more flyballs not just for outs but for home runs and extra base hits to left handed hitters. This is evident by his flyball percentage of 40.4 and the 30.7% hard contact these hitters have against him.
Looking at the two potential teams the Cardinals could face first in the postseason in the Cubs and Pirates, you see that with their good left handed hitters they have teed off on Lynn this season. Only twice this season has Lynn turned a quality start against these two teams.
His first start of the season was Lynn’s only quality start against the Cubs, and that was before the likes of Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber (left handed hitter) came up. The only quality start Lynn owns against the Pirates is from a game in late April, when the Pirates were really struggling.
It’s time to start thinking about Lance Lynn (the default ace when Wainwright went down) not making the postseason rotation.
At this point despite Michael Wacha‘s struggles recently, there really is not anyone else in this rotation struggling as mightily as Lynn is. I really feel the team is going to be faced with tough decision to move Lynn (whose been a fixture in the postseason rotation since 2012) to the bullpen. Unless he is skipped, Lynn should figure to get three more starts this season, giving him ample enough opportunity to prove he has what it takes to step up and be the ace for this team in the postseason.