The St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff looked uncomfortable all throughout the 2016 season. Now, fans are wondering what the starting staff can do to rebound but many are forgetting what Lance Lynn brings to this ball club.
The St. Louis Cardinals will be welcoming starting pitcher Lance Lynn back to the team after he missed the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. However, it doesn’t seem that many fans or reporters seem excited about his return when they should be.
Perhaps people have taken Lynn for granted or perhaps they are concerned about a guy recovering from Tommy John, but if Lynn’s return is looked at in a different way, everyone would be ecstatic.
Say, for example, John Mozeliak and the Cardinals went out this offseason and acquired a pitcher for 2017 with a career 3.37 ERA, and who has averaged 189 innings over his past four seasons. Fans, media, and the Cardinals team itself would be excited and hopeful for the 2017 season and that is exactly what Lance Lynn brings to the table.
“I know Lance wants to go out and prove he’s a top starter, and he’s going to get that opportunity,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said at the GM Meetings. “… I would say it’s going to be nice to inject somebody with five years of service and get a little bit of veteran leadership there.”
Proving he is a top starter will be partially motivated by the fact that Lynn is in the final year of his contract. For the 2017 season, he will be awarded $7.5 million and will be eligible for free agency in 2018.
However, Lance Lynn’s return to the St. Louis Cardinals does complicate things for the starting rotation. He joins Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes, Mike Leake, Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, and possibly Trevor Rosenthal all as candidates for a 5-man starting rotation.
One thing working in Lynn’s favor, other than his outstanding track record, is the extra rest he got from sitting out the entire 2016 season. The Cardinals considered using him in a relief role back in September, but Mozeliak stated, “It just didn’t seem like the end game was worth it. From a medical standpoint, we decided that balancing that with a baseball decision, it just made more sense to shut him down.”
Mozeliak went on to explain how Lynn being ready was great news, but the safer move was to keep him off the mound.
“… But I think the good news for us is — Lance was at a point with his rehab where he was ready to contribute. We just thought that where he was at, the best thing to do was have him shut down, have him have a normal offseason and then show up to camp ready to go.”
Regardless, a healthy Lynn will be welcomed back with open arms and fans should be rejoicing at the news. Lance has been an absolute workhorse for the Cardinals considering he’s recorded over 200 innings twice in his career (2013, 2014) and has eclipsed 170 innings in two other seasons (2012, 2015). .
A total of 0 pitchers on the St. Louis Cardinals staff eclipsed the 200 inning mark in 2016. Wainwright pitched 198.2 innings, Martinez 195.1, Garcia 171.2, Leake 176.2, and Wacha totaled 138.0 while battling a shoulder injury. As previously noted, Lynn’s average innings over his past four seasons is 189 and he’s shown the ability to pitch for more than 200.
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However, Lynn is coming off of Tommy John surgery and his durability as well as effectiveness is relatively unknown. John Mozeliak addressed that at the GM Meetings, “A lot of times, when you have somebody coming back from surgery, there’s that offseason unknown. For us, we feel pretty confident he’ll be able to contribute.”
Those contributions Mo referenced are often overlooked as Lynn has lived in Adam Wainwright’s shadow throughout his career. However, Lynn deserves a lot more credit than he gets. In 2014, through 33 starts Lynn went 15-10 with a 2.74 ERA along with two complete games (one being a shutout). In 2015, Lynn recorded 12 wins and 11 losses but posted a 3.03 ERA in 31 starts. Despite those two great seasons, Lynn has only been an All-Star once (2012).
To put Lynn’s abilities in perspective, in 2016, there was only one full-time starting pitcher who had an ERA under 4.50: Carlos Martinez (3.04). Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Mike Leake, and Michael Wacha had a combined 4.77 ERA. Meanwhile, Lynn’s worst season ERA was back in 2013 at 3.97. However, his “poor” ERA was likely due to bad luck or bad defense considering his FIP was only 3.28.
Overall, Lynn has the ability and track record to be a top starter and Cardinal Nation should be ecstatic about his return. Just imagine if he was healthy for the 2016 season.
Considering Lynn’s consistency, fans should see Lynn joining the staff similarly to the Cardinals acquiring a top free agent pitcher. There is a risk surrounding his surgery, but there is no reason to believe that his recovery was unsuccessful and that he will not return to his dependable self. Lynn has been underrated and undervalued by everyone but his 2017 season will likely change that.