While impressive for the wrong reasons, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Lance Lynn’s Pittsburgh debacle is only a repeat of what Lynn’s critics have seen in years past.
Over the course of a season, Lance Lynn’s numbers always seem solid on paper. His ERA and his FIP usually hang around the same area, and he has always seemed to be a consistent starter. However, the blowup against Pittsburgh was only one of many times where Lance Lynn completely failed the St. Louis Cardinals when it mattered most.
On the surface, Lynn’s numbers in September and October look good, but Skewed by his earlier years. Taking recent history into account is not so kind. Over his past three seasons, Lynn has recorded 3-7 record with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in the months of September and October. He doesn’t have the talent or guts to control a game that late in a season.
Even during his 2014 campaign where he had a 2.54 ERA, there were still concerning issues developing. He allowed five home runs, and would always require higher than average pitch counts to get through batters.
While he was able to get past six innings, he would require the same 100+ pitches to get through 26-28 batters, no matter the situation or opponent.
Fast forward to 2015, and the cracks begin to show quite a bit more. The lack of a truly impactful pitch made it difficult for Lynn to put batters away when things came down to it. While he was able to prey on late season opponents like Cincy and Arizona in 2014, he had to face 90+ win teams multiple times, and he performed exactly as you would expect.
His only two truly strong games in that final stretch were matchups against Cincinnati and Atlanta, which don’t provide much confidence when sending him to the mound in late October against postseason caliber teams.
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Speaking of late October, Lynn doesn’t have a particularly shining playoff resume either.
He preformed decently in spot relief appearances early in his career, but when called on as a starter, he shows his true colors to a tune of a 4.58 ERA and 1.64 WHIP.
His ability to limit contact vanishes too, as he allows a .284 BAA and an abysmal .376 BABIP.
He simply does not have to talent, stamina, or mental toughness to pitch through important games for the Cardinals, His mediocre stuff simply doesn’t work in the postseason because he doesn’t have pinpoint control of it.
A fastball with no life or bite and mediocre breaking pitches can only get you so far without 2016 Kyle Hendricks-like precision, and more.
And the worst part is he always seems to fail when it matters most.
The Pittsburgh game would have perhaps changed the course of the race, but losing in such a pathetic fashion undoubtedly ended the season. On September 5, 2013, with the Cardinals needing a win to stay on pace with Pittsburgh for the Central, Lynn gets blown up by a decrepit Reds offense.
Personally, I think Lynn tires over the course of a season, and loses some of his control as a result instead of a fall off in velocity. He doesn’t become that much more hittable, but he definitely loses some of his edge toward the end of the season. While his ERA isn’t significantly tarnished, there are other less noticeable warning flags.
From April through July, Lynn walks a batter every 11.80 plate appearances, while striking a batter out every 4.31 plate appearances. After July, Lynn’s walk rate jumps to a walk every 10.27 plate appearances and the strikeout rate decreases to a strikeout every 4.91 plate appearances.
While the strikeout drop isn’t particularly concerning, the increase in walks is concerning for a guy who relies more on control and less on back breaking pitches. For a guy built like Lynn, conditioning of the arm should not be a problem, yet somehow it seems it is. Perhaps it says something about Lynn’s off the field ethic.
On paper, Lance Lynn is serviceable pitcher to use as a decent number three and borderline number two pitcher. While he has been consistent in the early parts of the regular season, his gutless play late in the season that carries into the postseason make it tough to have faith in Lynn or to pay him the kind of money he will command.