I was planning on posting my little project I’ve had in the works today but I’ve been lured to another topic that I feel more compelled to share my thoughts on. My project is based on lineups and how much of a difference the batting order actually makes as far as runs scored per game over the course of a season. I’ll save that for a rainy day so that today I can discuss the topic of pitcher Lance Lynn. With his recent performance it’s caused some folks to question his ability and some to even question his spot in the rotation. So please allow me to lay some things out on the table and see what we have. Also, before I start throwing out points I do realize most stats can be interpreted in many ways. Nothing’s perfect but hopefully I can build enough of a case to clear Lance of any wrong doing. Also I’m not a stat head by any means and the information I’m providing is not meant to be taken in a know it all manner from me.
The first witness I’d like to call to the stand in his defense is his FIP (definition) to this point. It currently sits at 3.17 which is good for 14th in all of baseball. Basically when it comes to the things he can absolutely control he’s one of the best in the league. Adam Wainwright is 2nd with a 2.20 and Shelby Miller is 10th with a 3.06. The big difference between Lynn and Wainwright is walks. Lance Lynn allows 3.25 free passes per 9 innings while Adam Wainwright allows .99 per 9 which is amazing. I’m bringing Wainwright into this so I can illustrate the fine line between a pitcher who’s regarded as a top 3 Cy Young candidate and a pitcher who some want to demote to Palm Beach. This also illustrates how closely competitive the league is in general.
Adam Wainwright is currently 13-5 with 154.2 IP (league leader) and a 2.44 ERA. Lance Lynn is 11-5 with 122 IP and a 4.13 ERA and one less game pitched. Earned Run Average is a stat that has continually come under heavy scrutiny due to how a pitcher is scored. Instead of it being pitcher vs. hitter ERA also brings in the ability of his infielders (range), outfielders (range/arm), how the game is scored (error/hit) and also a certain amount of luck. With FIP we can trim some of the fat and get a reasonable look at how a pitcher is performing. I completely understand it’s not perfect but it’s certainly better than ERA. There’s also xFIP and SIERA for those inclined to dive into fangraphs for a deeper understanding.
So my big question is what’s Adam Wainwright doing that is setting him apart from Lance Lynn? When looking at their respective lines a couple things really jumped. First, Wainwright’s BB/9 which we discussed is borderline silly. While he’s leading the league in this Lance Lynn’s 3.25 places him 72nd and is definitely contributing to his performance although it’s factored into his FIP which is still really good.
What else? How about BABIP. This measures opposing hitters batting average once the ball is put into play. When hitters put the ball into play against Lynn they are hitting .304 against a .296 league average. This is a stat that certainly has a luck factor to it and one can hope would regress towards the league average. Now Adam Wainwright is only allowing a,wait,what ,wow, hitters are hitting .308 against Wainwright when they’re able to put the ball in play. Surprising for sure. For reference purposes luck box Jeff Locke has a .223 against which is most certainly contributing to his good season. I’m sure Pirates fans are holding their breath on that one. Just think how good Wainwright’s season could look if his BABIP would lower toward the league average?
Alright I found it. Adam Wainwright is 2nd in the league in homeruns allowed per 9. He’s only giving up .35 per 9 and sucky Lance Lynn is sitting all the way down in let’s see…….uh, 5th only giving up .52 per 9. This is actually a rotation strength as a whole.
Ok, so when the ball is put in play off these two what happens or in other words is it a fly ball, ground ball or a line drive? Wainwright: 24.9% LD, 49.1% GB, 26% FB – Lynn: 22.2% LD, 42% GB, 35.8% FB. With line drives being the preferred hitter contact this shows Lynn holding the advantage. League average for line drives is currently at 20.9% so they’re both slightly over in that regard.
The last thing I’ll bring to the table is LOB% or runners that the pitcher allows on base and then strands. Adam Wainwright is at 76.3% which is 30th in the league while Lance Lynn is stranding 69.8% of hitters that reach against him. League average is 73.2%. Adam Wainwright is considered above average here while Lance Lynn is in the poor territory. The league leader is freaking Jeff Locke at an amazing 83.2%. Geez. This is absolutely an opportunity area for Lance Lynn. Also Adam Wainwright’s WHIP is currently at 1.02 while Lance Lynn’s is at 1.27. Wainwright’s is really good and Lynn’s is fine as long as he can improve his LOB%.
On a side note to that stat someone I always felt was good at stranding runners was Kyle Lohse and sure enough he’s sitting 12th in the league at 80.1% which has really helped him overcome some other things including his FIP which is at 4.30 near the bottom of the league.
So what have we learned or at least what have I taken from this exercise? First, the difference between Adam Wainwright’s Cy Young caliber performance this season and Lance Lynn’s (in some eyes bullpen demotion) performance is a pretty fine line. If Mike Matheny called and asked me what I thought, I’d say Lance needs to find a way to get his walk rate down. Trust his stuff regardless of the situation. When the walks come down that should improve BABIP by having the ball in play more which will allow less batters to reach base and less runs. Hooray! All easier said than done of course. Lance Lynn is a very talented pitcher who’s still only 26 years old. He may not have the same kind of stuff that Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller or Carlos Martinez have but he’s still really damn good. I promise I won’t say I told you so when he starts getting the results he deserves.
BTW, the Cardinals start a series tonight against the Phillies. Jonathan Pettibone (never faced) vs. Shelby Miller. I also want to mention the Conclave twitter account which is @CardsConclave and also mine which is @DJ_McClure. I hope I was able to shed some light on this topic and hope you enjoyed reading. Later.