Lance Lynn: smiling, celebrating, dominant

I’ve been as critical as anyone of Lance Lynn this season, justifiably or not.

I recently invoked a comparison to Todd Wellemeyer, who struggled mightily in his three seasons in St. Louis. To me, the Lance Lynn schtick had become tired. I was becoming increasingly frustrated of the enigmatic nature of his starts.

We all have discussed “The Lynning” in great lengths, and it was likely during one of those innings that my frustration boiled over to the point of bringing up Wellemeyer.

As I noted on Twitter following Tuesday’s 6-0 win over the Yankees, part of my criticism of Lynn was based on the fact that I didn’t really know what he was capable of. He was brilliant as a reliever in 2011 and was a big reason why the Cardinals won the World Series.

He was an All-Star in 2012 after a good first half of the season, but finished with a pedestrian second half. So bad, in fact, that he was relegated back to the bullpen for about three weeks. Heading into Tuesday’s game, Lynn had gone eight innings in a start just twice.

But on Tuesday night we saw a much different Lance Lynn. We saw a pitcher who was confident in all of his pitches and never really faced the threat of “The Lynning” that seemingly pops up every start. He tossed a five-hit complete game shutout, the first of his professional career. With that, I now know what he’s capable of.

Following the game both he and manager Mike Matheny talked in detail about how badly Lynn has wanted to finish a complete game, his last coming in 2007 as a member of the Ole Miss baseball team. Matheny said it wasn’t necessarily that Lynn constantly spoke about it, but he knew it was on his mind.

“Since the first day I got to the Major Leagues,” was Lynn’s response to a reporter’s question on how long he’s wanted to log a complete game.

It may not have been the primary thought on his mind during starts, but it was obviously something he thought a lot about. So my question is, “was he ever pressing to finish one?” What I mean by that is, often times athletes can become fixated on one thing and it actually has a reverse effect on you and can cause you to tighten up. I’m not saying this is the only reason Lynn has struggled, but it’s safe to wonder if this ever played a role.

Last year when Matt Carpenter approached 200 hits, he struggled as the regular season came to a close, logging just three hits over the final six games. He never looked comfortable once he got close to the 200-hit mark. His struggles carried into the playoffs, and he finished with 199 hits. Sometimes athletes just don’t play like their capable of when they’re trying for a specific goal or statistic.

So when I saw Lance Lynn smiling big after recording the last out, it was clear that, while it might not have been a huge weight, something was definitely lifted off of his shoulders.

His stuff has always been there, but his mental toughness and confidence hasn’t. There’s no telling what a confident, relaxed Lance Lynn is capable of.

 

You can reach High Sock Sunday by email at highsocksunday@gmail.com. Follow @HighSock_Sunday on Twitter.

  • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

    You compared Lynn to Wellemeyer? Lynn has had a FIP in the low 3s as a starter(good #2 starter) and an ERA in the mid 3s (below avg #2 to good #3) and FIP is a better predictor of future ERA than ERA (Which makes sense as FIP better isolates a pitcher’s performance wothout the factors of defense, strand rate and BABIP) and had lost his rotation spot when he had a mechanical issue that needed corrected and he was reinserted into the rotation after it was corrected. Wellemeyer had an ERA and FIP in the high 4s (avg to below #5 starter) I would say that comparison is short sighted.

    The hate for Lynn is usually fueled by desire for Joe Kelly. Kelly is a good back of the rotation starter but his first year had a FIP and ERA in the high 3s and his second had a FIP in the low 4s and ERA in the mid 2s (which can happen over a couple of months like last year but anything remotely close to that much of an ERA-FIP gap has never happened for an extended period of time in baseball history so it was needless to say, unlikely to continue). He suddenly stopped walking people to begin the year which dropped his FIP into the mid-low 3s but admittedly only over 3 starts before getting hurt. Kelly also rarely goes to the 8th (in fact without looking it up, I’m pretty sure hes never pitched seven let alone ever 8 or 9). So the desire to have a pitcher that lasts less innings with a similar and slightly lower career ERA that is likely to be noticeably higher going forward is poor but hating the more durable and talented pitcher for it, even when they are sharing rotation spots or the second is injured because you are used to hating the better pitcher is just pointless. Its not entirely your fault, its a spreading collective thought and when it’s drilled into your head you get a natural confirmation bias and then go “look a Lynning!!!!” Then the hate becomes your own through no fault of your own. I would advise continuously not falling into said trap.

    Its similar to what JD Drew went through but for different reasons so I’m going to warn you about it happening with Taveras, look out. Drew was a top prospect, had a good production, producing slightly above avg WAR in his first 6 seasons but his injuries came in 30-50 game spurts each instead of a lost season and didn’t put up MVP numbers so he must have been a fragile pile of suck who needs to get his head on straight or get the hell out of town! It’s not unique to this city, Jay Bruce is basically the sequel to JD Drew, same level of talent and similar ML production in the team control years except Bruce has been healthy and had a slow start to this year and Cincinnati is angrily dissatisfied. OT has the upside to possibly break out into MVP caliber seasons like those two did but most likely will give us about the exact production of one of them, which is a good thing that will be annoyingly hated. Then again the people that spin these narratives tend to think batting .300 is the bees knees.

    Also the confidence thing. Its hard not to feel like guys are more confident when succeeding but usually when you feel like a guy looks more confident it has nothing to do with confidence and has everything to do with being successful. They are basically synonymous in sports and not due to people actually being noticeably more confident. Its also going to be exaggerated in Lynn because of the narratives. When he screams its about being unable to handle adversity, when Chris Carpenter does it it’s about being a competitive bulldog. So when he’s not shouting its not about nothing there to fire up a competitive guy because nobody is scoring, its about suddenly being confident. It’s again nothing wrong with how you think, it’s just been drilled into your head by the Harold Reynolds/Al Hraboskys of the world. You would be better served to purposely avoid this incorrect thought.

    Most pitchers with good FIPs have good strand rates and BABIP allowed, Lynn has only avg strand rate and BABIP allowed. Every pitcher is worse from the stretch (which is why guys wind up in the first place) and its possible that Lynn going to the stretch has a greater negative effect than most, but his strand rate should still go up in the future because of how few HRs he allows. Lynn is not a mentally weak pitcher who’s suddenly confident, he’s a very good pitcher who is now getting good results, likely from continuing to be good and having natural regression occur but possibly from learning to more effectively pitch from the stretch. Enjoy that he’s been easily our most durable and third best (was our second best but Wacha has been pitching out ofhis mind) starter since 2012, and thats including the late summer 2012 mechanical swoon

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