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.
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