Lance Lynn has always been a good pitcher and capable of racking up wins. He came into the season with 34 wins in three seasons. However, in this age of baseball and advanced sabermetrics, fans want more from a pitcher. They want results and dessert too. They want details. Winning isn’t enough for a starting pitcher. They want to see him put everything together and stand alone. Lynn has slowly been doing just that. 2014 has marked a huge improvement for Lance Lynn in a lot of areas, but before I bore you with stats, let me tell you what happened Sunday in Baltimore.
After Cardinal pitching had allowed 22 runs and 9 home runs, Lance Lynn got the Orioles to lower their guns. He took away their boomsticks and shrunk their power down to singles and doubles. He scattered 9 hits and allowed 3 earned runs in 5.2 innings. Lynn walked only one batter and struck out 6. He ran into trouble but he kept the damage to a minimum and made an early lead stand up. Lynn also kept Baltimore in the ballpark and for that alone, the man deserves a barbershop shave, foot massage and carriage ride through the city. Before Sunday, Cardinal pitchers, especially the starters, were having their asses kicked. Justin Masterson allowed 5 earned runs in 2 innings Friday. John Lackey may be tough and gritty, but he couldn’t sneak a fastball past the Orioles on Saturday, allowing 9 runs in 5 innings. After two starters, 14 earned runs and only 7 innings, Lynn stopped the bleeding Sunday. He did what ace pitchers do. He stopped the madness. You don’t need a stat line to appreciate that folks. You just need to appreciate good baseball and fine pitching.
Lynn has become a more democratic pitcher in 2014. He doesn’t have to blow pitches past hitters every time. He can get a ground ball or pop up. His strikeout rate is down a K, and his walk rate is the same as last year, but his fielding independent earned run average(his arm without the defense) is down and his regular ERA is down. Lynn doesn’t give up many home runs either. For a pitcher who prides himself on his four seam fastball, that is remarkable. Hitters, especially Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis, look for that fastball to drive out of the park. Lynn didn’t allow any and has only given up 7 in 145.2 innings this season.
Guess what else folks? It’s past July and into August and Lynn is only getting better. In his ten starts, he may only be 6-4, but his ERA has dropped from 3.15 to 2.89. Lynn is holding up this season and maturing as a man on the mound. All those years of Chris Carpenter tutoring is starting to pay off. Lynn still has the rage on the mound, but it’s a competitive fire and not a grown man pout. Lynn is keeping his head and becoming stronger mentally. The kid always had the arm but now he is gaining the mind to be a big time starter in this league. 2014 is a year where Lynn got his first complete game shutout and could be a year where he finishes with sub 3.00 ERA and still gets a 3-1 K/BB ratio. It’s the kind of growth you want to see in a season where you lose three of your starters from your opening day rotation. Lynn has become more than a serviceable winner in this league. He can shut other lineups down and win without with the big run support. The Cards offensive epidemic didn’t hurt him on Sunday, but in 3 of his last 4 losses, Lynn has allowed 2 earned runs or less. In his last 10 starts, Lynn has allowed 3 earned runs or more twice. Remember, it’s August 11th. All the people who placed a bet on Lynn’s downfall in this month are busy eating words right now.
I saw something different back in June. Lynn didn’t have a great month, going 2-4 with a 3.90 ERA. Think about it though. Lynn usually flew through April, May and June before hitting a wall in July and August. In June, he went 8 innings twice. He was walking too many batters but he was also inducing grounders and working the hitters over. In April and May, he ran into more trouble than usual. This was a different Lynn. A pitcher who was adapting. In July, he recorded a 1.71 ERA in four starts. In his last 7 starts, Lynn’s ERA is right around 1.48. That’s light years better than 2012-13.
My fellow Conclave writer Tara Wellman (@tarawellman) recognized something in Lynn back on July 24th, and I share the mindset. Lance Lynn is becoming something else in 2014. He is becoming an upper rotation weapon for the St. Louis Cardinals. It couldn’t come at a better time. Lynn becomes arbitration eligible in 2015 and hits free agency in 2018. Something tells me Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak will open a dialogue with Lynn’s agent at Excel Sports Management before that free agency hits. Mozeliak has noticed the maturation like everyone else.
Lynn isn’t just a winner these days for the Cards. He is becoming a very good pitcher and a stopper. Sunday was the latest batch of proof.
Thanks for reading and have a great start to the week.