For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season. Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series. All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis. Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.
Player: Lance Lynn
Season stats: 12-11, 3.03 ERA, 31 games, 175.1 IP, 172 H, 13 HR, 68 BB, 167 K, 1.369 WHIP, 3.44 FIP, 3.5 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 6, Goat 8
Overall grade: B
Positives: Overall, had another strong year that was in line in various spots (FIP, ERA+) with last year….right-handers only had a .623 OPS against him….his OPS against was better at home (.670) than on the road (.744), though his home ERA was just 17 points better….was outstanding in four June starts, winning two of them and putting up a 1.09 ERA for the month….when he was on, he was on: his ERA in his 12 wins was 0.69….usually could retire the first batter of the game (BAA .207) though he did give up two home runs in those situations….only allowed an average of .233 with runners in scoring position.
Negatives: Scuffled down the stretch, going 1-3 with a 4.23 ERA in six September starts….when he was off, he was off: his ERA in the 11 losses was 7.01….batters hit .435 on the first pitch of the at bat with an OPS of 1.066….they also hit .420 with a 1.051 OPS on a 1-0 count….the Cubs torched him, as he was 0-3 with a 7.64 ERA in four starts against them….wasn’t much better against Pittsburgh (0-2, 4.86 ERA)….was just 2-5 with a 4.32 ERA in day games….struggled so much at the end that Matheny decided to go with John Lackey on short rest rather than risk Lynn against the Cubs in Game 4.
Overview: Lynn continued to be one of those polarizing, frustrating individuals. A year removed from seemingly putting “The Lynning” behind him, he wound up early in the year finding equilibrium. For the first portion of his career, he got wins in games he wasn’t that great in because he got a lot of run support. This season, early on he needed a shutout to win because the club wasn’t going to score for him. Four times before the All-Star Break he gave up two or fewer runs in a game and either had a no-decision or a loss to show for it.
His most frustrating stretch of the season may have been from August 1 to September 18. Over those nine starts, batters got him at a .905 OPS clip, he put up a 4.81 ERA, and the club went 3-6 in those outings. Three of them were against the closest divisional rivals, which stirred the pot even more. Folks argued that he shouldn’t be in the postseason rotation. That seemed to go by the wayside once Carlos Martinez was injured, but it turned out that events did play out that way even if it wasn’t expected at the beginning of the NLDS. For whatever reason, when things go bad for Lynn, they tend to be magnified, perhaps more than any other starter St. Louis has.
On the whole, though, it was a good season. Had the Cardinals faced anyone besides Chicago (and possibly Pittsburgh) in the playoffs, Lynn probably would have made a start in the playoffs. However, given how the Cubs had mashed him (and it might have had something to do with their lefties, as he allowed 10 of his 13 homers to southpaws and they hit him at a .272 clip), it was probably in the club’s best interest not to run him out there, though you could argue whether there was another option besides Lackey on short rest.
Outlook: Lynn’s under contract for the next two years at $7.5 million per, which is a remarkable bargain in this day and age. There’s a strong case that he needs to work on some secondary pitches, as he famously would throw almost all fastballs in games and that seemed to catch up with him. While the Cardinals could move him, I don’t think they’ll be motivated to do so. If they were to get into the David Price sweepstakes or if Lackey accepted the qualifying offer, they might see what the market is on him, but otherwise there’s no real reason to think he won’t be wearing the birds on the bat again in 2016.