Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Legend of Lance Lynn growing

Yesterday's game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks did little to dampen the charmed season of Cardinal hurler, Lance Lynn. Lynn--who was supposed to be in the bullpen this season but ended up in the rotation when Chris Carpenter went down--has now made six starts and has won them all. Last night's might have been his most fortuitous. But at the same time, it had its momentary facets that help build legends.

It all started in the first inning. After his team staked Lynn to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, the Cardinal pitcher gave up a triple to right by Parra. The ball was somewhat misplayed by Beltran, but no matter, it was a lead off triple and Lynn was in danger of giving at least one of those runs back. Instead, he struck out the side (wrapped around one walk). You can't score a run with a runner on third if the ball isn't put in play. Lynn made sure there wasn't a ball put in play.

In his next inning, Lynn gave up two line drives. But they went right at people for two atem balls and two outs. He finished off the frame by getting a weak grounder to short. His team would belt two homers in the top of the next frame and Lynn had a 5-0 lead.

In the bottom of the third, Lynn started the inning off badly by walking the pitcher. You never want to do that. But he wrapped two more strikeouts around a long fly ball to center by Upton to again get out of the inning. His fourth inning was to become a bit of an adventure.

His team scored two more runs in the top of the fourth to build the lead further to, 7-0. Lynn committed that Cardinal sin (pun intended) by walking the first batter. Lynn then struck out Ransom (who is red hot) but walked another batter to make it first and second with one out. Lynn got the next guy to foul out to first to make it two outs and looked to be able to escape another jam. But Bloomquist hit a single to left. Montero, a catcher, decided to try to score from second on the hit. It was not a good decision. He was out at the plate and again Lynn escaped unscathed.

Lynn would only pitch five innings on this night. So the bottom of the fifth was his last inning. And for the fourth time in five innings of work, Lynn put on the lead off batter on as Pollack singled. Parra then hit a screamer to second. Greene speared it, dropped it, but got the force at second for the first out. Lynn then struck out Upton and the inning ended on a long fly ball to left by Kubel.

The five inning stint that pushed Lance Lynn to 6-0 encapsulated Lynn's season perfectly. There was dominant pitching mixed in equal measures with some well placed luck. Lynn walked too many batters and threw too many pitches. But it was good enough for the win. The Cardinal bullpen almost coughed up the lead, but never relinquished it and Lynn got another "W."

The four walks and three hits adding up to seven base runners might qualify this start as Lynn's worst of the season. But it lowered his already impressive ERA to 1.40. Lynn has not given up more than two runs in any of his starts. And he only did that once. His WHIP is an amazing 0.853. He is striking out almost a batter an inning with 8.6 per nine for the season. His hits per nine innings is only 5.1, which is also amazing. Despite last night's four walks, his walk rate for the season at 2.6 is respectable. And he's given up three homers for an 0.7 homers per nine rate, also very good.

Obviously, Lance Lynn is not going to end the season with that low an ERA. His FIP is 2.90 thanks to an extremely low BABIP of .209 and an impossible to continue 93.8 percent strand rate. But even at 2.90, as a truer identifier of his pitching, is good enough to continue winning with the kind of lineup the Cardinals possess.

His fastballs are a dominant pitch. He is not throwing a lot of two-seam fastballs, but when he does, they move a lot and are devastating. He threw only a handful of them last night and they averaged ten inches of horizontal movement! His change is another pitch he doesn't throw often, but when he does, it's been very effective. In other words, he has plenty of options to get batters out.

Lance Lynn started to build his legend in the post season last year as he made ten relief appearances in that magical run the Cardinals made to capture the title. A late inclusion to the starting rotation this season continues to build the legend and the season he is having so far is simply magical. It is equal parts serendipitous and overpowering. Lynn just keeps on winning and to this point, it sure has been fun to watch.

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