Mar 12, 2012; Jupiter, FL. USA; St. Louis Cardinals hall of famers Bob Gibson and Lou Brock joke around with Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse (26) during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Roger Dean Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Braves 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE
For all the pomp and uncertainty with which the Cardinals have invested Lance Lynn's surprise conversion to sixth starter, we have a startling amount of starter-innings to work with when we imagine what he might do as Chris Carpenter's replacement. This isn't Braden Looper—this isn't even what Dallas Braden would be, if Dallas Braden had had an experience as an emergency starter somewhere between Lynn's and Looper's that allowed for that kind of perfect, Algonquin-Round-Table sentence balance.
Even if you throw out his year-and-a-half as a Dave Duncan disciple who was supposed to be throwing 88 mph sinkers directly into the shortstop's glove, and start from the year he started hitting the mid nineties, you've got 41 starts in the Pacific Coast League, which has of late become Coors Fields.
That's 246 innings—214 strikeouts, 90 walks, 23 home runs allowed, and an ERA of 4.43. Take a walk to StatCorner's impenetrable player card, or just imagine baseball circa 2003, and convince yourself that that's really pretty good.
If you'd like the statistical explanation: That's really pretty good! His strikeout rate is above league average—almost eight—his walk rate is a little below league average, and his home run rate, even after he got killed on them in 2010, is also below the league average.
The issue with Lance Lynn, as he put up really-pretty-good peripherals in various minor league locations, was always his stuff; the peripherals were fine but always viewed with suspicion, as though he'd just gotten a bunch of very sketchy deductions on his walk rate instead of retiring batters, and since those suspicious peripherals didn't look suspicious enough he just kind of existed.
You don't often have to reframe these pitchers. The ones with really suspicious numbers are supposed to end up like Petit or P.J. Walters, bouncing around AAA for most of their careers, and the ones with kind-of-suspicious numbers are supposed to get pressed into a rotation and have Kyle Kendrick's career.
They aren't supposed to get mid-90s fastballs—and they certainly aren't supposed to get mid-90s fastballs and produce more or less like they did back when their fastball wouldn't have gotten them noticed at a high school in California or Florida.
Now the magic elixir was just tap water and the power has really been inside him all along, and to be honest I'm weirdly excited about it—more excited than I ought to be about a sixth starter, when that sixth starter isn't Shelby Miller.
Meanwhile, Chris Carpenter has begun throwing with no timetable. Unfortunately, progressing nicely in this fashion is the first symptom both of being mostly ready for opening day and contracting a season-ending case of Troy Glaus's disease.