With Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals will face a serious correlation-causation risk

Allegedly a photo of Lance Lynn. - USA TODAY Sports

Lance Lynn looks like a different guy in 2013. The risk: That he'll also look like a different pitcher.

Lance Lynn does not look like Lance Lynn anymore. That was our first Spring Training shock of the year, back in February, and if you saw him pitch against the Yankees on Monday you got an extended look at him. It was his best outing of the spring, but as it was happening I had trouble quieting the side of me that's worried about him (and every other member of the Cardinals, at all times, admittedly.) Every shot of him was like a trigger for it: Something is different, something-something-Shelby-Miller, and this will end with John Mozeliak personally spirit-gumming a full beard to his fattened-up face.

I knew it was irrational, which didn't keep me from thinking about it.

That's fine; if baseball fandom were totally rational, it wouldn't be fandom. The problem: Lance Lynn is in a position to decline for all kinds of reasons, but only one of them involved becoming completely unrecognizable.

Lynn is actually not so terrifying a regression candidate as you might expect, according to the projections—ZiPS gives him a FIP of 3.81, against 3.49, while Oliver actually suggests he'll improve a little. But if he fails to build on his first year in the rotation, all the possible explanations for it—including the simplest pair, he wasn't quite as good in 2012/he wasn't quite so bad in 2013—risk being collapsed into "that Lance Lynn doesn't look like the good Lance Lynn looked."

It's a travel day for me, so I'm out of time already. With that in mind—are there any correlation/causation problems you find yourself having trouble with this spring? Some other options: Adam Wainwright's contract year/arm/ERA-FIP disparity; Matt Carpenter's new position; Fernando Salas and Mitchell Boggs at the World Baseball Classic; Shelby Miller's reluctance to gain all the weight Lance Lynn lost.

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