Could Lance Lynn be the Best Cardinal Pitcher Ever?

I knew the headline would draw you in. But check out these stats and truly consider the question.

Lance Lynn was finally tagged with his first loss of the season this weekend, but he still sits atop the majors with a record of 6-1. The loss throws off his pace of finishing with 30+ wins, but he has still done remarkably well for his first full season as a starter. In fact, if you were to compare him to other former Cardinal stars at his age, he is actually way ahead of the curve. Check out the following comparison:

In his second season with the Cards, Lance Lynn has chosen to wear #31. He probably didn’t choose that number with this thought in mind, but there are two other Cardinal legends who have worn that number at some point in their career. And in fact, they happen to be the only two Cardinal starting pitchers with their jerseys retired (of course they retired with different numbers). So let’s compare Lance Lynn to those two individuals: Dizzy Dean and Bob Gibson.

On April 16, 1935, Dizzy Dean started in his first game of the season. He lasted only 0.1 innings and gave up 1 run on 2 hits. The box score doesn’t indicate why it was so short of an outing, but the Cardinals lost the game.

On April 13, 1961, Bob Gibson pitched in his first game of the season. He lasted 5.2 innings and gave up no runs on 5 hits. He struck out four, but finished with a no decision

On April 8, 2012, Lance Lynn made his first start of the season. He lasted 6.2 innings and gave up one run on 2 hits. He struck out 8 and got the win.

After Game #1, Lance Lynn is the only victor.

Over his next three games, Dizzy Dean pitched a total 21 innings, giving up 21 hits and 5 runs. During that span he also struck out 9. At the end of the month of April, his record was 1-2.

Over the next three games for Bob Gibson, he pitched a total of 13.3 innings, giving up 17 hits and 8 runs. During that span he also struck out 9. Still, at the end of the month of April, he had no decisions.

Over the next three games for Lynn, he pitched a total of 20.1 innings, giving up 14 hits and 3 runs. During that span he also struck out 16. At the end of the month of April, he was 4-0.

After the month of April, Lance Lynn still has a good advantage.

Dizzy Dean made up ground in May and June, sometimes pitching on only one or two days’ rest. He got his sixth win on his last start in May, giving him a record of 6-4. By that time, he had given up 28 runs on 80 hits and had struckout 49 batters.

Bob Gibson finally got his first win of the 1961 season on May 3, lasting 7.2 innings against the Pirates. He didn’t get his sixth until July 5, by that time compiling a record of 6-5. Also by that time, he had given up a total of 42 runs on 86 hits and had struckout 81 batters.

On the contrary, Lynn reached 6 wins by May 7, and to date has a record of 6-1. So far he has given up a total of 9 runs on 26 hits and has struckout 44 batters. He’s on pace to catch Gibson in strikeouts by sometime in mid-June and should catch Dean on his next start.

Again, Lance Lynn has the advantage.

Now while it’s sometime tricky to compare projected totals to actual totals, those are the only stats that we have. So let’s have some fun.

Dean finished 1935 with a record of 28-12 and an ERA of .304, giving up 324 hits and striking out 190. He pitched in 50 games.

Gibson finished 1961 with a record of 13-12 with a 3.24 ERA, giving up 186 hits and striking out 166. He pitched in 35 games.

Lynn is on pace to finish 29-5, with a 1.81 ERA, giving up 124 hits and striking out 210. He is scheduled to pitch in 33 games. Again those are just projections.

Now while it is highly unlikely that Lynn will finish with those sorts of numbers, the start he has had to his season is significantly better than the start that Gibson and Dean had to their seasons when they were 25. Dean’s numbers a bit skewed by the fact he pitched in so many games, but he finished the season second in the MVP voting. If Lynn can finish anywhere in the 20s in wins, he could probably put himself in that argument.

Lance Lynn has quickly transitioned from bullpen surplus to ace of the staff, and now leads the league in wins and is also in the tops in ERA. If these projections actually play out, then we could be in line to have a 3rd starting pitcher's number retired.

Knowing how accurate these stats are, make sure to tune back next week when I compare Shane Robinson to Stan Musial. Have a good one Cardinal fans!