Lance Lynn's Struggles - Not What You Think They Are - Part I

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

This is Ben Humphrey (bgh). I thought this Fanpost was an interesting one, particularly in front of Craig's front-page post today about Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly.

This is Part I of a two-part article about Lance Lynn and his real and perceived struggles.

Lance Lynn has been accused of a lot of things. Many of those are entirely unfounded myths to fit storylines. In other words, they are false narratives. Let's check out a few.

  • Lance Lynn has been accused of having too much fat and not being able to last deep into games.

This is entirely untrue. Lynn threw the 31st highest amount of innings in baseball last year out of 296 starting pitchers and 679 pitchers overall. That puts him in the top 10.47% to 4.57% depending on how you look at it.

Another way to look at this is how many innings pitched per start a starting pitcher has. Out of the 296 pitchers who started a game last year, only 97 of them threw at least 6 innings a start. Lance Lynn was one of those top 33.11%. In fact, Lynn was in 75th overall - just .00303 innings pitched per start behind the two pitchers tied for 73rd. His 75th overall in that category puts him in the top 25.34% of all pitchers.

  • Lance Lynn has been accused of being worse than average with men on base against him.

This is entirely untrue. Let's first look at what "average" is. A typical National League pitcher, that way we're not comparing Lynn with people who don't get to face the pitcher as often) has the following line:

.248 BAA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.49:2.97 K:BB/9, 0.89 HR/9, 73.6% LOB%, 3.74/3.77/3.83 ERA/FIP/xFIP

With runners on base, they allowed:

.248 BAA, 1.26 WHIP, 6.73:3.21 K:BB/9, 0.78 HR/9, 36.9 LOB%, 7.10/3.86/3.98 ERA/FIP/xFIP

Notice that the average stays the same, but the K's go down and walks go up. The LOB% goes way down and the ERA nearly doubles!

Meanwhile, Lance Lynn's numbers - first overall and then with men on base:

OVR - .244 BAA, 1.29 WHIP, 9.12:3.30 K:BB/9, 0.72 HR/9, 73.7% LOB%, 3.82/3.34/3.55 ERA/FIP/xFIP
MOB - .233 BAA, 8.87:4.00 K:BB/9, 0.68 HR/9, 37.5% LOB%, 3.63/3.73

Some things I would like to point out:

  1. Lynn's average goes down by much more than the league's average with MOB.
  2. Lynn's K/9 goes down, but not as much as the league's.
  3. Lynn's BB/9 go up - and more than the league's.
  4. Lynn's HR/9 go down, but not as much as the league's - although, he has less to begin with by quite a bit.
  5. Lynn's LOB% goes down by just about as much as the league's.
  6. Lynn's FIP and xFIP go up slightly more than the league's.
  7. ERA and WHIP were not available where I was looking, which stinks but makes sense - since there are no IP statistics with MOB. I don't know how the "league average" had those totals while individuals did not.

Lynn realistically regresses about the same amount as the league average pitcher when men are on base. No better, no worse overall.

  • Lance Lynn cannot go deep into seasons because of his weight.

Now, this is one narrative that runs slightly truer, but it does so for many young pitchers, but not for the same reasons. I will compare Lynn to Shelby Miller (not seen as overweight) in "going deep into seasons" by looking at monthly statistics.

    First, however, many times pitchers who are earlier in their career do not make it through an entire season pitching at the exact same level. It's ridiculous to even think that, considering how long a baseball season is and how tiring an activity pitching is, and what effects pitching has on a player's arm. There is a reason studies are committed to pitch counts and innings limits on young arms.

    Secondly, take a look and tell me what you see in Lynn's statistics:

    March/April: 2.25 ERA, .183/.263/.314, 3.05 K:BB, 0.98 WHIP
    May: 3.09 ERA, .226/.306/.331, 2.77 K:BB, 1.18 WHIP
    June: 4.93 ERA, .249/.329/.398, 2.61 K:BB, 1.36 WHIP
    July: 3.89 ERA, .264/.322/.404, 3.13 K:BB, 1.32 WHIP
    August: 5.75 ERA, .292/.390/.455, 1.91 K:BB, 1.66 WHIP
    September/October: 2.44 ERA, .233/.306/.365, 3.89 K:BB, 1.19 WHIP

    I see a pitcher who goes through ups and downs all year long, no matter how late into the year it is. His best three months - in some order - includes September/October along with March/April and May. August is easily his worst month of the year, but even in June and July - he's pretty close to a league average pitcher. August he, so far in his career, turns into a gas can. His BABIP in August is also .367 (which compared to his .314 career BABIP is unlucky), but his BB% is 11.1% (which compared to his career 8.7 is horrendous and not unlucky.)

    Now compare them to Shelby Miller's first year starting:

    March/April: 2.05 ERA, .189/.262/.333, 3.30 K:BB, 1.01 WHIP
    May: 1.99 ERA, .211/.262/.274, 5.33 K:BB, 0.95 WHIP
    June: 4.31 ERA, .264/.298/.408, 6.00 K:BB, 1.24 WHIP
    July: 2.78 ERA, .224/.305/.353, 2.30 K:BB, 1.28 WHIP
    August: 4.55 ERA, .266/.352/.523, 2.50 K:BB, 1.52 WHIP
    September/October: 2.76 ERA, .223/.317/.324, 0.61 K:BB, 1.30 WHIP

    Shelby Miller looked like a dominant pitcher in the first 2 months. He then became league average for about 2 months (aggregate). Then, he bombed guessed it...August. Then, in September, he completely changed who he was (a K:BB half of Joe Kelly's) to become league average in WHIP and slightly below in OPS allowed again. His arm was getting tired because he'd never thrown that many innings before.

    Lance Lynn moving forward has now been a starting pitcher for two years and has gone over 200 innings in a season for the first time. He will be much better equipped to pitch his way through an entire season now.


    Lance Lynn has a horrible split that not many people are talking about - much more at VEB than anywhere else I can find. Lynn has been absolutely horrid versus lefties compared to righties. This scares me because of left-handed hitters: Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Jones, Neil Walker, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Xavier Paul, Billy Hamilton, Juan Fransisco, Scooter Gennett, Caleb Gindl, Anthony Rizzo, Luis Valbuena, and Nate Schierholtz all being in the division.

    Lynn has faced 805 lefties and 931 righties in his career. Scary facts about that:

    • The 931 righties have been held to a .234/.282/.346 line against Lynn.
    • The 805 lefties have a .258/.369/.427 line against Lynn.
    • Lynn has struck out 28.0% of the right-handed batters he has faced.
    • Lynn has struck out only 19.2% of the left-handed batters he has faced.
    • Lynn has walked only 4.5% of the right-handed batters he has faced.
    • Lynn has walked 13.5% of the left-handed batters he has faced.

    That makes Lynn's 6.21 K:BB v. RHH reduce to 1.44 v. LHH!!!

    Another strange/scary stat - Lynn allows 6.3% more fly balls to LHH, and gives up 2.3% more HR/FB to LHH!


    In Part II of this post, I'm going to look at how Lynn pitches RHH and LHH to see what he could change to do better.