Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers, Lance Lynn muscled his way to one of his best outings as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals: 7 & 2/3 innings pitched, five hits, zero runs, one walk, five strikeouts, and a 73 game score. Of course, it came against the team with the worst record in baseball (now 18-36), but following a 1-0 loss the night before and with the offense mustering only one against a pitcher making his major league debut, the performance is exactly what the team needed. Needless to say, Lynn threw a gem in front of ~43,000 fans. However, the most entertaining part of the night pertaining to Lynn was arguably his post-game interview:
First and foremost, I have always felt like Lynn has been considered an underrated interview. Then again, with the always entertaining Adam Wainwright at the head of the pitching staff, I guess this is understandable. However, if you find Lynn on a particularly good night, his short, but sufficient responses are often filled with dashes of wit and humor (and he is not afraid to outwardly show it). Tuesday night, he produced the best Cardinal-related post-game interview of 2015 (and recent memory for that matter), and it began with this jewel of an exchange (unfortunately, not included in the video):
Reporter: How much does it help when you can work off the fastball?
Lynn: When you throw 117 fastballs, it's a good thing.
Reporter: Did you count them all individually?
Lynn: Well, whatever the pitch count was, that's how many fastballs I threw.
Reporter: You threw 118.
Lynn: Oh, sorry. Yeah, 117's right, then.
Reporter: What was the one that wasn't?
Lynn: It was an out, who cares?
Despite Lynn being a fastball-heavy pitcher (~75% for his career), it was hard to believe when he said he threw all fastballs in the game, especially considering he was unable to keep a straight face about it, either. Thus, as usual, I turned to BrooksBaseball after his pitches were classified, and here are their results:
|Pitch||Velocity (Max)||Horiz. Break (in.)||Vert. Break (in.)||Count|
If you believe the "Lynn dials up and dials down his fastball" theory, or if you prefer his "Really, I just throw it and it does what it does. Sometimes it’s slower, sometimes it’s harder" statement after Tuesday's game, the above chart makes Lynn's post-game comments plausible. Of note, while Lynn and reporters used the term "fastball" explicitly, one must remember that "fastball" generally encompasses two different but similar pitches: 1) the fourseamer (Lynn's money pitch), and 2) the twoseamer/sinker.
Over the course of his career, Lynn's changeup has had an average velocity of 85.42 MPH. In Tuesday's game log, they have Lynn throwing 17 changeups, or 15% of his pitches in the game, with an average velocity nearly three MPH faster than his career average at 88.4. Considering the change is a pitch he has thrown less than 5% of the time in his career (and even less in 2015: Lynn had thrown only 24 changeups coming into Tuesday's game), I strongly believe that some, if not all, of these "changeups" were actually just "dialed down" (or using Lynn's words, "sometimes slower") sinkers. My reasoning is two-fold. First, the movement of the pitches classified as changeups is very similar to that of his sinker. Second, I don't think Lynn is capable of averaging 88.4 MPH on a pitch using a changeup grip. Years prior? Probably. But this year, with his average fastball velocity one MPH slower than what it was in 2014? It just does not seem likely.
What is most impressive about Lynn's fastball-throwing performance is that while the Brewers are really bad overall, the lineup Craig Counsell ran out there on Tuesday night, as a whole, is actually quite successful against fastballs. Courtesy of the always helpful Baseball Savant, in 7,939 combined at bats against fastballs, the Brewers have had 2,387 hits, good for a .301 batting average. Gerardo Parra (.326), Ryan Braun (.315), and Adam Lind (.313) have had the best numbers against fastballs, and yet, Lynn held them to two hits (both singles) and one walk in 12 plate appearances.
While the win-loss record may not show it (4-4), Lynn has been the most effective starting pitcher for the Cardinals thus far in 2015. In 11 starts, he has 68 & 1/3 innings pitched and has accumulated a pitching staff-leading fWAR of 1.5. His 2.97 FIP leads the way as well and is eighth best in the National League behind Cy Young-type pitchers like Max Scherzer (2.18), Gerrit Cole (2.43), Clayton Kershaw (2.68), Jacob deGrom (2.85), etc. Oh, and for those wondering, the one cutter Lynn threw came in the first inning and resulted in a groundout to short by Parra. I rewatched that portion of the game on MLB.TV, and it did indeed look like a cutter and can be found at the ~19:35 mark.