Outside of the day I got married, the birth of my kids and the first time Grey commented on one of my pieces for Razzball, the two months of Linsanity back in 2012 were the greatest two months of my life. This past month of Lynnsanity has been one of the most painful months of my life. Lance Lynn has made five starts, served up batting practice for 26 1/3 innings, and posted a 7.52 ERA so far in the 2022-23 season. Good times. It is often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. So is the life of Lynnsanity. But do we capitulate or do we make William Wallace proud and hold?
Lynn is now 35 years old, pitching in his 12th year in the majors, for his third team.
He wasn’t a huge strikeout pitcher early in his career, as the K/9 was over 9 in only one of the first five seasons. While he didn’t make batters whiff, he was excellent at limiting the long ball, as the HR/9 was below 1 in six of the first seven seasons. Interestingly, once he passed the 30-year threshold, the K/9 increased but so did the HR/9.
So, what’s the problem this season? Well, the 7.52 ERA is paired to a 5.94 FIP, so that’s not great. Let’s dig in to see if we can uncover anything.
Lance Lynn is still striking out batters this season. The K/9 is 10.94 while the swinging strike rate is 12.8%. The BABIP of .380 portends that maybe he’s been unlucky, but that 5.94 FIP shows that it’s not just about luck.
The things that stick out right away are the 4.44 BB/9 and 2.39 HR/9. Throughout his career, Lynn had a BB/9 over 4 just once. Over the last four seasons, that number was below 3 in every season with a 1.41 number in 2022.
The home run rate allowed, though, is the big shocker. Lynn had allowed more than 1 HR/9 in only four of his 11 seasons. Granted, three of those happened in the last three seasons, but it never exceeded 1.41. The 2.39 HR/9 this season is a huge increase.
The batted ball data show that the line drive rate and HR/FB are both at career-highs.
The plate discipline numbers show that batters are swinging less and chasing fewer pitches outside the zone. The contact rates, though, are at career-bests of 77% in the zone and 72.4% in general. This is the first time the contact rate in the zone has been below 80%.
Things that make you go hmmmm.
Perusing the Statcast data, the barrel rate of 9% is a career-worst by a wide margin. The average exit velocity is above 90 mph for the first time in his career. All the xstats are unsurprisingly at career-worst levels.
Has the quality of his pitches decreased?
The fastball still has a spin rate of 2433. Last season it was at 2443. The velocity is down to 92.1 mph compared to 92.9 last season, though. The spin rate on all the pitches are similar to last season, so is it simply a matter of fastball velocity?
Looking at the pitch mix at Fangraphs, Statcast, and Brooks Baseball indicate that Lynn is utilizing a different arsenal this season. Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball show that he’s throwing a slider more this season while Statcast shows that a curveball is being utilized more. I think this piece by Jake Malihot on Fangraphs in January is great in describing the new pitch.
Lynn used to pound the zone with fastballs over 50% of the time, but he was at 42.3% two seasons ago and 45.4% last season. This season, he’s at 43.1%. He started throwing the cutter over 20% of the time in 2020 and that pitch remains a staple in the arsenal. So has the sinker. According to Brooks Baseball, Lynn is throwing the slider 12.74% of the time compared to only 5.84% last season.
As Malihot wrote in his piece, the slider has been great in neutralizing lefties. Last season, the strikeout rate was only 19.6% against LHB. This season? It’s at 29.4%! Unfortunately, the HR/9 is 4.35 compared to 1.1 last season and the batting average is .348 compared to .256 against lefties.
The way I interpret all of the above is that Lynn is missing his spots and getting crushed when he does. It’s not like batters are teeing off on him consistently. Lance Lynn is still limiting contact and getting plenty of whiffs.
Maybe it’s just simply a lack of command. Maybe it’s figuring out the new pitch and sequencing. Maybe it’s the new pitch clock. Or the new coaching staff and philosophy.
As painful and ugly things have been for Lance Lynn this season, I don’t think it’s time to capitulate. He still has swing-and-miss stuff and is getting whiffs. He’s just getting pounded on mistakes. The track record is too good and a deterioration of skills doesn’t seem evident like, say, Madison Bumgarner.