2014 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Lance Lynn
The Rodney Dangerfield of major league hurlers, why does no one seem to give Lance Lynn of the Cardinals any respect?
Lance Lynn is good. Not great, but good. Durable and effective, he wins ball games and racks up the strikeouts. Still, he gets littler respect (the Cardinals even toyed with trading him or sending him to the bullpen this season). Unfairly compared to Adam Wainwright, and sometimes picked on for his lack of physical studliness (he's not exactly the most fit guy in the game), Lynn is nonetheless a hurler that should get more respect in the fantasy game. We're going to start that parade to respect with this piece.
2011: Lynn made two starts and had 18 total appearances. In 34.2 innings he has 40 strikeouts, walked 11 and posted a 3.12 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.
2012: He made 29 starts and 35 appearances that last a total of 176 innings. He struck out 180 batters, walked 64 and had a 3.78 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He went 18-7.
2013: For the first time he hit 200 innings (201.2) and he won 15 games for the second straight year (15-10). Lynn also punched out 198 batters but had a somewhat elevated 3.97 ERA and 1.31 WHIP.
2014: Through 14 starts this season he's gone 7-4 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 77 Ks over 85.1 innings.
The first thing you notice when you look at Lynn is either his gut or his beard. The first thing you notice when you look at the back of his baseball card is his win total: 33 the past two years. Any guess as to how many folks had more wins than that the past two years? It's not a long list. The only two men in baseball with more victories in 2012-13 were Max Scherzer (37) and R.A. Dickey (34). Remember Wainwright? He won 33 games too. Do you know how many men won at least 15 games in 2012 and 2013? This time the list is three pitchers long: Scherzer, Lynn and Zack Greinke. With seven wins in 14 starts he's well on pace for year #3 in a row of 15 wins in 2014.
The next thing you notice with Lynn are the punchouts. He has 495 in 497.2 career innings. A couple of data points.
How many hurlers had 180 strikeouts each of the past two years? The answer is 18 men: Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, Jeff Samardzija, Justin Verlander, Mat Latos, James Shields, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer, Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright and Lynn. Pretty good company to be keeping, isn't it?
Among pitchers who have thrown at least 495 innings since the start of the 2011 season how many pitchers have a better K/9 mark than Lynn's 8.95 mark? The answer is six. That's it. Max Scherzer (9.78), Chris Sale (9.48), Clayton Kershaw (9.33), Tim Lincecum (9.02), Gio Gonzalez (9.02) and Felix Hernandez (8.96).
So Lynn is a top-3 winner and a top-7 strikeout arm. Why aren't you more interested in him again?
'Ray, his ratios aren't very good.' This is a fair point.
Lynn owns a 3.71 career ERA. The league average since he began his career is 3.80. SIERA (3.61 for his career) and xFIP (3.60) agree. That's who he is.
Lynn owns a 1.29 career WHIP. The league average since he began his career is 1.31.
So Lynn's league average in ERA and WHIP while he's, wait for it, elite in wins and strikeouts. That still leaves him as a solid SP3 option in mixed leagues does it not?
Lynn has thrown nearly 500 big league innings and they've been very consistent. Take a look at his GB/FB ratios the past two years and this season: 1.36, 1.25 and 1.32. One positive note this year is that his ground ball rate is up from the 43 percent mark the past two years to 46 percent this year. Chances are that a few of those grounders will become line drives as the season wears on given that his line drive rate has been 23 percent the past two years. It's just under 19 percent this season. It's also fair to posit that his HR/F ratio will increase a tad. His current mark is 6.8 which would be a career best. His career rate is 8.5 percent. Again, lots of stability.
Consistency thy name is Lance Lynn.
First pitch strike percentage and swinging strike rates.
2012: 61.0 and 9.8
2013: 63.3 and 9.5
2014: 61.0 and 8.6
Number of pitches batters swing at.
Contact rate (percentage of swings that make contact).
He is what he is.
Lance Lynn isn't a superstar. He's not going to win the Cy Young award. He's not even the best pitcher on his own team. But what he is should be something that we give him more credit for – he's durable, consistent and just plain good. He takes the ball, piles up the strikeouts and wins games. His ratios aren't pretty, but they're also no worse than the numbers that someone on your staff has right now. Lynn should get more respect than he does.
10 team lg: Because of the high ratios he's nothing but a solid innings eater in this format.
12 team lg: A perfectly acceptable mid-level arm that every squad should want to own.
15 team lg: A nice addition given the wins and strikeouts, numbers that are at a premium when staffs start to get thin.
NL-only: Given the uncertainty that so many pitchers bring – either with their health or performance – Lynn's value should be a bit higher than even his actual numbers suggest on their own.