Lance Lynn was uncharacteristically hittable last year, and not that he was ever an ace type pitcher but he had carved out a role as an effective middle of the rotation innings eater who would give you 180 innings and a mid-3.00’s ERA. Last year however between the Yankees and the Twins he was anything but and he saw his peripherals and stock price take a major hit; his ERA and WHIP ballooning to 4.77 and 1.526. For a guy whose career ERA and WHIP sit at 3.59 and 1.30 in his age 31 season that is eye popping. Let’s take a look at some of his advanced metrics to see what happened and why he has been more effective and back to his old self this year.
First off if you’ve seen any of my previous posts analyzing pitchers you know I always look at pitch selection. It such a simple metric but to me it paints a huge picture. Laying off your curveball one year to the next can be a sign of injury, falling in love with one pitch over another can be a sign of mental struggles, or continuing to throw a pitch that is getting barreled up every time can just be a sign of poor pitcher/catcher/system relationships. For Lynn I wanted to compare his last season in St. Louis (2017) to his struggles last year and his turnaround this year. The most glaring differences to me is a continued rise in his Fourseam fastball usage and a dramatic decrease in throwing his Sinker. Looking at BABIP numbers and barrel rates his sinker has always been his worst pitch so that makes sense but what doesn’t make sense is that he threw it more than twice as much in 2017 and 2018 than this year (42% and 33% vs 18%) so to me that doesn’t correlate with the differences in effectiveness and might just be pitching to different ballparks. Really the only other difference along with a slight uptick in his fourseamer is another slight uptick in throwing his cutter. You may not think this paints a picture but to me this screams bad luck as really nothing is popping out at me and his velocity has remained the same over the 3 years. This leads me to his batted ball rates and boom we have found the culprit. Take a look at the below graphs. His average BABIP in 2017 was .212 vs .333 in 2018 and now based on weighted average closer to mid-upper 2.00s this year. Unfortunately for Lynn he was just extremely unlucky and part of this might be blamed on poor defense behind him or just plain and simple bad luck. A lot of people argue against the sabermetrics In today’s baseball and I’ll be honest a lot of them don’t make sense to me but simple things like BABIP and Barrel Rates and Pitch percentages speak loudly and the same can be said for hitters. It’s up to smart front office executives (and fantasy baseball managers) to recognize these trends and buy low.