According to a tweet from Adam McCalvy, a Milwaukee Brewers beat writer, the organization is doing their due diligence on Lance Lynn. Where the former Cardinal will go is still a mystery. However, it’s fun to see how he would fit in with this exciting Brewers squad.
That’s how on a Thursday night in the heart of London, I was researching every statistic to convince myself that Lynn was the answer to the Milwaukee Brewers questions. As usual, I came away confused and terrified that I let hours of my life slip away analyzing a 30-year old starter to see if he can fix Milwaukee’s rotation.
In the two years Lynn pitched prior to last season, the starter posted solid numbers with the Cardinals. He hovered around an ERA of three while posting FIPs around there, too. He also recorded ERA Minuses of 76 and 79, ranking ahead of potential trade targets Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi.
Lynn’s resume is a sight to see. He has been a consistent workhorse who has produced at a high level each year. Yet the former Cardinal never garnered the attention that big-name stars got. However, with a weak free agent crop, Lynn will look to cash in on his first time through the process. The only issue with that being his drop in production last year.
Coming off Tommy John Surgery in 2016, Lynn looked to bounce back the next season. Lynn aimed to make a case for a big contract to take him into his mid-30s. While he finished with an ERA of 3.43 and tied for 17th with fellow free agent Jake Arrieta in ERA minus, a look at his underlying numbers give pause.
The starter’s strikeouts dropped while his walks increased from his stellar 2014 and 2015 seasons. Though thats expected coming off surgery, the home run statistics offer more reason to be concerned. In Lance Lynn’s impressive 2014 and 2015 years, he posted a home run per nine below 0.7. The Cardinal pitcher also recorded a home run to fly ball percentage of 6.1 and 7.7 percent in those years. However, in the season after surgery, his HR/9 ballooned to 1.3 and his HR/FB rate finished at 14.2%. This is especially concerning in the notoriously home run friendly Miller Park.
Though those statistics are products of a recovery period, Lynn is no stranger to good luck. Going back to the 2014, Lance Lynn ranks 12th among qualified starting pitchers in HR/FB percentage. Also, his HR/FB percentages of 6.1 and 7.7 in 2014 and 2015 are significantly lower than the league average of 9.5 and 11.4 percent.
Additionally, Lynn’s batting average on balls in play dove from his career average of .297 to .244 last season. These changes in his peripherals point to the free agent pitcher’s numbers finishing closer to his FIP and xFIP (4.82 and 4.75) than his ERA of 3.43. Thus, the organization that ends up signing Lynn may be in for a rude awakening. If he continues to regress to the mean, Lynn will become a back-of-the-rotation starter on an ace-level contract.
Milwaukee is looking to upgrade their rotation with ace Jimmy Nelson set to miss a chunk of time this season. With a rotation led by Chase Anderson and Zach Davies, who significantly out-pitched their peripherals last year, Milwaukee needs help.
With options like Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb in free agency, and trade partners looking for a king’s ransom, Lance Lynn may look like a bargain. Whether signing a starter with a good track record who is declining is a good idea, I don’t know. But while the Milwaukee Brewers try to work out that equation, I will seek serious help after hours of trying to convince myself that Lynn will be the their savior.