Lance Lynn and the search for a reliable starter

Due to the uncertainty of the health of the Mets’ starting pitchers, most fans would prefer if the team added a starter who could give the team, at the very least, 30 starts and 180 or so innings. Because of the team’s limited financial ability, most have turned away from the very top of the free agent market to focus on Lance Lynn. In five of the past six years, he’s made at least 29 starts and thrown at least 175.1 IP. The only year he didn’t he missed because of TJ surgery. But after sitting out the 2016 campaign, Lynn came back last season to make 33 starts and toss 186.1 IP.

A supplemental first-round pick back in 2008 after playing three years collegiately at Mississippi, Lynn made his major league debut at the end of 2011 and became a rotation fixture for the Cardinals in 2012. In the ’12-’13 seasons, he combined for 33 Wins despite an ERA approaching four in both years. However, his peripherals showed a better tale and in the four years before getting hurt, Lynn posted a 13.0 fWAR.

He did not quite enjoy the same success – peripheral-wise – in his first year back from surgery. While the traditional stats of an 11-8 record and a 3.43 ERA look just fine, he recorded a 4.82 FIP. In a year when he saw a dip in his K rate and an increase in both his BB rate and HR/FB numbers, Lynn survived thanks to a .244 BABIP and a 79.0 LOB%. He didn’t allow a ton of hits and when runners did get on base, they were stranded at a higher than normal rate.

He had good fortune.

Lynn had a 12-start stretch last year when everything was going right. From July 9 to September 7, he went at least six innings each time out and posted 11 Quality Starts. He had a 1.77 ERA in this span and allowed just 4 HR in 76.1 IP. Before that stretch he had a 3.87 ERA and afterwards, in four starts, he had a 9.20 ERA, although one bad outing is skewing the numbers a bit.

Did it take a while to kick off the rust from the missed year and then he simply tired down the stretch? Sure, that’s a realistic possibility.

However, we should note that in that 12-start stretch, Lynn had a 3.96 FIP and a 4.93 xFIP, with an 84.3 LOB%. The NL average strand rate last year was 72.7 percent. Of course the danger is in chasing your tail around with these smaller samples. You would expect a pitcher to allow fewer baserunners and a higher strand rate when the results are good. The questions become: How does what he did in the good stretch compare to his career rate and how much of his value is tied up in the same good stretch?

For his career, Lynn has a 76.5 LOB% and a .297 BABIP. The strand rate was definitely elevated but perhaps not outrageously so from his career norm. But his BABIP was 54 points lower, which is not so easily dismissed. And obviously there’s a compound relationship working here, too. It’s one thing when he’s stranding more runners than average but when he’s allowing significantly fewer baserunners on top of that, well the 1.77 ERA is the result.

Without that 12-start stretch, Lynn allowed 56 ER in 110 IP (4.58 ERA), with 47 BB and 105 Ks. For certain, no one is going to look good without their best stretch included. And it wasn’t three or four good starts, it was 12. Yet Lynn made 33 starts in 2017. So, in rough terms he was an ace for 1/3 of the year and a mid-level SP4 for 2/3 of the year.

Now that’s a lot better than what the Mets received from the overwhelming number of pitchers on their staff last year. But is the 4/$60 or whatever type of deal he’s going to end up getting a good deal? Maybe – I don’t pretend to know. But it doesn’t seem to be a slam dunk to me.

Lynn has the great fortune to be at or near the top of the second tier of starters available in free agency this season, in a year when the top tier has just two names. There’s going to be a lot of interested teams in him and the result is going to be a nice pay day. Good for him. But it’s worth questioning if the Mets should hitch their wagon to him for the next four years.

A strong pitcher before the surgery, Lynn was more lucky than good last year. After previously allowing no more than 16 HR in a season, he surrendered 27 last year. He also had a career-worst walk rate, with a 3.77 mark. Will being a year further out from the surgery result in a better season in 2018 and beyond? That’s certainly on the table. But, do you believe Lynn can continue to out-pitch his peripherals going forward? That’s the gamble some team will make this offseason.

15 comments for “Lance Lynn and the search for a reliable starter

  1. Jimmy P
    November 29, 2017 at 10:55 am

    I’m not advocating one way or the other on Lynn, but I do think it’s reasonable to believe that he’ll be better in his second full year back from TJ surgery. And for that reason, I wouldn’t be overly involved in parsing the peripherals for what they tell us about 2017.

    Most of the evaluation on this guy stems from what “we/they” know about the recovery patterns from TJ surgery. I’m not expert on that, but my sense is that the true pitcher doesn’t return until year 2 after surgery. That first year back is survival mode, trying to grind out the season w/ suboptimal stuff. Lynn might turn out to be a bargain.

    Wish we knew what the doctors really thought about Matz and Wheeler’s injuries, projecting into the future. Are they confident or skeptical? From where I’m sitting, you have to be skeptical that either could give the Mets full, effective seasons.

    I’d move Wheeler to the pen and try to turn him into Morrow. And I’d strongly consider signing Lynn, though wary of where the contract might go.

    • David Groveman
      November 29, 2017 at 11:31 am

      I agree with Jimmy P

  2. Pete from NJ
    November 29, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    I was all on board the signing of LL. Then (I believe)there’s a draft pick attachment if he signs which tools some of the shine off the product.

    The kicker is Brian’s statistics that I overlooked, just concentrating on surface statistics gave me false hopes.

    Sounds like a costly gamble on a 31 year old with the team’s limited resources.

    • November 29, 2017 at 1:24 pm

      The Cardinals extended the QO to Lynn and he rejected it. Here’s how the new compensation picks play out:

      Now, a team signing a QO free agent will be subject to the following rules, according to MLB:

      • A non-market disqualified Revenue Sharing Payee team (i.e. a team that receives revenue sharing money) will forfeit its third highest remaining selection.
      • A Competitive Balance Tax paying team (i.e. a team whose payroll exceeds the luxury tax threshold) will forfeit its second-highest and fifth-highest remaining picks—in addition to having its international signing bonus pool reduced by $1 million in the next full signing period.
      • All other teams will forfeit their second-highest remaining pick and will have their international bonus pool reduced by $500,000.

      Read more at https://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/new-cba-changes-draft/#6qOk09pbIgIRW02X.99

      So, it seems the Mets would fit into the second category and lose their #2 pick and $500K in int’l money if they sign Lynn.

      • TexasGusCC
        November 30, 2017 at 1:09 am

        At a time when the oceans are full of Braves’ fish, those kids are basically high round draft picks and I want every dollar of international signing money that I can get my hands on.

        Besides, Lynn was never more than a #2 type and has mostly been a #3, so I’m sure there will be other #3 types to get. In fact, when considering who the Mets have the most games against, I’d say a lefty would be the best choice to add to the rotation. The Nationals’ better hitters are lefties; too the Phillies; and Freeman is a lefty. I’m not considering the Marlins because it’s hard to project their roster next April, but their pitching sucks enough to not fret.

        • Name
          November 30, 2017 at 7:36 pm

          Maybe you should take another look at the article Groveman just posted about Latin “prospects” (aka not really prospects)

          This is just a sample, but take a look at this list of top international signees in 2010. At this point these guys should have played 7 years and be around age 22-24, which if they are really as good as they were paid, be either already in the majors or top prospect knocking on the majors.

          https://www.baseballamerica.com/international/top-30-international-bonuses-of-2010-11344/#3wqPzP19L4d1qBb7.97

          The names I know are Carlos Martinez, who is a stud and Jorge Alfaro, top catching prospect for the Phillies. Calixte made it to the majors but he’s a nobody.

          Adonys Cardona? Still stuck in A+ and rather terrible.
          Luis Heredia? Just made it to AA, and as a reliever after failing as a starter
          Ariel Ovando? Out of baseball and never made it past the rookie leagues.

          Most of the list is like this, the hit rate on that list is less than 10%. These 16 and 17 years Latin guys are far from “high round draft picks”. They’re probably round 20+ guys. I would never ever not considering signing a FA to save money for international signing money. Never.

  3. November 29, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Someone will overpay for Lance Lynn. It won’t be the Mets. Perhaps Jason Vargas is a better, cheaper option. Did you happen to know that the Metsies like “cheaper”…lol…? Jason Vargas as Met’s 5th starter that can give innings, is a lefty as well, rounds out pretty good the rotation of: Thor, Degrom, Harvey (Mets have to start him to rebuild his value to then trade in July), Matz or Wheeler, Jason Vargas as 5th starter.
    With about $30m to spend, I say Mets get Dee Gordon ($11m), B. Shaw for the BP ($7M), Jason Vargas ($10m) and a decent bench player for $2m and that is it. Wish the team and the columnists would cut the BS about Mets getting Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, L. Cain, etc, etc….we all know better than that. Wilpons want to keep most of the $ they purged off last summer in unloading those big contracts. It’s all on the health of the Pitchers, new manager, growth of Rosario / Smith and Cespedes & Conforto mashing in 2018. “Nada mas” !

  4. Mike Walczak
    November 29, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    I would love to see the Mets sign Lance Lynn. I am not excited at all about Adam Lind. Rather see them sign Carlos Santana or wait and save their money for Machado next year.

    • Jimmy P
      November 29, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      They never save for next year, they pocket it. With the trades from last season, they should have an “extra” $20 million on top of all the contracts that have gone: Bruce, Walker, Reyes, Reed, Granderson. What’s that? $50 million plus the $20 million they never spent?

      Instead we’re supposed to be acting like it will suffice if they reinvest the Walker/Granderson money.

      The Wilpons are putting the screws to us. I’m not going to say thank you very much.

      • November 29, 2017 at 6:47 pm

        After the Walker trade, the AP reported that the Mets saved $9.3 million – trading away Walker, Bruce, Reed and Duda and taking on Ramos.
        http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/08/15/new-york-mets-payroll-neil-walker-mets-trades/

        We have to add in the savings from the Granny deal, too. A quick Google search did not provide the final amount that the Mets sent to LA but supposedly they were going to pay more than half of the $3.5 million he was still owed. Let’s say they paid $2 million and the Dodgers paid $1.5 million. That would mean the Mets saved $10.8 million.

        Then there’s whatever they recouped from insurance on Wright’s contract. I know they got a percentage once he was on the DL for 60 days but I’m not clear if that’s a percentage of the entire amount or a percentage of everything from there on out. I think the percentage was 75%. So do the Mets get 75% of the entire amount, since he didn’t play all year? Or do they get 75% of what he’s owed after 60 days? If it’s the former, they get $15 million. If it’s the latter, they get about $10 million.

  5. MattyMets
    November 29, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    First off, there are more than two top tier pitchers available. Most would include Ohtani along with Arrieta and Darvish. Also, there’s now chatter that Archer will be available in trade. That said, I just don’t see a big enough separation between Lynn and a number of other guys who have been labeled “mid rotation guys” to justify a four year contract. This reminds me of when the Mets wanted guys like John Lackey and Derek Lowe. We could get an older veteran innings eater like Dickey or Sabathia on a one year deal and allocate the savings elsewhere. The benefit of adding a starter is twofold – not only do we get more certainty in the rotation, but we have the luxury to move a guy like Wheeler to the pen.

  6. Eraff
    November 29, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    I would have preferred Fister for a year at 5 million…maybe He wanted to assure himself of a definitive role.

  7. Metsense
    November 29, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    The Mets need a number #3 or better starting pitcher that they can rely on for 30 starts. Lynn would be a good choice. (as would Alex Cobb or Jhoulys Chacin). Any of the three would stabilize the rotation.

    • Jimmy P
      November 29, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      I understand that Cobb, age 29, has never (ever) thrown more than 179 innings in a year. Nor has he ever (ever) started 30 games in a season. Any season. He’s an interesting talent with a history of injuries.

      None of these guys come with guarantees.

  8. Eraff
    November 29, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    If they have pitcher health from the guys they have, then they will probably run out of innings before September/October—post injury caps.

    If they don’t have health, then adding a “starter” doesn’t mean beans…. and when is everyone gonna pitch….and where?…Bullpen? Vegas?

    Pray for Health of the SP’s. Add to the Lineup and Bench. Solve for the SP innings later in the Season.

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