The Cardinals could really, really, REALLY use an innings-eating starting pitcher like Lance Lynn these days.
He is 14-8 with a 3.54 earned-run average for the Texas Rangers this season after winning 10 games for the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees last season.
Add him to the very long list of former Cardinals this franchise misses. If he were in the Cardinals rotation, odds are this team would have a healthy lead in the National League Central.
Lynn, 32, has made some key adjustments this season, throwing fewer two-seam sinking fastballs and more four-seam fastballs up in the zone. He remains primarily a fastball pitcher, but he has made tactical use of his cutter and slider, too.
"You have to be willing to (adapt) or you are going to be out of the game," Lynn told the Dallas Morning News. "I think I showed them that I wanted to be the best that I can be and they are letting me do it. Even if you are old-school, it doesn't mean you can't get better at what you do. I'm getting better as an old-school pitcher by using new-school stuff."
The Morning News notes that Lynn has posted a 2.72 ERA in 17 starts since May 16, averaging 6 2/3 innings per outing and more than a strikeout per inning.
He held the Toronto Blue Jays to one run in five innings in a 3-0 loss Tuesday.
“He’s been doing a great job for us all year,” outfielder Delino DeShields told MLB.com. “He goes out and attacks hitters. I know he gets upset when he walks guys and he’s not pounding the zone … but he’s a competitor. He wants to be out there. He’s a bulldog.”
Writing for The Ringer Michael Baumann, offered effusive praise for Lynn:
Lynn has always been this kind of pitcher to some extent, but in 2019 he’s throwing slightly harder, pounding the zone more than ever, and getting more swings and misses instead of chasing ground balls. So many successful sinkerballers of the early 2010s have learned to their peril that modern swing techniques and the juiced baseball have turned the sinker into an extremely risky pitch. Lynn has adjusted by using his four-seamer and cutter more often and working up in the zone more frequently. Even his two-seamer, rather than a liability, is now just another well-located fastball with lots of movement.
Lynn is throwing more pitches in the zone (44.4 percent) than he ever has, and getting hitters to swing at a higher percentage of his pitches (48.5 percent) than ever before. Despite this, his contact rate is lower than at any point of his career, both inside and outside the strike zone. Lynn is also striking out more batters (10.3 per nine innings) and walking fewer batters (2.21, almost a full walk per nine innings less than his previous career low) than at any point in his career.
And after an unsettled 2018 in which he never really recovered from his extended offseason, Lynn has resumed his traditional metronomic consistency. Lynn, who’s within 13.1 innings of the MLB lead in innings pitched, has yet to miss a start this year, and he’s currently on a streak of 19 consecutive starts of at least six innings, the second longest in baseball this year behind only Kershaw, who’s on 20 in a row. No other pitcher has strung together more than 15 such starts this season.
It’s a little surprising to see Lynn pitch this well essentially out of nowhere, and unlike other breakout starters like (Hyun-Jin) Ryu or Gerrit Cole, he never really hinted at this kind of dominance as a prospect or a young big leaguer. That indicates that he’s due to take a step back sometime in the future. On the other hand, he’s still underperforming his peripherals this year, so it’s equally possible that Lynn is just this good now, and will be for the foreseeable future.
It would be extremely uncharacteristic of Lynn to make his first serious Cy Young challenge without producing some fun fact like his consecutive six-inning starts streak, which points to his exceptional consistency. At his core, Lynn is still the same reliable workhorse he’s always been, but he’s become extremely discomfiting to American League hitters. Now, the quality of Lynn’s pitching matches the quantity that went underappreciated for so long.
Here is what folks are writing about Our National Pastime:
David Schoenfield, ESPN.com: "So, yes, the New York Mets are a nice story, bouncing back from midseason despair to reel off a nice stretch that has put them back into the wild-card race. You know what beats a nice story? Generational greatness coming into its own. The Atlanta Braves cooled off the Mets with a 5-3 victory on Tuesday as Ronand Acuna Jr. displayed two of his immense talents. He swatted a home run in the fourth inning off Zack Wheeler and later threw out Todd Frazier at home plate with a 99.1 mph laser from left field -- just the sixth outfield assist this season with a throw that tracked 99 mph. Acuña is 21 years old and hitting .299/.378/.543 with 34 home runs and 28 stolen bases. He leads the National League in runs (101), hits (147) and stolen bases (28). He is fourth in home runs and heating up in that category with nine home runs already in August. He is tied for ninth in RBIs with 81, even though he has started 83 of his 120 games in the leadoff spot. He is a lock to become the first 30-30 player for the Braves since Ron Gant in 1991 and has a chance at becoming just the fifth player with 40 home runs and 40 steals in the same season, joining Jose Canseco (1988), Barry Bonds (1996), Alex Rodriguez (1998) and Alfonso Soriano (2006)."
Bob Nightengale, USA Today: "It’s like yanking the microphone away from Drake and calling Barry Manilow to the stage. It’s like leaving your Tesla at the door and driving away in a Ford Escort. When the Philadelphia Phillies announced Tuesday morning they had fired 50-year-old hitting coach John Mallee and were replacing him with 75-year-old Charlie Manuel, it brought out all of the jokes. Come on, this can’t be serious -- a man who was last a major-league hitting coach 20 years ago is suddenly supposed to be the savior to the Phillies’ season? Then again, we also laughed when the New York Mets did the same thing in June, firing pitching coach Dave Eiland and replacing him with 82-year-old Phil Regan. Six weeks later, we’re watching the Mets play better than any team in baseball, going 21-7 since the All-Star break, yielding a major-league leading 2.89 ERA and are now just one game out of a wild-card berth. So should anyone really mock the Phillies’ stunning move?"
Jon Tayler, SI.com: "Cincinnati boasts one of the best rotations in the NL with Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. The numbers suggest that the Reds are better than their record, with a plus-39 run differential that translates to an expected 62–54 mark. Plus, 33 of their remaining 46 games will be against fellow wild-card contenders, so they’ll have plenty of chances to make up ground . . . The alternate universe Reds playing up to that run differential would have inspired paeans to the virtues of trying in the offseason (and they still deserve kudos for that). But the Reds of this reality are pretty average, with one full above-.500 month all year. Even the arrival of a time-traveling Babe Ruth disguised as someone named Aristides Aquino hasn’t been enough to get Cincinnati and its weak lineup going. At some point, you are what your record says you are."
“Special to be here, special team. Eighty wins already, but we're trying to work for those last couple wins at the end of the year.”
Dodgers catcher Will Smith, on his team's crazy success.