Equivalencies rankle Lance Lynn. They have this way of couching his successes as lesser achievements, even a derivative of luck. Equivalency No. 1: No National League pitcher has more than Lynn’s 33 wins the last two seasons. The church of advanced metrics maintains pitcher wins are a byproduct of luck more than a direct reflection of skill. Hence, Lynn may be more lucky than good. Only Gio Gonzalez, R.A. Dickey and Johnny Cueto managed more than Lynn’s 18 wins in 2012. Teammate Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmerman, back-to-back Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, Jorge De La Rosa and Francisco Liriano ranked as the only National League arms to beat Lynn’s 15 wins last season. Wainwright shares the league lead in victories with Lynn the last two years and finished as runner-up to Kershaw in balloting for the 2013 NL Cy Young Award. It was Waino’s third podium finish for the elusive honor. Lynn’s consolation prize was to finish two days shy of becoming arbitration-eligible, a factoid that probably cost him more than $3 million. This is akin to standing in line behind the guy who won Powerball. Yet because Lynn allows about four baserunners every three innings he works — and because his earned run average teetered near 4.00 last season — a belief takes root that he holds a Golden Ticket. Instead of hearing himself described as a staff anchor, Lynn often hears that he’s an appendage. His intensity is often construed as bad body language. The Cardinals once thought him fat, so he used an offseason to get to his 16-year-old weight. Predictably, “yeah, but” assessments don’t excite him. “Everyone talks about how I’ve had a ton of run support and things like that,” said Lynn, supported by an average 5.15 runs per start last season, a league-high 5.90 runs in 2012. “I don’t pitch to how many runs we score. You’re going to have some games where we score 10 and I give up one. There are going to be games where you give up two and we score one. If we score 15 runs and I give up two, I shouldn’t win that game because the only reason we won is that we scored 15 runs? “People are going to pick out the good and the bad. It just depends on how they feel about you. They’re going to find the bad if they want to look for the bad; they’re going to find the good if they want to look for good.” Lynn made 33 starts covering 201 2/3 innings last season within a rotation constantly challenged by injuries. Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook ended the season on the disabled list. Chris Carpenter couldn’t post because of a career-ending nerve condition. Wainwright and Lynn were the only ones to get through unscathed. Lynn, incidentally, is the lone Cardinal starter to appear in the team’s last three postseasons. “I want people to say that every time I take the ball I give us a chance to win,” Lynn said. “That’s all that matters. Whatever your numbers are, if you give your team a chance and it wins a lot of games behind you, that’s what I’m looking for.” The Cardinals were 19-14 in Lynn’s starts last season, 21-8 in 2012. By comparison, the Los Angeles Dodgers went 40-26 behind Kershaw as he won the last two Cy Young Awards. Few argue against Kershaw as the league’s best pitcher or Wainwright as the Cardinals’ ace. For example, the Cardinals have scored nine or more runs in 14 of Lynn’s 64 career starts. They’ve done so in seven of Wainwright’s 66 starts the last two seasons. However, Lynn’s body of work deserves more than an asterisk because an alphabet soup of metrics fails to unconditionally embrace him. Strikeouts per nine innings (8.84 in 2013) loves Lynn. Walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) is less forgiving. His earned run average ranked 33rd among 43 National League pitchers who worked at least 162 innings last season. Only four qualifiers allowed a higher batting average on balls in play (BABIP) than the .301 against Lynn. “I don’t know what half of them mean,” Lynn said without flinching. “When I look at the pitchers who are successful, I look at how the team does when they pitch. I look at the innings involved.” Lynn, who turns 27 in May, is approaching only his third full major-league season. He has been an All-Star in the same season (2012) manager Mike Matheny saw cause to temporarily shift him to the bullpen. Counting the postseason, he worked more than 220 innings last year. Thanks to a huge fourth-inning stand at Dodger Stadium, Lynn took the win in pivotal Game 4 of the National League championship series when a loss would have tied the series with the dynamic duo of Zack Greinke and Kershaw looming. “There were times last year I would give up the big inning — three or four runs. It’s something I have to improve on. But that night it was big to keep us no worse than tied,” he recalled. The Cardinals ultimately won 4-2. The talisman Lynn also won Game 1 in relief. Equivalency No. 2: Big people are out of shape. Lynn is big. So, therefore, Lynn is out of shape. Lynn was 6-foot-3 and well over 200 pounds entering high school. He was always the biggest kid in his class. Two years ago, pushing 260 pounds, he was the biggest guy in the rotation. The Cardinals put Lynn on a diet. They sent the team chef to Oregon during the winter to make sure Lynn ate right. Lynn dropped more than 30 pounds. The only thing he liked less than answering questions about it was feeling weak because of the abrupt weight loss.
Lynn has reason to feel unloved
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Feb 23