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According to one St. Louis writer, Sabermetrics hate Lance Lynn

Feb 22, 2014, 8:45 PM EST

In a column posted last night, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues that Lance Lynn gets a bad rap from newer metrics. Relying heavily on his wins, and the Cardinals’ record in his starts, Strauss puts Lynn in the same conversation as teammate and 2013 NL Cy Young runner-up Adam Wainwright, and two-time NL Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw.

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.

[…]

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.

[…]

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.

“The church of advanced metrics” actually has good things to say about Lynn. Though, unfortunately, they don’t quite put him in the same echelon as Wainwright and Kershaw. According to xFIP, an ERA retrodictor that uses the league average home run rate, Lynn has finished at 3.60 and 3.66 in 2012 and ’13, respectively. Both marks fell below his ERA, 3.78 and 3.97, respectively.

FanGraphs puts Lynn at six WAR over the past two seasons, an average of three per season. Baseball Reference puts him at four WAR over the past two seasons, an average of two per season. An average pitcher comes in at exactly two WAR. So, depending on which version you use, Lynn is somewhere between average and above-average — hardly denigrating as Strauss would have you believe.

The biggest knocks against Lynn include his walk rate and his batting average on balls in play. Lynn has walked between eight and nine percent of batters over the last two seasons, slightly above the National League average of 7.4 percent. Lynn’s BABIP has finished at .321 and .314. As Strauss points out, Lynn strikes out a lot of batters — 23 to 24 percent — but should that ability ever waver, his propensity to allow hits on balls in play at a higher rate and his propensity to issue walks will become more of an issue. That, however, has not been the case in his two full seasons thus far. As a result, neither ZiPS nor PECOTA project Lynn to struggle in 2014. ZiPS pegs him at a 3.52 ERA while PECOTA puts him at 3.90.

This “Sabermetrics hate Lynn” angle Strauss is pushing isn’t backed up by the actual stats. He’s no Wainwright or Kershaw, but he is certainly a pitcher who can be expected to be a productive member of the Cardinals.

  1. sfm073 - Feb 22, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    Lynn has the stuff to be a top of the rotation guy, but mentally he is lacking. He always seems to cruise into the 4th or 5th inning and then he’s out by the 6th.

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      I’ve watched him quite a bit. He’s a #3 starter in my mind. A bit too erratic to be relied on. Walks too many guys, lots of driving balls, difficulty with keeping his stuff down. if he ever masters the art of “less is more” he’ll stop over throwing off speed pitches and if he ever learns to find the bottom of the strike zone with his fast ball he has a chance to be great. But at last viewing I’d pencil him in for #3 or long relief. Maybe this is the season he does that

      • stlouis1baseball - Feb 24, 2014 at 5:17 PM

        Great assessment tmtoi. Spot on.

    • metroplexsouthsider - Feb 24, 2014 at 5:10 PM

      Let’s not forget him gassing out after the All-Star break the last two years.

  2. okwhitefalcon - Feb 22, 2014 at 8:58 PM

    Slow news night Bill?

  3. cohnjusack - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:00 PM

    We all knew it was going to be Joe Strauss from the headline alone.

    That dude suuuuuuuucks.

    • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:38 AM

      Yep. He’s a clown.

    • metroplexsouthsider - Feb 24, 2014 at 5:16 PM

      Add in that TLR thinks sabermetrics have hurt Bagwel’s HOF chances, and that Bernie Miklasz boo-hoos for TLR and the Wiz to kiss and make up because that’s the Cardinal Way (no, really), and what the hell is in the St. Louis sports water these days? http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2014/02/bernie-miklasz-boo-hoos-for-nonexistent.html

  4. lazlosother - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    I get a bad rap from the new metrics as well. Mostly because I’m old, and the new metrics show that. Damned kids and their fancy computers. You all can just get the hell off of my lawn.

  5. krenshaws - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    Typical Cardinal player, very average stuff and overachieves with the Cardinals.

    • paperlions - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:39 PM

      Yeah, guys with average stuff typically are in the top 20 in K rate among all starters in the majors 2 years in a row.

    • Tom63010 - Feb 23, 2014 at 4:51 PM

      Lance Lynn is a product of the Cardinal farm system. I think that you may be comparing him to veteran pitchers that over the years have resurrected their careers as Cardinals then left usually for relatively large contracts only to have their production not be near at the same level. Since Dave Duncan is no longer with the Cardinals and there doesn’t seem to be need in the near future of picking up a veteran pitcher it may be a long time before we will know.

    • stlouis1baseball - Feb 24, 2014 at 5:19 PM

      “Typical Cardinal player, very average stuff and overachieves with the Cardinals.”

      So tell us…how did you feel after typing that? Seriously. Did you feel even the slightest bit jealous. Cause’ your post is slobbering in jealousy. Jealousy AND envy.
      You should be embarrased.

  6. missingdiz - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:08 PM

    I haven’t mastered all the “advanced metrics,” but I look at the stats to try to figure out stuff the best I can. Last year Lynn was 10-0 when the Cards scored 6 or more runs. When they scored five or less, 5-10. That sounds like “more lucky than good” to me.

    • paperlions - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:38 PM

      Well, keep trying. The “stats” you posted are pretty meaningless and apply to pretty much every pitcher.

      Last year Verlander was 10-1 when the Tigers scored 6 or more runs and 3-11 when they scored 5 or fewer.

      Lynn’s problem is that he struggles against lefties; there are few starters more effective against RH hitters.

      • metroplexsouthsider - Feb 24, 2014 at 5:18 PM

        No, his real problem is that he runs out of gas after Aug. 1.

    • raysfan1 - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:40 PM

      “I look at the stats to try to figure out stuff the best I can.”

      That actually is really all that advanced metrics is for anyway. You just demonstrated that run support is as important to a pitcher winning as the pitcher preventing the other team from scoring. You pretty clearly do understand stats better than Joe Strauss does.

    • shutdownespn - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:17 AM

      @paperlions: Is it really necessary for you to always be so snotty when engaging with someone who does not share your views?

      • paperlions - Feb 23, 2014 at 8:44 AM

        Nope, not necessary. That part is free.

        Sorry, I just can’t help it when such a thing seems important to people, as even a cursory review of run scoring patterns would find that most pitchers lose most games in which he team doesn’t score much and win most games when his team does score a lot.

      • paperlions - Feb 23, 2014 at 8:46 AM

        Also, I guess I just feel like the bar is being continually raised as far as expected baseball understanding among fans that say they try to keep up with advances in baseball understanding. This type of comparison would have been obviously information-free in the 90s.

  7. raysfan1 - Feb 22, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    Paper,
    Pitchers are of course expected to have better records with more run support, but not all have terrible records with 5 or less runs scored. Wainwright, for example, was 9-9 in those games last year (and of course 10-0 with 6 or more runs of support). The Rays’ Matt Moore was 9-3 even with 5 or fewer runs of support, 9-1 with 6 or more.

    • paperlions - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:17 PM

      I know. I just picked one guy to demonstrated how stupid an “analysis” that was.

      • gibbyfan - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:54 PM

        Yea, you picked one guy but then said ” and apply to pretty much every pitcher”. I would be very surprised if that wer the case.

      • paperlions - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        Feel free to check out a selection. Just because a team scores 6+ runs doesn’t mean the game was 6-5. League average ERA is about 4. Usually, when a team scores 5+ runs they win; usually when they score 3 or fewer runs, they lose.

      • missingdiz - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        Last year, w/ 6 or more runs:
        Wainwright 9-9
        Kelly 3-3
        Garcia 2-2
        Wacha 1-1
        Lynn

      • missingdiz - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        Sorry, something happened out of the blue.

        Lynn 5-10
        Westbrook 2-7

        I’m not saying it “proves” anything. Statistics are just indicators. But you add this to his ERA, and ERA+ and Lynn looks like #5, at best, starting the season.

      • missingdiz - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:24 PM

        It’s just as well nobody’s out there probably. These are stats for 5 or fewer runs.

  8. bkertz - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:50 PM

    Oh look! Joe Strauss is trolling for attention again.

    • yahmule - Feb 23, 2014 at 10:08 AM

      Bingo. Pretty obvious since he’s conversant enough in advanced metrics to know the flaws in his retrograde argument. He’s appealing to an overall mentality more than anything. People are lazy and don’t want to put in the work to understand things completely and they resent people who do. Articles like this give them justification to remain ignorant.

      • stex52 - Feb 23, 2014 at 5:39 PM

        You said it all, Yah. Love the poster. That is America in the 21st century.

  9. garythebat - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:01 AM

    Joe Strauss is the Matthew Pouliot of the post dispatch.

  10. gloccamorra - Feb 23, 2014 at 12:07 AM

    I don’t go for that Metternich system in weights and measures, so I’m sure not going to go for it in sabers either. Those saber-metternichs really went after Jason Marquis last year, just because he gave up a lot of walks and homers.

    Well, his last five starts before he had TJ surgery were terrible, but the first 15, he was 9-2 with the team going 11-4. He was pretty effective until his elbow started going out. They didn’t like his fips or something. You can’t separate fielding and pitching unless all you want to do is penalize hits and walks, and glorify strikeouts.

    Marquis had a solid defensive infield and huge Petco outfield to work with and he used them. It wasn’t luck, and if those saber people used the proper yardsticks instead of Metternichs, they’d have known better.

    • cohnjusack - Feb 23, 2014 at 10:50 AM

      I’m sorry…advanced metrics are wrong because Jason Marquis had a solid first half?

    • raysfan1 - Feb 23, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      Metternich system–an effort to maintain political balance of power in Europe in the1st half of the 19th century following the Napoleonic wars.

      Metric system–system of weights and measures used universally in all branches of the sciences, and most countries.

      Home runs and walks–not advanced metrics, and Jason Marquis has given up too many of them throughout his career, not just in pitcher-friendly Petco.

      Jason Marquis–and average, or somewhat lees, pitcher at the major league level whether using old school metrics or advanced metrics.

      I’m assuming this comment was satire.

  11. pdubbstrem - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:24 AM

    “Or how about the fact that Kershaw actually didn’t win the ‘last two’ Cy Youngs.” –R.A. Dickey, 2012. #FactsAreFun

  12. Tom63010 - Feb 23, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    Watching Lance Lynn pitch is about as much fun as a prostate exam! The pitcher that was a close second to him, Jake Westbrook, thankfully has finally moved on.

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