Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Lance Lynn Only Doubting Himself
Now to be sure, doubt may not be the most appropriate word to describe what is going on with Lynn. At the core of his issues is simply the fact that he has decided not to throw strikes. Over the course of his career, Lynn has been in the zone 41.6% of the time. In his early years with the Cardinals, he attacked the zone at an even higher percentage. While not the same measurement, in 2018 for the Twins, Lynn has thrown strikes on just 58.5% of his offerings. In his first season back from Tommy John surgery last year, that number was 59%. In 2015 it was 61.5%, and in 2014 it was 62.6%.
Across the board, the most glaring issue for the Twins free agent acquisition is his inability to work in or near the zone enough to entire hitters.
In fact, if we look at some of Lynn's secondary numbers, his stuff is actually playing a bit better than career norms. His 2,300+ spin rate on average for pitches thrown this season is up from last year, and his velocity has seen about a one mile per hour spike as well. He's generating swinging strikes 10.8% of the time, which is a career best. His 30.4% chase rate is the 2nd best mark of his career, and he's allowing contact at a career low 75.9% mark.
Doing so many other things rate, it's fair to question where that leaves him.
There's a couple of things at play for the big righty. His repertoire seems to have shifted some this season. The four seam fastball usage is up nearly 8% over last year, and the sinker has dipped 10% to make up for it. In looking at the density of his pitches in the zone, we can see he's attacked completely opposite sides as well. Instead of working the left side and inner part of the zone against righties as he did so often in 2017, his 2018 balls have traveled to the right side of the zone with many of them floating over the heart of the plate.
By taking a look at how he's attacking batters, or in this instance isn't, we can gather a good idea of what his batted ball numbers should look like. Issuing 6.6 walks per nine and over 11 hits in that same span, opposing batters are invited to be patient. As such, Lynn is issuing a career worst 40.8% hard hit rate as well as a 21.4% HR/FB ratio. Despite generating ground balls at a 48.5% mark, which is a strong total, he's allowing opposing hitters to sit back, swing hard, and deposit baseballs into the seats.
Of the 164 plate appearances Lynn has been on the bump for this season, 108 of them have presented scenarios in which either the batter or pitcher is ahead in the count. Across those scenarios, Lynn has been behind an astounding 65% (70/108) of the time. In the 70 plate appearances where Lynn has been pitching from behind, he's ceded 25 walks and allowed opposing hitters to compile a 1.251 OPS off of him. Conversely, when working ahead in the count, Lynn has given up zero walks while striking out 16 despite still allowing a .947 OPS.
Over the course of his seven year big league career, no one would suggest that Lynn is a command artist. A career 3.5 BB/9 for a starter is a bit above what you'd like to see. However, he's routinely made the process work because he's been able to throw plenty of strikes, get ahead of hitters, and put them away. Right now, Lynn has decided to nibble around the zone, strike out batters in part due to confusion, and be burned by his own inefficiency.
The good news is that Lynn had next to no spring training and has plenty of time to turn things around for the Twins. The bad news is that his room for error is becoming incredibly small, and we've reached the point in which he either needs to throw the ball over the plate or changes need to be made. The stuff is there for a very good pitcher to emerge. Lynn's overall ability, repertoire, and stuff is in a better place than it was a year ago. If he isn't in a place where he believes that it plays within the parameters of the strike zone however, it doesn't much matter.