A very late post tonight but I had an all day meeting and this is more than substantial enough to warrant it. Much was made about Lance Lynn’s second half surge. He had struggled with command early in the season and frankly just was underwhelming. As the season progressed, however, he achieved some impressive results including a 16 strikeout game.
With the release of the Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus lists came some unusual — and the first I’d heard mention of anywhere — reports that Lynn had gained some velocity on his fastball. John Vuch, Director of Minor League Operations, was kind enough to fill me in on some of the details of Lynn’s improved fastball. Mr. Vuch noted that Lynn had some minor nagging injuries earlier in the season and went on to say:
He did touch 96 on several fastballs late in the year, but really worked more consistently in the 92 MPH range (with quite a few 94’s). Since earlier in the year he would sit at 90 MPH with the occasional 92-93, the gain in velocity is significant, at least in terms of where he finished the season. Much of Lynn’s success stems from the deception in his delivery, which allows his fastball to “jump” out of his hand, making his fastball a swing and miss pitch.
Without seeing Lynn’s new fastball, I can’t speak to the deception but 2 mph on average is a very significant velocity gain. I’m not sure that it radically alters the “consensus” view of Lynn as a middle of the rotation type player but it certainly grates against my personal opinion based on the time I saw him in person and the video of Lynn I’ve watched.
I also asked Mr. Vuch what might the ideal version of Lance Lynn fully developed would be like.
Ideally, Lynn can pick up where he left off at the end of last season, and continue to improve his command of all pitches while maintaining his velocity. A big key for him is to continue to have a consistent delivery, which helps him to reduce his “mistake pitches” (which led to the majority of his mid-season HR problems). When his command is on and he makes his pitches and hits his spots, he’s very effective, so it’s really a matter of consistently executing his pitches.
There’s a bit of a coy response there since any pitcher that consistently executes their pitches is going to see the best results there. I think Mr. Vuch is speaking to a general point that we can talk about control and command of pitches in an isolated sense but those things are very closely tied to good repeatable mechanics. Specifically for Lynn and the long held Cardinals organizational philosophy about pitching low in the zone, command is a factor in his effectiveness to avoid the homerun.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Lynn did have a mixed 2010 but I hope this helps shed some light on (some) of the reasons for that. I’d feel irresponsible to tell you to totally disregard his first half performance — indeed, Lynn will probably have times when he loses his mechanics for a couple starts and has command issues — but Mr. Vuch’s words certainly lend credence to the arguments that Lynn’s second half was more characteristic of his ability than the first half of 2010.
It’s easy to focus on what we as fans have considered organizational “failures” in the past with regards to certain prospects. For those of you keeping score, this looks like a clear point for the organizational “successes” column.