True confession: Lance Lynn is my favorite Cardinal to watch pitch.
The last pitch Lynn threw for the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon was a fastball. When it comes to Lynn and his arsenal of pitches, cheddar is always a part of the recipe. He throws hard and often, resembling the gunslinger kids dream about when they climb a little league hill.
Lynn will throw more fastballs this weekend with the birds on the bat across his chest. Now that he will pitch for the Cardinals for the entirety of 2017, it's a good time to appreciate his career.
It's a career that could have happened with the Seattle Mariners, the team that drafted him first out of Brownsburg High School in 2005. Lynn denied their offer, deciding to pitch for the University of Mississippi instead. Three years later, the Cardinals made him the 39th overall pick in the 2008 draft. Busch Stadium became his office just three years later.
Since then, he's won 70 games, posting a lifetime 3.34 ERA and 3.56 FIP. Not bad for a guy who was once known for the "Lynning" and being the wrong guy out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the 2011 World Series. You rarely see a guy with an earned run average and fielding independent pitching mark so close to each other, but that's Lance.
What you see is what you get on a pitching mound. No extra assembly required.
Like former Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday, Lynn has never been fully appreciated in St. Louis, because he didn't hurl back to back complete games or contend for the Cy Young award annually.
However, few Cardinals pitchers have been as consistent as Lynn the past five seasons. In his four full seasons as a starting pitcher, Lynn has amassed at least 175 innings and 30 starts in every one of them.
He pitches hurt when the Cardinals need it and never complains or calls teammates out after bad games. Lynn wears his emotions on his sleeve on the mound while being comfortably stoic at the same time. He isn't going to scream after every missed call, but a man's shoulders can't hide emotion or anger. His glove gets an earful after an eventful inning.
As his FIP suggests, Lynn doesn't need a lot of extra help from his infielders. The other seven guys can take a snooze while Lynn and Yadier Molina play catch, deceiving hitters who go up to the plate knowing what's coming. In most of his time in St. Louis, Lynn has thrown a variation of a fastball 90 percent of the time. He is very successful doing this, making him unique and a bit of a summer cowboy.
When it comes to interviews, Lynn is an ultra-dry comedian, giving the notebook twirlers just enough juice to print a story, but never going full-blown storyteller on their laptops. When asked about his pitch selection, Lynn would frequently tell reporters that fastballs were the main course and everything else was left in the kitchen. He never bows to anyone, on or off the field. I like that about him.
Lynn's postseason statistics aren't a glowing spotlight for amazement, but his work against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series in 2013 looms larger than most fans know. Most fans remember Carlos Beltran throwing out Mark Ellis at home plate in extra innings of Game 1, but few realize Lynn threw a pair of vital innings out of the bullpen to secure the win for the Birds. He threw 5.1 innings in Game 4 in Los Angeles to earn the win and help set up the series for the Birds. Sometimes, an individual moment can outshine the cumulative resume of an athlete.
When it comes to Lynn, consistency and a pitbull mentality on the mound are the features to appreciate. He'll make his start in Cincinnati this weekend for the Cardinals, who stood pat at the deadline for a reason that some of us will continue to debate inside our heads until the end of September.
This winter, Lynn will most likely sign with the Cleveland Indians or New York Yankees, who didn't want to pay the price that the Cardinals were asking this month. While the Cardinals held onto him at the deadline, they won't pay him $100 million over six years as he turns 31 next season. It's not a part of their business model, which is shape shifting these days.
I do enjoy watching Lynn pitch. He gets up there and lets it rip, regardless of the consequences. While I wanted to see him traded this month to acquire help in the quiet yet obvious rebuild, it is fun to watch the man throw a baseball, so I'll grab a bucket of popcorn and enjoy ten-or-so more Lynn starts.
You should too. Like a Broadway play departing in two months, the time to appreciate Lynn's work is now.