Lance Lynn has had an interesting start to his New York Yankees career. Lynn began his tenure by allowing one run over 15.2 innings, but he has just one win and a 7.66 ERA in five starts since. Still, he remains the club’s fifth starter and a lock to make the postseason roster in some capacity.
What made Lynn’s resurgence with the Yankees so interesting was how he did it. Lynn’s strikeout, walk and home run rates as a Yankee are among the best of his career. Even as he’s looked less effective lately, however, his rate stats remain superb. Although he has given up more hits, his batted ball and exit velocity numbers hold constant.
Basically, with the Yankees , Lynn has struck out more batters, walked less and is giving up fewer home runs while allowing more overall hits. This is a pitcher who has won a World Series and made an All-Star team before. What has suddenly changed for Lynn at age 31?
While Lynn has been markedly better as a Yankee than as a Twin this year, his average and BABIP against are worse with the Bombers. Also, Lynn’s FIP is almost three runs lower than his ERA. These stats indicate that he’s been the victim of some tough breaks on batted balls, which will undoubtedly inflate an ERA.
The easy answer is that Lynn has run into some tough luck and will revert back to the pitcher he was earlier for the Yankees. However, when digging into Lynn’s approach, I found a change in approach that has both helped and hurt him.
Lynn is an extreme fastball pitcher. No starter throws more fastballs than Lynn, although he does offer some variation on those heaters. Naturally, this means that Lynn throws a lot of strikes. He may, however, be throwing too many strikes and becoming a bit too predictable.
Lynn’s heat map as a Twin earlier this year illustrate this. A lot of his pitches were concentrated on the right-handed hitter’s outside corner.
This marked a departure from the way he pitched before his 2016 Tommy John Surgery. Back in his prime, Lynn loved pounding righties inside.
Lynn has gotten back to doing that as a Yankee. Once again, there’s a lot more red on the inside corner of the plate.
This inside-heavy approach keeps hitters on their toes, and may be a reason why his strikeouts are sky-high. Lynn is an aggressive pitcher, and this has helped him get back to the pitcher he was for years in St. Louis. Lynn is also throwing his highest percentage of strikes since 2013. This explains why his walk rate has improved, but such a reliance on throwing fastballs for strikes may have also hurt him in other ways.
If hitters know it’s coming, a middle-in fastball is the easiest pitch to hit in baseball. While Lynn tries to mix things up by throwing variants of the fastball, he does throw heaters over 90 percent of the time. It is possible to have too much of a good thing, and Lynn may benefit by dialing back on the heat and using his curveball a bit more. It’s a pitch that has generated high whiff rates for him, and also makes his fastballs look even harder when mixed in properly. Lynn’s curveball isn’t merely a token offspeed pitch. It is an offering that could become a true weapon if used a little more often.
All in all, Lynn has been a solid acquisition for the Yankees. He has soaked up innings and provided some wins that Sonny Gray or Domingo German couldn’t. However, to get Lynn at his best, he may need to combine his pre-Tommy John approach with his post-surgery style. It’s great that Lynn is using the inside corner; it’s something that pitchers today don’t do enough. He also used his curveball more as a Yankee and has seen some success, so it’s something to keep in mind going forward. Lynn may or may not be a Yankee next season, but he’s about to learn something about his pitching style as he enters his 30s that will make or break his career.