Let me make this perfectly clear, I don't want to jinx the Cardinals by saying they will make the playoffs. But that said, IF the Cardinals do make the playoffs, they will more than likely follow baseball tradition and go with a three-man rotation.
Back in the first half of the season, All-Star Lance Lynn would have been a no-brainer to add to that shortened rotation. He was 6-0 through May 7, with a 1.40 ERA and at the time of his All-Star selection, posted an 11-4 record with a respectable 3.41 ERA.
Since then though, Lynn has been all over the board. He struggled heading into the All-Star break, posting a 5.67 ERA in his six June starts. He rebounded a bit in July, winning all of his decisions going 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA.
Then came August and Lynn started to look worn down. This is his first season as a full-time starter in the big leagues and the season appears to be wearing on him from an outsiders perspective, although skipper Mike Matheny says that is not an issue.
Lynn was key out of the bullpen last season during the Cardinals post season run and here are five reasons why he can be valuable in that role again this year as the Cardinals push toward October.
Last season, Lynn came on strong as a rookie and played his way onto the post-season roster. During his rookie campaign, Lynn averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and posted a 3.18 ERA during the regular season.
While he struggled a bit in the World Series, Lynn pitched very well during the NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers. He made five appearances and allowed zero earned runs in his 5.1 innings of work.
Lynn has an above average fastball and that could serve as a big asset when pitching in late-inning games when the difference between winning and losing may be only one run.
As post season baseball starts to heat up, it becomes very situational. Lance Lynn brings a 95+ mph fastball and a decent breaking ball to the table along with a few other pitches. Lynn can be the guy to come in a get a strikeout when one is needed.
Lynn this season has held opponents to a .234 batting average when runners are on base and .230 when runners are in scoring position. The ability to pitch effectively with runners on is key to succeed in the postseason.
Lance Lynn has been tough on right handed hitters this season. Here is his line against righties this season:
Mike Matheny is no Tony LaRussa in that he doesn't play the match ups as gospel truth like LaRussa did. That said, Matheny will be able to use Lynn in a number of situations, including coming in to get a tough right handed hitter out.
I would expect Lynn to be in the rotation next season and do well. But, at this point in the season and hopefully into October, no matter which way you slice it, Lynn moving to the bullpen will only help the Cardinals in a post-season run.
As mentioned in slide #2, no one will say Lynn is worn down. My gut tells me that the guy is worn down as he is not used to a full season taking the bump every five days and that is okay. Lynn moving to the bullpen will allow him the time to rest and build up his arm strength and be fresh if and when the Cardinals make the post season.
Lynn has made no bones that he is not happy about the move, but clearly if the Cardinals can make their move into October, he will be a serious advantage for the Cardinals coming out of the bullpen.
Now that Lynn has some starter experience under his belt, it will go a long way if he is called upon to pitch more than an inning in the post season. It is very feasible that Lynn could find himself called upon to stop the bleeding and pitch 2 to 4 innings in a long relief role.
The Cardinals are not a team that quits when they are down. If they can rely on Lynn to stop the bleeding and allow for one of the most potent offenses in baseball to wake the bats up, good things just may come to pass.
A solid long relief appearance also pays dividends in that Mike Matheny won't have to burn his bullpen for the subsequent games going forward in a series. The Cardinals may rely on Lynn to bridge the gap from the starter to Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte.
Make no mistake, Lynn will be ready to answer if his number is called.