Joe Cocker got by with a little help from his friends and now so is St. Louis Cardinals right-handed pitcher Lance Lynn.
Lynn’s friends have certainly been good to him so far in 2013. Despite minor struggles with control, Lynn has been the consistent beneficiary of several hefty leads.
Hefty enough, in fact, that Lynn is leading the National League in run support with an average of 7.60 runs per nine innings behind him.
An 18-game winner in 2012, Lynn finished the season atop that same leaderboard. Over the course of an entire season, that average was 5.90.
I’m not saying that’s the only reason Lynn continues to win, but it doesn’t hurt his chances.
Through five starts, the Cardinals have scored 38 runs behind Lynn. In contrast, Shelby Miller has received only seven runs of support through the same number of starts.
The real question is why do they seem to back Lynn so well?
There are many reasons why a team might perform better offensively behind a certain pitcher.
Pace of the game can have an effect on offense. A pitcher with a very slow methodical approach who takes a long time between pitches, like a Jonathan Broxton or Rafael Betancourt, can actually slow down their offense.
With the good pitchers it doesn’t always matter, but it can.
Lynn’s fighter attitude when he takes to the mound can also work to spark a stale offense. Not easily shaken, Lynn has the ability to work his way out of jams. On the field, the pitcher is leading the show, and a good leader can always motivate even if only through his composure.
After his first season as a starter, many questioned whether Lynn would be able to match those numbers.
While there have been some noteworthy slips, many of those can be attributed to his first start where he still seemed to be getting used to his new physique.
Over his last two starts, Lynn has given up only three hits and one run over 14 innings pitched. He combined for six walks and a total of 17 strikeouts.
Regardless of run support, numbers like that win games.
Following is a breakdown of several of Lynn’s key numbers, comparing April 2012 to April 2013. In parentheses, you can see what his numbers would be without the April 3 four inning-start in Arizona that resulted in a no-decision.
|Opp. BA:||.176||.194 (.165)|
|Opp. OBP:||.227||.292 (.263)|
With the subtraction of that first start, Lynn’s ERA, WHIP, BA and OBP would be much more in line with 2012. They’re not quite to the same caliber, but they’re close enough that the Cardinals continue to win when he pitches.
Over the course of 2012, Lynn began learning to make the transition from hard-thrower to becoming a pitcher.
Still heavily reliant on his fastball, he’s learned to reserve his off-speed pitches for when he is ahead in the count. His cutter has also been quite effective as an out pitch.
How long he will keep pitching at that level remains to be seen, but he’s certainly off to a good start.
The month of May was less kind to Lynn last year. His numbers remained quite respectable, but he did come back closer to reality with June and August being uncharacteristically rough for him.
There are some notable differences in the two months that need to be taken into account when looking ahead.
May 2012 saw a much tougher schedule for the Cardinals than May 2013. The Cardinals had a West Coast road trip and two series against the Atlanta Braves.
Probably the most important difference though, is that in 2012 Lynn was facing some of the NL Central teams for the second time. They made the necessary adjustments and began to hit his fastball. That meant that he had to make adjustments, too.
In May 2013, Lynn is just getting warmed up, and he’s ready to show anyone interested that last year was no fluke.