Last night, Lance Lynn got the second half of the season off to a very good start for the Texas Rangers by striking out 11 while issuing just two walks in seven shutout innings. Even with that great start, Lynn is still second to Max Scherzer, who leads all pitchers with 5.5 WAR, but he’s now accumulated 4.4 WAR and is a full win clear of Charlie Morton and Gerrit Cole, who are tied behind him. When Lynn shut down the Astros, he wasn’t just dominating an average team. Houston has the best hitting offense in all of baseball, with a 118 wRC+ and an 18% strikeout rate that ranks second in the majors. Three weeks ago, I noted Lynn’s perch atop the AL WAR Leaderboard as an interesting peculiarity, an unexpected development. His performance since then has thrust him to the forefront of the American League Cy Young race.
On June 20, I wrote about how Lynn’s ERA was misleading, how he lessened his sinker usage in favor of the cutter, and how he used a different approach with runners on base to minimize damage. One thing I missed when writing that piece was Lynn’s slightly different arm slot, which Michael Ajeto wrote about at Pitcher List and which likely helped make his cutter better. In what ended up being less than fortuitous timing for my article, Lynn immediately went out and gave up four runs in the first inning of his June 22 tilt against the White Sox. Since that inning, Lynn has pitched 28 more frames, struck out 31 batters, walked just three, and allowed only three runs. His ERA at the time of the article was around four; it has since dropped to 3.69. That might not seem too low, but consider that Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, which is primarily run-based as opposed to the FIP-based version here at FanGraphs, also thinks Lynn is excellent. His 4.5 WAR there is second in the AL to Mike Minor and third in baseball with Scherzer also ahead of him. Over at Baseball Prospectus, Lynn leads the AL with 4.2 WARP.
Here’s where Lynn ranks in a bunch of stats, both traditional and modern:
His relatively low poor ERA showing (13th) is mitigated by having no unearned runs, which is unusual, and pitching in a hitter-friendly park. Lynn’s case as AL’s best pitcher this season stands on its own, but he’s actually been even better since a so-so start to the season:
Consider this your Lance Lynn Cy Young update.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.
Generally speaking, if you’re leading in all 2 major WAR calculations and #2 in a third–which all take very different routes toward estimating value–that’s pretty strong evidence.
Still, this is a little different than in the NL, where Max Scherzer is on pace to have his best season ever for the second consecutive year. He’s been unbelievable lately.