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Cardinals 2016 Expectations for Lance Lynn

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After two successful seasons in 2014 and 2015, Lance Lynn missed last season and the team struggled because of it. What can the Cardinals expect from him moving forward?

Lance Lynn has been a tremendous under-the-radar player for the Cardinals his entire career. After winning 15 games with a 2.74 ERA in 2014, Lynn followed with a 12 win season, with a 3.03 ERA. That ERA would put him right up with Carlos Martinez at the beginning of the rotation. His arm was solely missed in 2016, so where does he stand for 2017?

Lynn’s recovery from Tommy John surgery went very well, and he was even briefly considered to rejoin the team in September. With the offseason off, his elbow should not be bothering him next season.

Cardinals fans often look at Adam Wainwright’s recovery from Tommy John surgery as how we should expect pitchers to recover. Wainwright was worse in 2012, albeit still a good pitcher. However, Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright are different pitchers, so we should expect a different result.

We do not know what to expect from Lynn next season, yet I have reasonable hope that he will return with similar stuff.

The problem with Lance Lynn early in his career were the so-called “Lynnings.” These “Lynnings” were innings where Lance Lynn, whether triggered by an error, blown call, or cheap hit, would give up all his runs. In 2014, he finally began to rid himself of these blowups and became a fantastic pitcher. What will be interesting to see is how Lance Lynn will react with worse stuff, and yes, he will have worse stuff.

An innings eater his entire career, should Lance Lynn return to form in 2017 the Cardinals would immediately have a front-of-the-rotation starter that would consistently give them the opportunity to win. He fully possesses the capabilities to do this, becoming the number two starter and winning 15 games with a low 3 ERA.

Should his injury take its toll on him, however, he could slip down the rotation. Lance Lynn does not seem injury prone, even with his elbow injury, but he could begin struggling after a full year without playing full time. And with a defense inferior to the one he left in 2015, Lance Lynn could struggle. Even with these struggles though, I still see Lance Lynn as a reliable pitcher, one the Cardinals could count on to grind out wins.

There is no doubt that Lance Lynn’s return instantly improves the Cardinals. The question is by how much, and is that enough to push them into the playoffs and beyond.

In 2016, Cardinals pitchers overall had an ERA of 4.08, right around the middle of the pack. Without accounting for an improved Trevor Rosenthal or the replacement of Zach Duke with Brett Cecil, replacing Jaime Garcia’s 2016 season with Lance Lynn’s 2015 season would lower the team’s ERA all the way to 3.88.

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And while ERA is not everything, that significant of a drop would be a huge improvement to the Cardinals in 2017.Even if Lance Lynn does not return fully to form in 2017, he should still outperform Jaime Garcia’s numbers, especially in key late-season games. That is important, as with an improved lineup, the Cardinals can sit back and let their pitching improve by itself.

With free agency looming, Lance Lynn has every motivation to succeed in 2017: team success, pride, and money. He may be one of the biggest keys in the Cardinals’ race to catch the Cubs. Look for Lance Lynn to do what he does best, give consistent innings and rack up wins. And is there a better outlook than that?