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« Peter Gammons: MLB Draft Recap | Main | One and D'oh! »
Sunday
Jun092013

What Makes Lance Lynn's Fastball So Good?

Lance Lynn is just about the most predictable pitcher in baseball. When he takes on the Cincinnati Reds tonight (8 PM, ESPN), he's going to throw fastballs. Lots of fastballs. In fact, no starting pitcher this side of Bartolo Colon relies on his heat as much as Lynn, who throws the pitch about 78% of the time. You might think that throwing one pitch so frequently in the cat-and-mouse, tit-for-tat game that is baseball would backfire -- hitters would learn to sit on Lynn's fastball, driving the pitch into the gaps and over the fence.

At least, that's what you'd think. Instead, Opponents are slugging a paltry .310 against Lynn's fastball, which is nearly 140 points below the major league average (.452). The only starters who have done a better job than Lynn of limiting hard fastball contact are Cliff Lee (.282), Clay Buchholz (.291) and Chris Sale (.303). And it's only getting harder of batters to connect: They slugged .384 off Lynn's gas in April, .300 in May, and .100 so far in June.

How has Lynn managed to dominate hitters with his fastball, even though they know it's coming? Here are a few guesses as Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo and the rest of the Reds' lineup ponder the same question.

  • With two strikes on the hitter, Lynn takes full advantage of having Yadier Molina behind the plate by stretching the corners of the strike zone. Lynn has struck out 20 batters looking with his fastball this season, trailing just Buchholz and teammate Shelby Miller among starters, and nearly all of those heaters have been on borderline pitches. With Yadi receiving, those calls are going Lynn's way.

Location of Lynn's looking strikeouts with his fastball

  • Lynn might not possess elite fastball velocity (he averages 92 MPH and maxes out at 95 MPH), but he elevates his heater as well as nearly any starter in the game. Hitters swing and miss 31% of the time that Lynn climbs the ladder, a mark bested only by Max Scherzer (38%), Jose Quintana (35%), Miller (35%) and Yu Darvish (34%).

Lynn's fastball contact rate by pitch location

  • He's ultra-aggressive against same-handed hitters, throwing the highest percentage of fastballs within the strike zone (65) to righties among MLB starters. Rarely getting behind in the count, Lynn has yet to allow a single homer to a righty batter.

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