Lynn may be lucky, but he's also good

April 15, 2014 

Lance Lynn seems to be the pitcher some St. Louis Cardinals fans love to hate.

He's just lucky, they say. He gets a lot of run support and that has allowed him to overcome mediocre statistics to pile up wins. He's unfocused, they argue. At the first appearance of adversity, he folds.

But on Monday night Redbirds rooters got a bold reminder of just how good Lynn can be. He shut out the red-hot Milwaukee Brewers for seven innings -- on the road and with an inconsistent and confrontational umpire behind the plate who seemed to take delight in calling pitches that were strikes and vice versa.

It wasn't an easy assignment. And Lynn bulldogged his way through it nearly flawlessly. That doesn't seem like the hallmark of a shrinking violet to me.

Brewers miracle of science Ryan Braun entered the game Monday batting .295 with three homers and 10 RBI over the first two weeks of the season. In the first inning, Lynn faced Braun with a runner on thanks to a bloop single. Lynn coaxed Braun to hit into a tailor-made double play. And then to prove it was no fluke, Lynn struck out Braun the next two times he came to the plate on his way to 11 whiffs on the night.

Now I am not saying that Lynn is comparable to Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha at the front end of the Cardinals rotation. Those guys are very rare, elite talents. But Lynn isn't banking a nine-figure annual salary. He's still a relatively young -- and an extremely cheap, by Major League Baseball standards -- starting pitcher. He makes fifth starter money but piles up the wins to the tune of a 36-17 record since the start of the 2012 season. During that span he has a very respectable 3.89 earned run average.

So let's stop expecting ace pitcher results and think of Lynn as what he is -- the best fourth or fifth starter in the National League.

I bet there are a lot of clubs who would line up for a chance to acquire Lynn if the Cardinals put him on the trading block.

One of the sharpest criticisms made of MLB pitchers is that a guy "pitches just bad enough to lose." It's a knock on mental toughness which alleges that, despite his talent, a hurler will always find a way to give up more runs than his team can score.

So why is everyone so upset that Lance Lynn always seems to pitch just good enough to win?

I don't care if the Cardinals win 1-0 or 11-10, just as long as they keep logging the victories. How many seasons will Lynn have to pile up 15 or more wins before fans give him a little bit of credit for being good as opposed to just lucky?

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at 239-2626 or swuerz@bnd.com. You can read his fan blog "From the Cheaps Seats" at bnd.com.

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