With shutout, Lance Lynn shows White Sox fans the big idea

If anybody was squinting to understand why the White Sox traded for Lance Lynn in a contract year, his performance in the home opener on Thursday should clear things up.

The White Sox wanted a workhorse, and it only took Lynn two starts to deliver an 11-strikeout shutout of the Kansas City Royals. White Sox relievers went from covering 25⅓ innings over the first seven games to zero innings over the next two days. Lynn wrapped it all up in 111 pitches, and an easy 111 pitches at that. He only threw more than 14 in one inning (the 20-pitch eighth), and 103 of those pitches counted as some variation of a fastball.

That sentence is Statcast-certified correct because I’m not a liar, but it also undersells the diversity in Lynn’s repertoire. His first pitch of the game was an 89.3 mph fastball to Whit Merrifield, who only saw one other four-seam fastball over the other 11 pitches Lynn threw him.

He started out the third inning with a four-seam fastball to Kyle Isbel that clocked in at 89.1 mph. A few pitches later, he went to the same location with 93.3 mph and got a swinging strike three.

How about the sinker? Here’s Lynn tying up Salvador Perez with an 89.5 mph sinker to open the seventh inning. He closed out his masterpiece with the same pitch in theory, but this one was 94 mph, and Jorge Soler swung like it was 104.

And then there’s the cutter, a pitch that supposedly covered a 5 mph spread in the same battle with Andrew Benintendi. If you can trust Statcast’s pitch classification, the 89 mph backdoor offering that got a foul ball for strike one is the same pitch as the 84.7 mph diver that put Benintendi away.

Now, should we trust labels? I’m skeptical, because MLB.com’s video system classifies the second pitch as a curveball, and the release point and spin axis are a lot closer to his breaking ball than most of the cutters. But it’d also be the hardest of the few breakers he threw, so he messes with that scale as well.

This is how Lynn goes about his business — changing speeds, changing tilts, and having the command to make effective velocity work in his favor. An 89 mph sinker to Perez sounds like a bad idea when 93 is available, but when it’s 89 mph two inches in off the plate, what’s Perez going to do with it? Peak Miguel Cabrera is just about the only hitter who can barrel that up and keep it fair. Lynn might only throw fastballs, but his three pitches are setup pitches and putaway pitches.

  • Four-seam: 41 pitches, six whiffs
  • Sinker: 34 pitches, five whiffs
  • Cutter: 33 pitches, six whiffs*

(*One was probably a curveball.)

Occasionally this approach backfires because it’s easier said than done. He gave up 13 homers over 85 innings last year, and a number of them came early in the count. Yet he still posted an excellent season because more than half of them were solo shots, and nearly half of them were to the Houston Astros.

When Lynn finds a groove like this, it looks like he can pitch forever, because the velocity showed no detectable pattern over the course of innings …

… and should his in-season stamina resemble Thursday’s in-game stamina, the in-season extension talks should intensify.

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Puma84

Long time reader, first time commenting. Huge fan of Sox Machine and the community going back to SSS.

I was at the opener last night. Atmosphere was awesome. Lynn was impressive. MVP chants for Abreu throughout the game. They did have lines for food and beer but it was cashless.

One thing I noticed that was strange was they still pumped noise through the big speakers the whole game to make it feel like it was a full crowd which I wasn’t a fan of. Did anyone else notice it and what did you think? Other than that, it was great to be at the game with the smell of the food and plenty of fireworks!

DuckSnorting-CanofCorn

I noticed it listening on the radio driving home from work. It was a horrible loop that seemed only 5 seconds long which made it even more obnoxious to my ears. I hope they tone it down as more fans are let in.

metasox

I have this fear that the laughtrack will be with us forever, or at least slow to go away

joewho112

How was the food? I saw a picture of a very disappointing looking Cuban sandwich making the rounds on social media

Puma84

I only had a funnel cake with some hot chocolate towards the end of the game. We pre gamed at a restaurant before the game nearby since they don’t allow tailgating and we had to wait an extra two hours till first pitch. Good thing the place was a BYOB!

burning-phoneix

Yeah I noticed the sounds from the crowd seemed way louder than 25% capacity or whatever. Guess that solves the mystery.

Foulkelore

A Puma to go with La Pantera – welcome!

Eloytes

As someone who was sitting fairly close to a PA speaker at the park, I couldn’t stand the piped in noise. It drove me nuts on occasion.

Willardmarshall

Glad to see Lynn and extension mentioned in same sentence….

dansomeone

Yeah! Now get it done, Jim.

metasox

Have their been any rumblings about an extension? I half expected something to happen during the Spring

Right Size Wrong Shape

I think I remember James Fox saying they were trying, but don’t remember the details.

roke1960

Lynn showed why the trade was a great move for the Sox. The bullpen will be awesome if they don’t have to cover 4-5 innings every day. Now Tony has a full bullpen to work with tomorrow, so there will be no Ruiz or Foster in critical situations. As long as they can consistently get 6+ innings from Giolito, Keuchel and Lynn, then they can be less patient with Cease or Rodon.

LoveLittleLouie

Thinking to my self that from past performances of Gio, Dallas, and Lance, I would not be surprised to see the bullpen get a figurative “night off” at least once each time through the rotation.

dwjm3

I’m inclined to extend him. The diversity of his repertoire makes me think he has a few more good years left in that arm.

Last edited 3 years ago by dwjm3
shaggy65

I assume that since he doesn’t rely on sharp breaking balls or throw 98 he probably puts less stress on his body parts than most MLB pitchers. I’d agree that he has several more years ahead of him.

I’m not sure that we’d need to extend him to complete the rotation. Giolito, Keuchel, and Cease will still be here. Kopech is definitely ticketed for the 2022 rotation. I guess it depends on what the 2022 plan is for Crochet–which is likely yet to be determined. Lynn might actually be a really good candidate for a qualifying offer if the Cardinals hadn’t already given him one.

soxygen

I don’t think Cease solves a rotation spot though I’d love it if that turns out to be the case.

I don’t know if he finishes this year in the rotation let alone starts next year in the rotation. He’s a big league pitcher, sure. But based on what we’ve seen so far I’d say he probably belongs in the pen.

burning-phoneix

because the velocity showed no detectable pattern over the course of innings …

Forget eskewing advanced staistics, Lynn probably doesn’t even know what a pattern is, lol. Just chuck dem fastballs in ‘dere and see ’em swing at air.

dansomeone

Not according to his former manager Chris Woodward:

“It’s pretty cool to listen to him talk about pitching,” Woodward said. “I think in the past it was just, ‘I’m going to throw my fastball, I’m going to throw my curveball, and that’s it.’ Now, he has so many different ways to get guys out. He’s really good at reading swings. If he feels like a guy is trying to get on top of his four-seamer, he throws his two-seamer. If he feels like a guy is trying to get under of his two-seamer, he throws his four-seamer. …He’s so good at manipulating the baseball to put them where he wants. A lot of guys don’t have the ability to do that. That’s why he’s so successful.”

https://www.si.com/mlb/rangers/news/rangers-lance-lynn-fastball-mlb-opposing-trend

Last edited 3 years ago by dansomeone
John SF

Brilliant.

The next logical step in game theory is for a real student of hitting like JD Martinez to reverse engineer the process Lynn uses.

Watch a bunch of old at bats and find the swings that most reliably telegraph something to Lynn.

Then you go up there and give him the precise fake swing to make Lynn think you’re looking for a fast cutter and will cause him to give you a slow four seam.

And *that* only works for one at bat or maybe one game, before you’re into another round of game theory and Lynn knows you might be trying to trick him.

Those are my favorite kinds of baseball season subplots.

Last edited 3 years ago by John SF
jorgefabregas

Small sample size theater: Lynn leads the majors in pitching fWAR. Mercedes number 3 for hitters. Mike Trout leading, but has played one more game.

MrStealYoBase

A bit more impressive when you also take into account FG’s pretty aggressive positional adjustment for WAR

John SF

Yeah, whenever I see those big negative values for Mercedes defense I feel a little sad for him.

I get it. As DH he is assumed to be worse at fielding than everyone else on the field. And, if you don’t make those assumptions, the WAR math at the end of the year doesn’t work.

But it still feels unfair to be actually giving him negative value for something he isn’t doing.

He is being asked to hit good, and that’s what he’s doing. He is the designated hitter, and he is in fact hitting the ball. That’s the job description.

Last edited 3 years ago by John SF
Joliet Orange Sox

A chyron and the announcers mentioned it was the first complete game shutout in a Sox home opener since Wilbur Wood in 1976. Every time I think of Wilbur Wood in 1976 my knee hurts psychosomatically.

Last edited 3 years ago by Joliet Orange Sox
asinwreck

If not for that injury, he might still be pitching.

Joliet Orange Sox

I think throwing 376.2 innings in a strike-shortened season (1972) certainly gives Wood some claim to durability. He would have crossed the 400 IP mark if the season had started on time.

I like Jim’s phrase “one-ply roster”. The 1972 Sox won the equivalent of over 90 games with a team that essentially consisted of a first-baseman, a left-fielder, a catcher, 3.5 starting pitchers, and one relief pitcher. That’s a “no-ply roster”. It probably helped that the 3.5 starters and the one reliever covered 78% of the innings.

Red_Hair_White_Sox

I like when Lance Lynn gets a strike out and spins around to scream/flex. He looks right at the CF camera and I can pretend we’re making eye contact and he’s flexing just for me. It’s the small things, ya know

lifelongjd

God, if I’m the Sox I have Cease follow Lynn around everywhere he goes so he can learn the art of pitching from him. Give me a guy who can change speeds & angles that deceive hitters over someone who throws 100 straight.