Over the past week, finally a top talent free agent was signed. Yu Darvish signed a six year $126 million deal with the Cubs. Yesterday pitchers and catchers reported to their designated spring training camps and lucky for Darvish, he has a team. Some pitchers, however, such as Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn have yet to find a job. I want to look at Lynn for awhile as there maybe a peculiarity that he possesses.
Lynn is entering his age 30 season and for most of his career has been relied on as an innings eater. In 5 of the past 6 seasons he pitched at least 175 innings or more. His ERA hovers in the mid to high 3.00s and in general is pretty consistent throughout the season. In 2017 however despite having a solid 3.43 ERA, his xFIP was over a run higher at 4.75 which indicates that he had some luck on his side. What is unique about Lynn is that he throws more fastballs than anyone else in the league by a wide margin. Despite throwing a pitch that most pitchers have the best command over, he also is last in the league in 1st pitch strike percentage as illustrated:
Not that the plot shows much correlation, but in general pitchers tend to throw their fastballs between 50% and 65% of the time and throw first pitch strikes between 60% and 65% of the time. With that being said, throughout his career he has posted a .357 wOBA when down in the count 1-0 compared to a .259 wOBA when up 0-1 in the count. In 2017 he posted a career worst in first pitch strike percentage at 54.6%. In 2013 and 2016 he was up in the low 60% for first pitch strikes.
At the beginning of the off-season, MLB Trade Rumors predicted Lynn to sign for a contract worth about $14 million per year. Since it is after the new year the season is approaching, generally this value is likely to decrease. From a comparison standpoint, the Cubs signed Tyler Chatwood to a contract with an annual value of $12.67 million. Chatwood is about 3 years younger but struggled mightily in 2017. The Cubs took a flier on Chatwood and hopes his high ceiling will show. Lynn is projected for maybe a couple million more per year. With Lynn however, a team will know what he has to offer. He may have struggled in 2017 with throwing first pitch strikes, but that is something that is bound to rebound in 2018. That will only help his overall performance. The Yankees were last rumored to have been considering Lynn. He would be a fit in Minnesota as well. In 10 games at Miller Park, he owns a 2.37 ERA, and with the Cubs signing Darvish, the Brewers might want to consider signing Lynn. As the season quickly approaches, Lynn will soon be picked up. Given he starts throwing more first pitch strikes, he may not need to depend on luck and his FIP might start to look more like his ERA.