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Lance Lynn: Starting Pitcher (And Why You Should Care)

With Chris Carpenter gone, the questions surrounding Lance Lynn have vanished


When 2012 ended, Lance Lynn was bouncing between starting and relieving. He made six relief appearances, the first in late-August, after spending the entire year in the rotation. He returned to starting before year's end, but there were questions about whether he would still start in the future given St. Louis' crowded rotation that also didn't need Kyle Lohse around any longer.

Fast-forward a bit, though, and we find a Cardinals' rotation lacking Chris Carpenter, who might never pitch again. Even if pitching prospect Shelby Miller is in the Opening Day rotation, St. Louis has just five guys prepared for the job, with Joe Kelly around as needed, more likely as depth than as a real, permanent answer. That means Lynn will likely stick in the role all year, unless he fails and the Cards decide to find an upgrade in-season. On draft day, though, you should be confident that he's a starter.

Is that a good thing for you, though? After all, we are talking about a pitcher St. Louis bumped from their rotation late in the season. His ERA might also overstate his performance, since Busch Stadium is a pitchers' park, and Lynn was much better than your average pitcher is at home in 2012. However, even with that, Lynn threw 176 innings despite being temporarily removed from the rotation, and managed to post an ERA slightly above the league-average even after park-adjustments. In a 12-team mixed league with standard scoring, that's not so exciting (though, granted, you don't mind if his ERA is better than it should be in your fantasy league), but it makes him highly valuable in deeper formats, and an essential arm in NL-only formats.

Lynn's ERA as a starter is right around where you would expect it to be for a reliever moved into a starting role, according to research by Nate Silver. There is a 25 percent bump for a "typical" pitcher when moving from relief to starting, and Lynn, who owns a 3.16 ERA as a reliever, is at 3.76 as a starter. That's not exact, but it's pretty close to the 25 percent mark, which would be 3.95. He strikes out plenty of hitters to make him a possible back-end starter in mixed leagues even if he didn't have the Busch Stadium boost, and it makes him an integral part of NL-only formats.

The one thing to concern yourself with is when to use Lynn. On the road in his career, which, granted, is a brief 210 innings of work, Lynn has allowed opponents on the road to hit .275/.345/.432, as opposed to .228/.265/.338 at home. Against lefties, Lynn gets knocked around, as they own an 825 OPS, compared to just 603 for righties, against the right-handed hurler. You can imagine that a lefty-heavy lineup on the road is about the last place you're going to get positive production out of Lynn.

If you're in a head-to-head format, or just one with daily changes, you can manipulate Lynn's usage so as to only get the very best he has to offer. Given how he dominates right-handers and at home, you can map out the best times to use him before each start easily enough, and most likely be correct most of the time. If you're in a league with weekly changes in an NL-only format, it's not as simple to remove him from your lineup, but at the same time, your tolerance for lesser performances is probably higher given the setup of the league.

Lynn isn't a perfect pitcher by any means, but he can fake it in the right contexts, and that makes him valuable if you know how to squeeze the most out of him. Don't overpay for what is something of a platoon starter, but don't forget about him, either.