Lance Lynn Is a Cardinal…Again

Just over a week ago, Lance Lynn signed a one-year contract with the Cardinals. It marks a triumphant return to the team he started his career with, last pitching while donning their uniform back in 2017. Since, he’s been a member of five different rotations. Now coming off the highest ERA of his career, let’s dive into the park factors to determine whether his new home park might provide an assist in his quest to rebound.

Park Factor Comparison
Park (Team) 1B 2B 3B HR SO BB GB FB LD IFFB FIP Basic
Guaranteed Rate Field (White Sox) 98 94 79 108 100 102 99 103 97 101 104 101
Dodger Stadium (Dodgers) 97 98 81 108 100 95 97 102 98 99 101 97
Busch Stadium (Cardinals) 101 96 92 95 97 97 101 100 101 102 98 97

Since he spent 2021, 2022, and the first four months of the 2023 season on the White Sox, I decided to include its park factors in the table as well. However, I only compared Dodger Stadium to Busch when color-coding the more pitcher favorable factor. We could see here that at a glance, the two parks go back and forth with the more pitcher friendly impact, so we’ll have to dive into each individual metric first before declaring if the switch is a positive.

Let’s begin with the hit type factors. Out of the four, each park is more favorable on two of them. Busch slightly inflated singles in 2023, while Dodger suppressed them. Since singles are the most frequent hit type, it has the biggest impact on BABIP. For his career, Lynn’s BABIP has been around the league average, but it has really jumped around each season. The factors here suggest Busch will probably be a bit worse than Dodger would have been, but that’s also ignoring his defense, which obviously changes.

Both parks suppress doubles, but Busch does so more. We don’t know if that means a lower BABIP (more outs) or some balls that would be doubles at Dodger would merely go for singles at Busch. We see a significant difference in triples factor, but those are so infrequent, it doesn’t matter all that much.

What does matter is the home run factors. Lynn played his home games in two of the most home run friendly parks this season. He now gets to move to a home park that is actually one of the most home run unfriendly parks. It’s a meaningful swing. Over his career, he has been pretty league average in HR/FB rate, sporting an 11.2% mark. But man oh man did he struggle with the long ball this year. He posted a career worst 19% HR/FB rate, which partly explains the career worst ERA. As a flyball pitcher, the park switch should really help him keep those balls in the park.

Lynn’s strikeout rate fell to its lowest since 2018, despite his second highest SwStk%. While that rate and his CSW% remain fine, he’s still going to be 37 next year, so you might not want to expect any sort of strikeout rate rebound. Moving to a park that’s worse for strikeouts won’t help either. His control was an issue this season too, as his walk rate more than doubled from his career best mark in 2022 to his highest since 2018 as well. Both parks suppressed walks this season, but Busch did so a bit less effectively.

Of the batted ball type factors, all we really care about are LD (line drives) and IFFB (infield fly balls or pop-ups). Here, each park has the advantage in one of the two factors with the same three point gap. Busch is more favorable for IFFB, inflating pop-ups for easy outs, while Dodger is more favorable for line drives, suppressing the highest BABIP generating batted ball type. These factors are more interesting than actionable, as they should already be accounted for in the hit type factors.

Finally, we arrive at the summary factors, FIP and Basic. I am assuming the high HR factor is raising Dodger’s FIP factor, making it slightly hitter friendly, while Busch’s is actually slightly pitcher friendly, also possibly due to the HR factor. On the other hand, the two parks are identical in the Basic factor, which is actual run scoring. They both suppress offense at the same rate.

So overall, is the park switch going to affect Lynn’s results? Identical Basic factors suggest not, though we might see a small shift in performance shape — a slightly higher BABIP, but a lower HR/FB rate. I think he makes for a nice rebound target in deeper leagues, but I’m not counting on a league-winning season from a pitcher who will turn 37 in May.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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