This should be a story about Dave Duncan. Whenever a good, young pitcher started to do well for the Cardinals -- from Bud Smith to Adam Wainwright -- Duncan got a lot of the credit. Deservedly so, too. After decades of turning guys like Braden Looper into something of value, it was only natural to assume the guy was a magician.
Lance Lynn is a young pitcher who is doing well for the Cardinals. He was never on a Baseball America top-100 list, and when he was ranked the Cardinals' sixth-best prospect in the Baseball America 2011 Prospect Handbook, this is the last sentence of his player profile:
He has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter.
So when you see a Cardinals pitcher like Lynn exceed expectations, you want to scrawl more love notes to Duncan ... except Dave Duncan is on a leave of absence this year, and Derek Lilliquist is the pitching coach now. Lynn is probably the product of a well-run organization that develops young pitchers better than most -- something to do with a philosophy that's taught and executed across every level of the minor leagues.
But I feel more comfortable saying it's all the product of one individual. Can I just pretend it's one guy? Yeah, I'm going to ignore any evidence to the contrary and suggest it's all Derek Lilliquist. He's had the magic touch since way back in March. It's so obvious to see now.
Now that I can't just wave my lazy Duncan wand over Lynn's success, I actually have to look at how he's doing it. And the answer kind of blew me away.
Percentage of pitches (from TexasLeaguers.com)
Fastballs. All fastballs. Well, mostly fastballs. More fastballs than most, at least. The fourth-highest percentage in the National League, to be exact. And while he's not a true two-pitch pitcher, like Justin Masterson, he's pretty close. And it's working. Man, how it's working:
The breaking ball doesn't come out until the end of the game. Until then, it's fastball, fastball, fastball. It's a pretty devastating fastball, but it's still a little odd to see a starter use it quite like this.
Chris Carpenter is still out. Adam Wainwright is still underperforming his peripherals, and Jaime Garcia has had his ups and downs. Yet with Lance Lynn's help, the Cardinals still have an ace somehow. And this time, I can't write 400 words on Dave Duncan pixie dust and take a nap. Lynn is just the product of an organization that's done it again, and not just a lone, brilliant individual.
That makes more sense, but it isn't as fun, dang it. At least Kyle Lohse kept a bag of the Duncan dust around. We can always count on Kyle Lohse.