Sorry, this might be a bit long for a player season in review. I had to cut it down because I really still think Daniel Lynch has so much potential to be a big contributor to the Royals over the next half-decade or more. He showed sparks of brilliance at times during the 2022 season. Unfortunately, not all sparks catch, many sputter and fade into nothingness. For instance, in August Lynch had six starts with a sub-4 ERA and a 2.4 K/BB ratio. Or in June and July his strike-out rates were a bit better than the rest of the season and the secondary numbers like FIP and xFIP were starting to look quite good. Every time it looked as if something was working though, there would be a game where it fell apart and then it took a while to find his way back to form.
Overall, the season numbers were not great. Danny made 27 starts for a total of 131.2 innings, so not even 5 innings per start. The 5.13 ERA with only slightly better defense-independent statistics was at best underwhelming. He struck out 8.34 per 9, which is better than the 7.28 he posted last year, but not great. His walk rate also improved from 4.1 to 3.55 per 9. He was better in 2022 in some ways than in 2021. There was progress, but not enough that you trust him most of the time he toes mound yet.
If you are wondering why a seemingly talented and touted prospect is struggling so much, I hopefully can explain at least part of it. The most glaring problem when you dig through the statistics is that people hit him very hard. You can see by Baseball Savant percentiles that he is about as bad as you can be at allowing good contact.
Being in the first percentile in hard-hit rate and second percentile in average exit velocity is atrocious. Hitters are not struggling to make quality contact on Lynch. If you were ranking things that pitchers want to do well, the top three would probably be something like strike batters out, limit walks, and limit hard contact. Lynch has improved a little in two of the three, but he is among the worst in the majors at the third. This has led to back-to-back seasons with .335 BABIP!! BABIP has been going down league-wide in recent years, hitting an all-time low of .289 this season, so he is turning into an outlier because of all the hard hits.
Pitch shape is a big thing in baseball these days, and I am hoping whoever takes over for Cal Eldred can find something for Danny to improve his. I think it is the main problem with the way batters are squaring up pitches. There is a lot of information out there if you want to learn about spin rates and their affects on pitches, but these types of primers are not for the faint of heart.
A few things from them tell me Lynch took a step backward this season when it comes to pitch quality. His velocities for all his pitches went up a tiny bit on average this year, especially the curveball which went from 77.4 MPH on average to 81.1 MPH, none of the others had such a drastic change. In general, when velocity increases, so does spin rate, but not always. The increase in velocity here was actually coupled with similar or lower spin rates, again except for the curveball. Most of the time more speed and less spin means worse movement, but again, not always. The changeup seems to have improved in both vertical and horizontal break, but the slider is getting way less vertical break. Overall it looks to me like his pitches are mostly getting worse with the exception of the changeup which was quite a bit more effective this year both in movement and in pitch values from outcomes.
If new pitching coaches can come in and help Daniel with pitch design, then I think we could see a huge improvement from the southpaw next year. He clearly has some stuff that needs unlocking to go along with his strikeout and walk rates that will hopefully continue improving. All he needs to do is avoid his pitches flatting out like they are and he could decrease the extreme exit velocities and high hard-hit rate. Would that make him an elite starting pitcher, probably not, but it could make him a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm, and the Royals desperately need that at the moment.
There are some other things that I would like to talk about, and maybe to go into more detail on the pitches individually, but I don’t think anyone wants a year-in-review article that takes a half hour to read, so maybe a deeper dive sometime in the off-season will make sense. I am disappointed in the 2022 campaign for Lynch, as are most fans I think, though maybe the poll below will say otherwise.
Personally, I would give Lynch a C. He reached one of the biggest milestones for me for a starter pitcher, having two strikeouts for every walk. Guys who can do that have a much better chance of sticking as starters, so I can see him as a starter for a long time. The question quickly after that becomes whether it is as a number fifth starter or a third starter or an ace, and the answer to that question changes what the pitcher is to a team drastically. We are probably still a couple of years away from that one.
What grade would you give Daniel Lynch this season?
This poll is closed