Yes, I went Crazy Town on you. Look, the more and more you do this, the more you realize there are good title days and bad title days. And let me tell you this friends. Today is an amazing day. You know what the opposite of amazing is? Tim Lincecum in your left ocular region. Even though his star had been dimming slowly each year since 2009, many if not most did not predict such a precipitous drop. And when I say drop, it’s a landing that made a convincing doo-doo splat, but with fake dubstep. I feel like I am just too close to up-WUB you. You know, that’s a good ZZZZUHHHH CHUHHHHHHH BZZZZZZZAAAAAA Doo-doo splat! WAAAAAAW WAAAAAAAAWA WAWAAAHHHH!!!! During the two seasons before 2012, his strikeout rate dropped while his walk rate increased, both trending in a non-zesty direction. While he had a slight up-tick in his fastball velocity in 2011, the improved velocity did not show up in his SwStr% (swinging strike percentage), scoring a 10.7% from a 11.0%. It was an unlikely proposition that he would ever return to a 10.0+ K% pitcher, but it was rational to expect at least a strike out per inning while still holding league average control and still inducing grounders at an above average rate. After all, those three things are still ingredients for a top of the rotation starter.
Suffice to say, Lincecum proved to be the nail in many a fantasy baseball heart, and was the biggest letdown since finding out Heidi Klum and Seal broke up. In some respects, when brainstorming which names should be detected by the thingamajig under the Greydar, I thought that Tim Lincecum would be the easiest pick of them all. And the hardest. Why this conundrum? To borrow from a great leader of men, we fap not because it is easy, but because it is hard. I’m not sure what that has to do with anything, but I wanted to bring it up regardless.
So let’s get this party started and go over why it’s easy, yet hard, to see Lincecum overperforming his current value. Computing… there isn’t really a why. He basically has terrible value at this point and performing anything close to an average pitcher would make him an intriguing buy-low. But let’s get down ‘n dirty with the numbers, cause that’s what we do. We have a pitcher here who has 2 Cy Young’s and 4 All-Star games that pitched 186 innings in 2012 with an ERA of 5.18. His BB/9 in 2011 was 3.57. In 2012? 4.35. Alluded to above, he also saw his average fastball speed drop from 92.3 to 90.4. His career high was 94.2 MPH in 2007 to give context. And it’s no coincidence that his Strike Zone% has declined from 48% in 2010 to 45% in 2012. Whether that’s due to his lack of confidence in his stuff or a strategy to compensate, the trend is disturbing. But simply put, his velocity is gone, and based on his age, mileage and what we know about pitcher aging curves, he’s never going to get it back. The first pitch Lincecum ever threw in the major leagues was reported to be 99 MPH. He hit 100 MPH three times in his first inning. He will never do that again. Right now, he throws as hard as Clayton Richard, on a good day. So I just pulled out the Clayton Richard card. What’s up.
Why is he a good bet to rebound? Well, given his eligibility for free agency after the season, that could certainly help as a motivational factor. Being a guy who has overcome skepticism and the challenges of being undersized without a typical pitching body over his career could help as well. Even gaining a team requested 5 lbs might help. Then again, based on what he smokes, if its 5 lbs of Funyuns and Fanta Pineapple, that might be a step backwards. But all those things matter. How much do they matter? Not as much as the one single thing he has to do to have a nice rebound– pitch.
Cool story bro. What else?
Look at it this way. Even though last year was the worst statistical output season of his career, he still manged a K/9 of 9.19 and kept his GB% within career norms. While his HR/FB exploded from 8.0% in 2011 to 14.6% in 2012, his FIP was still at an acceptable 4.18. Simple regression, a concept I’ve come to know and love, should push him in the right direction, regardless of the erosion of his skills. Obviously, it wasn’t just a case of poor luck, but it was a factor. There are risks of course. No value guy comes in a nicely wrapped package of awesome. Well, I do. But other than that, no value guy comes without some sort of question mark. His arm could fall off. He could be sent to the bullpen depending on how he handles spring training. I can’t say for certain that everything will work out. In fact, I’ve spent most of the post telling you that the Lincecum we all knew and loved will not be coming back.
But that’s okay, because that makes him affordable. The question is, at what price are you buying the possible upside? That’s up to you. But I’m buying, maybe somewhere in the 11-15 round area. If it’s a choice between Ian Kennedy, Matt Garza, or Timmah, I’m goin for gold. If you need a contrarian opinion, Grey is here for you with a sneak peek from his top 100 starters:
Wouldn’t have Righetti and Bochy have put their heads together and formed one super-ginormous head and fixed Lincecum’s issues by July if they could’ve? I need about six starters per team and there’s about forty pitchers I like. I’m fine avoiding Lincecum. 2013 Projections: 12-10/3.98/1.28/199
It’s a lot easier to play it safe and draft a guy like Edwin Jackson in this tier. But if you believe that Lincecum, in a walk year, can figure out how to pitch more than throw and simply let regression happen, you are looking at a possible #2 guy. Or he could flame-out completely and look like the second coming of Luke Hochevar. I’ll take risky over boring any day, which is why I parkour to the bathroom when I wake up. If you believe… 2013 Projections: 14-8/3.54/1.26/221