Who’d You Rather: Tim Lincecum vs. Justin Masterson


David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The styles are so similar, and thus far in 2014, the results have been similar, as well.

[table id=791 /]

The numbers are even closer than they appear. Had we done this before their most recent starts, the 2014 numbers would have been more in Lincecum’s favor. But Cleveland Indians starter Justin Masterson threw a gem, Lincecum did not, so the present numbers are in Masterson’s favor. We are still at a point where one outing can sway that, though.

With numbers like that, you’d probably only want one on of these guys on your fantasy pitching rotation. Since both are going this weekend, it seems like as good a time as any to ask the question. Who’d you Rather, Tim Lincecum or Justin Masterson?

Since fantasy baseball is all about the numbers, let’s start there.

The Case for Lincecum

He does have the more decorated past, but three far more relevant factors work in Lincecum’s favor.

  • 1. Pitching in the National League, specifically the National League West

Granted,  with the exception of Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers, the AL Central isn’t especially loaded with hitters. Also, Tim Lincecum would be wise to stay as far away from Paul Goldschmidt as is humanly possible when the D-Backs are in the other dugout.

Still, the National League West is about as pitcher-friendly as it gets. Even if you want to point out Coors Field, it’s noteworthy that the Giants have only one series left in Denver for the rest of the year.

  • 2. AT&T Park

These are ever-changing, but at the time of this writing, this is what ESPN’s Park Factors tell us about the two home ballparks.

[table id=793 /]Source: ESPN Park Factors: Runs, Hits, Home Runs.

So Progressive Field isn’t exactly a death trap for pitchers, but AT&T Park consistently rates as the better place to pitch.

  • 3. Superior Team

Although the Giants aren’t likely to maintain the current pace, their record is significantly better than Cleveland’s. When a team wins more games, their pitchers will also win more games, which benefits Tim Lincecum.

The Case for Masterson

Masterson’s doesn’t have as many arguments in his favor, but the one he does have is certainly bigger than any one of the three we went over with Lincecum. While his past isn’t as illustrious Timmy”s, but he’s been the far better pitcher recently. Their 2013 stats aren’t even close.

[table id=792 /]

If I may borrow a term from boxing, that’s a first round knockout, and it doesn’t even tell the full story. Not only was Justin Masterson better than Lincecum in 2013, but those numbers were significantly buoyed by a great second half. So, it wasn’t even a year ago when Masterson was flat out dealing.

With the exception of a stint in the Giants bullpen during the 2012 playoffs, he hasn’t been “The Freak” for more than two full seasons — not for more than an outing or two, anyway.

So, if you’re hoping that one of these guys can find the strong form they’ve exhibited in the past, know that Masterson doesn’t have to reach back anywhere near as far as Timmy.

Who’d You Rather?

Too much works in Lincecum’s favor to ignore here. With Justin Masterson, you’re hoping that that the fact that he was an elite (or close to it) pitcher more recently will eventually come back. But — like 2014 — Masterson’s career has been fairly inconsistent.

You’re not going to get the Cy Young Award winner again, but the number of things in Lincecum’s favor combine to be more relevant than the one big thing Masterson has working for him.

The edge isn’t massive, but it’s pretty clear in my eyes. If I’m taking one of these guys, it’s Tim Lincecum.