In a big picture sense, it’s fair to say that Tim Lincecum has had minimal fantasy relevance in 2014.
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Granted, those numbers look better than what he produced in 2012 and 2013, but still not what you really want to see from a fantasy starter.
Having said that, Lincecum’s last six outings have been quite good.
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Don’t bother doing the math. These are his total numbers over that stretch.
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As you can see, the numbers are strong and while the no-hitter certainly pads the stats, the other five starts have produced excellent numbers in their own right.
Looking a little deeper, what positives and negatives are there going forward?
Negative: Fewer Strikeouts
Whether winning Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, or struggling through 2012 and 2013, one thing Tim Lincecum’s fantasy owners could always count on was a high strikeout rate. The numbers certainly indicate that that might be changing.
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The decline has been fairly steady but even at that, this has been quite a drop. Now, a backer could point out that without the one game at Arizona, Lincecum’s strikeout totals would look a lot better.
That’s true, but we’re still looking at a guy that’s probably going to be averaging around 7.5-8 strikeouts per nine innings. That’s still a fine ratio, but fantasy owners have relied on big strikeout totals from Lincecum in the past. Going from excellent to above average is an adjustment they’ll have to make.
Positive: Fewer Strikeouts = Better Overall Numbers
This may be a cliche, but it’s pretty clear that Tim Lincecum is getting away from throwing and learning how to pitch. Now, prior to 2012, his stuff was so extraordinary that it made up for any lack of guile that he may have had. But now that his stuff is clearly not what it once was, it’s nice to see him finally adjust and become more well-rounded.
Note a few things:
- Over his last six outings, Tim Lincecum’s BB/9 is 2.4. If we eliminate the no-hitter, it’s 2.8.
- Tim Lincecum won his Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009 and was generally one of the best pitchers in the game from 2008-2011. His BB/9 in that four-year stretch was 3.2, with the lowest season coming in 2009 (2.7).
- Over the last six outings, opponents have a H/9 of 5.0 against Tim Lincecum. Without the no-hitter, the H/9 is 6.4.
- The 2008-2011 total was 7.3. Again, the lowest season was 2009 (6.7).
I won’t predict that Lincecum will be as good going forward as he was during those peak years, but I will say this. He’s finally learning how to allow contact and still make outs. That’s only a good thing for his overall numbers.
Negative: The Opponents
This one is inescapable. The offenses Tim Lincecum has faced over the last six games are generally mediocre. Even the Cardinals haven’t exactly been smoking the ball, and he caught them during a cold stretch. The Rockies are one of the better offenses in the league, but that’s largely bolstered by Coors Field.
Lincecum only has one more scheduled start in the first half (home vs. Arizona), he will miss the A’s, and we don’t exactly know how Bruce Bochy will order the rotation coming out of the All-Star break.
But at the very least, we do need to take note of the opponents and consider that they might have had something to do with the strong numbers over the last month.
Postive: Favorable Upcoming Schedule
Again, how the Giants order the rotation coming out of the All-Star Game remains to be seen, so we can’t quite project Tim Lincecum’s second half opponents. But let’s go ahead and look ahead at the Giants second half opponents.
- July: 3 at Miami, 4 at Philadelphia, 3 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 3 vs. Pittsburgh
- August: 4 at New York Mets, 3 at Milwaukee, 3 at Kansas City, 2 vs. Chicago White Sox, 3 vs. Philadelphia, 3 at Chicago Cubs, 3 at Washington, 4 vs. Colorado, 3 vs. Milwaukee
- September: 3 at Colorado, 3 at Detroit, 3 vs. Arizona, 3 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 3 at Arizona, 3 at San Diego, 3 at Los Angeles Dodgers, 4 vs. San Diego
A few tough games, for sure, but plenty of favorable matchups in there. Remember, Lincecum’s home park is one of the better pitcher’s in the league, so most games there are at least semi-favorable.
Positive: AT&T Park
Again, the overall 2014 numbers may not be spectacular. But when we look at his splits, it’s pretty clear that we can’t blame those struggles on his home park.
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Now, the Giants do have more remaining games on the road, but he’ll get plenty more home starts, and even more games on the road against bad offenses, in favorable ballparks, or both.
So, what do we think going forward?
Right now, I’m optimistic. Yes, it’s cautiously optimistic, but optimistic nonetheless.
I certainly feel good enough to give fantasy owners a blessing in picking Tim Lincecum up for the rest of the way. Now, how long a leash he has is up to you. I want to see at least two bad starts in a row with at least one at home before I’ll drop him.
Now, I might well decide to bench him against certain opponents in tough parks. If he draws a game at Coors Field or Miller Park, I’ll need to see a bit more between now and then before I think starting him there is a good idea. But for now, he at least belongs on your roster and should be starting more often than not.