Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 7:00 AM
A few years ago he was the toast of the coast. Tim Lincecum was a young phenom who was going to rule the National League for as long as he wanted. His unique delivery, unique mindset, and high strikeout rate seemed ideally suited to a long term career in a city that loves what he brings to the table.
Something went wrong beginning in 2012…and hasn’t rectified itself yet. Here are Tim Lincecum’s numbers over the past several seasons so you can get a sense of the drop off.
TIM LINCECUM SINCE 2008
2008: 2.62 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 10.5 K-Rate, 6.7 IP per game
2009: 2.48 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 10.4 K-Rate, 7.0 IP per game
2010: 3.43 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.8 K-Rate, 6.4 IP per game
2011: 2.74 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 9.1 K-Rate, 6.6 IP per game
2012: 5.18 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 9.2 K-Rate, 5.6 IP per game
2013: 4.37 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 8.8 K-Rate, 6.2 IP per game
2014: 4.74 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 9.5 K-Rate, 5.5 IP per game
That’s Cy Young caliber pitching in 2008 and 2009 (and arguably 2011). Then, a drop to what was still excellence in 2010 and 2011. He wasn’t a one-year flash in the pan. Even though he was gradually trending in the wrong direction in K-Rate. There was nothing about 2011 to suggest that the honeymoon was over. He was going to be the face of the Giants. If the Giants kept competing for championships, he was going to be one of the faces of the league.
2012 was a disaster by his standards. He stayed in the rotation all season…but clearly at the caliber of a back end guy who would typically be replaced without such a strong prior track record. He did push things back to acceptable in 2013, though not worth his contract. Thus far in 2014, there’s been more bad news than good news. Going 5.5 innings with a 1.58 WHIP isn’t tolerated for very long at this level. He’s lucky his ERA isn’t worse given the number of runners he’s been putting on base.
San Francisco is still in first place because things are going so well for the rest of the rotation. Let’s run those numbers…
SAN FRANCISCO’S 2014 ROTATION (ranked by ERA)
Tim Hudson: 2.09 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 5.7 K-Rate
Madison Bumgarner: 3.38 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 10.0 K-Rate
Ryan Vogelsong: 3.62 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 7.1 K-Rate
Matt Cain: 3.66 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.5 K-Rate
Tim Lincecum: 4.74 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 9.5 K-Rate
Ryan Vogelsong got things figured out! Madison Bumgarner has a questionable WHIP, but is making up for that with extra strikeouts. That’s a rotation that can make the playoffs even if Lincecum is just kind of there. Come playoff time, you only need four starters anyway. The Giants aren’t panicking by any means. But, they’re surely imagining how DOMINANT this team would be if Lincecum ever found his form from a few years ago.
In handicapping terms, should you be betting against Lincecum and on everyone else? The problem with that approach is that San Francisco has been giving Lincecum good run support. They’re 6-3 in the games he’s started. And, the market no longer prices him like an ace (and hasn’t for quite awhile). The Giants may be such a value team this year (up over 10 units through Wednesday action) that they can overcome poor back end pitching. We strongly suggest monitoring Linecum’s game-by-game stats. If his ERA starts rising to match his poor WHIP, then he’ll either be a “fade” or an “over” pitcher for sharp handicappers.
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