The (Modest) Return of Tim Lincecum

By: Brian Mangan

Might it be that the demise of Tim Lincecum has been greatly exaggerated?

As a fan of an NL East team that has mostly occupied the cellar for the last four years, it has been easy to ignore baseball stories originating on the West Coast.  As far as I’m aware, the formerly great Tim Lincecum just hasn’t been great lately.  He’s been the subject of story after story wondering why the magic was gone, and wondering aloud whether he was still a major league caliber pitcher.

However with Lincecum’s no-hitter against the Padres earlier this week, I am officially interested in him once again.  Could it be that he’s still a major league caliber pitcher?  Or was his no-hitter just a flash in the pan?  Some people feel quite strongly about it.  This is the tweet that inspired me to take an actual look:

So what do we know about Lincecum, a.k.a. Big Time Timmy Jim??  That his 2012 season, at the tender age of 28, was downright putrid is common knowledge.  He put up a 5.18 ERA, a 4.35 BB/9, and his entire career looked to be in doubt.  On the heels of that season, Lincecum posted a 4.37 ERA in 2013 with a modest bounce back in peripherals – although his once mighty strikeout rate continued to tumble.  It was an enigmatic encore performance to say the least, one which caused the Giants to reward him with only a two year contract.

He has so far followed up that defensible 2013 with an identical 2014.  Given that we now have a large body of post-dominant-Lincecum to look at, is it possible now that 2012 was the outlier?  Is it possible that Lincecum has learned to pitch with a diminished arsenal and he’s simply been on a run of bad luck insofar as 2013 and 2014 are concerned?

lincecum

He’s clearly not the pitcher in 2013-2014 that he was in 2011 … but if you were to ask me who he more closely resembled, the 2011 Timmy or the 2012 Timmy, I think the answer would have to be the former.

His velocity is down, we know, and he’s getting less swinging strikes, but aside from that he’s a very similar pitcher to the one that he was in his heyday.  His K/9 remains above league average, and his strikeout to walk ratio is almost league average as well.

Big Time Timmy Jim of the past is gone forever, but perhaps people have been too quick to question whether or not Tim Lincecum deserves to be a major league starter or not.  FIP likes him as a 3.80 ERA guy over the last 1.5 seasons. Maybe he’s worse than that, and maybe he’s the type of pitcher with a lack of command who will always underperform what his peripherals say.  But if that amount worse translates to a 4.00 ERA (compared to a league average of 3.91 for MLB starters thus far this year), that to me makes him a “good” pitcher.

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