Monday, May 11, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Lincecum Appears to be Back

Six starts into 2015 season, Lincecum has a 2.00 ERA.  Many doubt that he is back, pointing out his reduced velocity and his decline in strikeouts.

I understand the reticience to say that Tim Lincecum is back. Even as late as last season, he pitched well deep into July only to get dropped from the rotation soon afterward. So how does one know for certain? 

ogc thoughts

Well, there are no guarantees in life.  We can deal with probabilities, however.  As such, I think that there are many different signs that he's back as an effective pitcher.

First off, even as last as last season, he was very effective for a long stretch of time, 21 starts before the wheels came off. So he's been good, but just didn't know how to get back to his happy space for mechanics when he got lost mechanically. That's totally different than being a pitcher with the lousy ERA's he's had the past few years and being viewed as just plain bad.  He has actually been good a lot, but lousy long enough to have lousy overall stats, which is all most analysts will look at to pronounce him done.

For example, in 2010, he had a DOM% of 61% and an ERA of 3.43.  In 2012, he had a DOM% of 55%, not that far away, and yet ERA of 5.18 . Similar in 2013, DOM% of 56% and ERA of 4.37, and in 2014, DOM% of 54% and ERA of 4.74.   His problem has not been in throwing well-pitched games, he had a lot of them between 2012 and 2014, but part of the problem has been the decline in well-pitched games.

In addition, he has been throwing more disaster starts.  He has had a rising trend in DIS%:  in 2010, 18%, but in 2012, 24%, 2013, 13%, and 2014, 35%.  Few pitcher's ERAs survive DIS% in the 20's and 30's (few career as well).

His problem has been all the disaster starts, along with a decline in the number of DOM starts, combined, to result in dropping his career performance from ERA+ of 114 in 2010 to 69, 79, 73 from 2012 to 2014.  His performance so far this season?  67% DOM and 0% DIS.  And though I know that he's not going to maintain a 2.00 ERA for a whole season - he didn't even do that in his Cy Young years - his FIP is 3.13.  Plus, his WHIP is 1.194, after years of over 1.3, and the only seasons where he had WHIP under 1.2 were his Cy Young years.  But let's see him survive pitching well into September before we bring that award up as a possibility.

The second thing which is different today, as he worked with his Dad over the off-season. What some forget is that Lincecum has not worked with his Dad since 2009. Yes, it had been 6 years since he worked regularly with his Dad.  And that is roughly when Lincecum started his downturn professionally, as 2009 was his second and last Cy Young Award.   That is no coincidence, in my view.

And this is important for another fact that Lincecum disclosed this off-season, which is a third difference for him: he didn't know what his mechanics are when he's going good. This explains all his issues the past 5 seasons, he would be pitching well for a while, then he would suddenly lose it, and a key hit is given up, resulting in a crooked inning. For an example of what happens when a pitcher don't know his mechanics when he's going good, look at Bumgarner, he came into spring training one season showing loss of velocity, and Tidrow taught him the mechanics necessary to be effective, as Madison did not know what they were before.

Now that his father, 1) not only helped him get back to basics, but 2) helped Tim actually learn what his good mechanics were, instead of just relying on his father for tips and adjustments in between starts, Tim can now be more consistent in his pitching performances.

This helps Tim immensely because instead of waiting to speak with his father to figure out what went wrong, after a start, he can diagnose himself in-game and, say, not give up a bunch of runs while his mechanics are off until he can speak to his father again.  It not only helps to stop a string of bad starts (which, even when his father was helping, he would get into a month full of bad starts sometimes), it helps him within the game, heck, within the batter, now that he knows what his proper mechanics are, then he can execute it immediately and self-correct in-batter.

Now people might pooh-pooh the idea that throwing with proper mechanics mean anything, noting his lack of improved velocity (if anything, it is now lower) and his reduced strikeout rate.  Obviously, velocity is important to striking out batters, but it is not the only way to do it.  Romo and Petit are examples of pitchers who can strike out batters without velocity, basically using some form of deception with their throwing motion, as neither one has that great a fastball.  And the average starter is 7.4, and Lincecum is currently at 7.0 K/9, so he might not be fearsome anymore, but he's still good.

But as Lincecum has been stating in interviews before this season, he's learning how to pitch to contact.  Or rather learning how to induce crappy contact, as he put it.  Which will reduce the number of strikeouts he will end up with.  And this started last season, after teaming up with another short statured SP with a long career of excellence, Tim Hudson.

So I see this as an adjustment to how he approaches starts.  He's no longer going for the strikeouts in all situations.  He's going the Big Daddy route of giving the batter poor choices of pitches to induce lousy contact and get the easy out, but then striking out batters as necessary.  Like when he sat down Giancarlo Stanton with with his strikeout.  But the goal now is not striking out guys left and right, but getting them out left and right with as few pitches as he can so that he can go deeper into games.

For all these reasons, I think Lincecum is back, but as noted, there is no telling what Tim will do until he does it. You can't prove a negative, basically.  Last season, he lasted almost two-thirds of the season before driving his season into the ditch. In previous seasons, he was pretty good for the most part in the second half of the seasons. The only way to undo a negative like this is to pitch well for the entire season, then repeat it the next season. So far, so good for Timmy.

18 comments:

  1. Hey. Been taking a look at your articles and all of the articles are well written including this one. Timmy's been my idol since I first saw baseball and I agree with every word right here. Everybody in the Giants starting pitching seems to pitch to contact except for Bumgarner I think because he can still blow hitters away with the high cheddar and even in the minors in which the most famous that I can think of are Blackburn and surprisingly, Beede. His dad really helped Timmy achieve his early success and hopefully, he can sustain this kind of pitching but I know his numbers will regress as the season goes along. Great work sir!

    Wrenzie

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    1. Hey, thank you for your kind words. I recognize your name from other sites, thanks for checking out my blog, glad you enjoyed what I wrote.

      Exactly, Bumgarner can get guys out easily, whether K or ground outs, but the other starters can't. But as long as they can maintain a high DOM% and low DIS%, I don't really care that the pitcher's can't strike out that many.

      Hudson, as I noted in my PQS April study, has not had a DOM start yet, so I'm worried about him. At least he's been able to avoid the disaster starts, this will enable him to pitch for a long time without ruining his ERA totally. But he was able to dominate hitters in previous seasons, so something is up with him.

      Could winning a World Series have took away his drive? Maybe, but he don't seem like that type of guy, personality. He is 40 YO, so perhaps Father Time finally caught up with him, age eventually gets to every player. Or maybe getting one month less rest (because of going so deep into the playoffs for the first time) affected his physical recovery over the off-season. Perhaps.

      More likely, his ankle surgery just before spring training, which delayed his preparation for the season, is the reason for his slow start. It still takes some good skill to avoid disaster starts, which he has been so far. But he still hasn't had a DOM start and it is already mid-May. So I wonder if Huddy might be DLed for rest and recovery (players his age is always battling some sort of aches and pains, easy to state honestly that he's not 100%) once Peavy and Cain return to the rotation.

      Of course, both Peavy and Cain seem very far away from returning still, particularly Cain. Peavy's return would push out Vogelsong from the rotation, hard to take out Heston when he's pitching like this. It is Cain's return, should it happen, where Hudson might be in play. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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    2. I see Beede basically moving to a current Timmy style of pitching philosophy early in his career. That's easier with him because he is open to change and know that he has troubles throwing strikes, walking so many in college, plus he had a down year in 2014 vs. 2013. All that made it hard for him to go deep into games. (Timmy with his father's influence, made it hard for the Giants to coach his mechanics).

      Blach is another I would add to your list. And really, the Giants have been picking up guys like this for a long time, starting with Sabean's first trade (not as GM, but was credited to him before becoming GM) for Rueter. Lots of them fall out by AA and AAA, like Pucetas, but sometimes they achieve breakthrough with one, like Heston.

      Clearly, Lincecum will regress. Nobody but Cy Young caliber pitchers can maintain a 2.00 ERA for a whole season. And his FIP is in the low 3's, so he should regress.

      I would note, however, that Lincecum still appears to be learning about how to pitch like this. Hudson's FIP over his career is 30 points over his actual ERA, and if Lincecum does the same, that puts him at around 2.83 ERA. Tim is not getting lucky with BABIP a low, it is low, but he's been this low before in his career.

      The key breakthrough is that he has been able to induce crappy contact: other hitters only have .299 SLG against him (.602 OPS), which is his best except for his second Cy Young season. He is actually doing better than his first Cy Young season. And that is what he did from start 4 to 20 last season, .338 SLG and .637 OPS, when he had his mechanics going correctly.

      So, while regression is to be expected, it is also possible that the regression will not be all that much, that he could be a very effective pitcher pitching like he is now - even though his velocity is so low - because, as the past seasons have shown, even with reduced velocity, he can still strike people out, his odd and unique mechanics appear to help his deception of hitters and this season appears to confirm his ability to do that.

      He is a baseball equivalent of the bumblebee, he confounds people all the time, and for whatever reasons, people find it hard to believe. I have not had any problem accepting the outliers like Tim, I embrace them, I mean, that's life, there is always something that surprises and delights, and I don't see why you don't enjoy them, while they last.

      Cain is another one, Giants fans have been wanting to dump him for nearly ten years now, unable to accept that he's able to induce crappy contact and keep his BABIP lower than the mean that other, lesser pitchers, cannot do.

      That is the severe downside of DIPS, that the theory, for whatever reasons, makes people unable to accept that there ARE pitchers who can defy DIPS, who are successful at doing things that other pitchers (in other words, mere mortals :^) can't do, these are the better pitchers but instead of identifying and recognizing these elite pitchers, DIPS makes most sabers pooh-pooh these pitchers until they retire.

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    3. Also, people were worried about Bumgarner after pitching so much last season, he's another oddity.

      I understand the worry about Bumgarner. And what else can he say other than everything is fine, he's raring to go. Can't prove a negative.

      The proof would come once he's on the field and we see how he performs. And so far, so good. He has had glitches starting up almost every season, and this season was no different, but he's now locked and loaded and reading for bear. So I was not that worried about Bumgarner, other than that he is a pitcher and pitchers eventually have injuries.

      The reason is that, when Madison came up, he marveled at how little MLB pitchers threw between starts. He said then that he would cut back on his throwing in order to save strength for the actual games, but from what I've seen of him since, he's a manly man, and I would bet all three trophies that he still throws a lot more pitches than any other MLB pitcher around.

      So if there is any pitcher who can throw nearly 300 IP today (remember, there were many pitchers in the past who threw 300 IP regularly, in the regular season only, and never had any issues, because their arms were prepared for it), it's Bumgarner. That's the theory that the Braves former pitching coach, Mazzone, learned from an old pitcher, and which he used with his pitching staff in order to build up their arms. I will have to check the details, but it seems to my memory (which I'll admit has been bad lately) that the Braves have had all sorts of issues with their pitching staff's arm health since Mazzone left the team and, apparently, took his philosophy with him.

      Another bumblebee on a staff of bumblebees that sabers are unable to analyze properly because, as far as their theories go, they will eventually regress in some way.

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    4. I love your analysis on the things around the organization Mr. ogc. I love learning from you guys who are more experienced in writing stuffs and more wisdom than I have because I am still young age-wise. I love to take down notes from everybody (you, drb, mr. cc, mr. shankbone, etc.) because I love scouting prospects and learning about the mechanics of prospects and figuring out possibilities that can help the progress of a pitcher in the future while you are an analytics guy with a lot of knowledge on the game and the business side of baseball.

      It feels like Huddy really means it when I read in an article that it can be his last season as a pro in which I think the Giants can help because it opens a door in the rotation where our minor league guys can have a good shot at earning a spot in the rotation if they do good enough like Heston and possibly more in the future.

      I feel that the front office have a philosophy on picking players in which I think is that the player's tools will play well in AT&T and that they have a great intelligence about the game. I feel Lincecum now truly understands that he can put away hitters aside from the strikeout and he now again understands his own mechanics that his father made like what you said. On the other hand, I am not concerned about MadBum shouldering a lot of pitches from last season because he is built like a tank. I know throwing a baseball is unnatural on the human body but I put my money on him that he'll be fine until the end of the season.

      I am still learning a lot about baseball from all of you good gentlemen of America and thank you for sharing your thoughts to every Giants and baseball fans out there including me because it's a great read and great knowledge.

      Wrenzie

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    5. Again, thanks for the kind words.

      Good resources, all the people you name. Check out Sickels' Minor League Ball for a nice on-line resource for overall prospect talk.

      Baseball America is good if you want to pay for it (I don't, would if I had the time, but I do buy their annual prospect book, and recommend checking out their Top 20 lists by league every fall, and Top 10 team lists leading up to spring training).

      I like the book Minor League Baseball Analyst (by Baseball HQ's team of writers) for another view of prospects.

      And, again, Sickels provides his top lists free (and he also publishes a book with more details on each prospect).

      I don't care much for ESPN's guy, I have not cared for what I've read about what he has to say about the Giants prospects, and he acted like he knew all about Belt before even the Giants did, but the only team that thought anything about Belt as a hitter were the Giants, who drafted him much earlier than the pundits thought he should be (he was basically a JT Snow with less power in college), 5th round when others were thinking 2 or more rounds later. He also said that Panik is, at best, a utility MI, for his latest punditry on Giants prospects. I don't know if he has something against the Giants (Baseball Prospectus clearly does) or if he's just not that good at prospecting (but he must be providing some value on other prospects to keep this job for so many years) but his track record on Giants prospects are not that good, from what I've read on the periphery.

      If you are in the SF Bay Area, and like cheap entertainment, most South Bay OSH (and some Target stores, plus other establishments) have free San Jose Giants tickets available, you can easily go to at least a dozen games each season for free (well, have to pay for parking, and you probably want to eat something there, so not all for free) and get to see some of the Giants top prospects play. I went long ago with my family and my kids got treated to an Ishikawa towering homer to right CF, it went over that netting and into the parking lot (after being amazed, I started worrying that there is now a ball smashed into my car). This season, can possibly (since tickets are specific, you have to luck into seeing starting pitching) Beede or Mella pitch, Arroyo (when not injured), Ryder Jones, Austin Slater, Hunter Cole, RafRod, are position players of note, and from the bullpen, Agosta, Soptic, Slania, Gardeck, Chase Johnson have been OK to good, and Ysla was suppose to be a good starter, been struggling, got put in the bullpen and did well so far.

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    6. Yeah, Huddy has been talking retirement since winning his first championship, and his family is reaching that age where he can be more involved with their activities. But $10M is hard to say no to, and you never know, getting that taste of the first one could create an hankering for another ring.

      But given his so-so season so far, I have to think the Giants will feel like they could use his money better elsewhere (or even keep in reserve for mid-season trade) as Heston has been great so far as a fill-in. Of course, this is probably predicated on both Cain and Peavy returning to expected goodness, if, forbid, either is unable to perform, the Giants might be tempted to get one more year of Huddy, and as noted, $10M is hard to turn down (or really, somewhere in $5-10M range, depending on how this season goes).

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    7. Yeah, the Giants have great intelligence in their front office. I've learned that over the past dozen or so years of following the Giants intently (via writing/blogging). I thought it was time to change Sabean around then, and to prove it, I researched the draft, and realized that it is hard as heck to find good players, even in the first round, even with the first pick of the draft. Since then, I've just learned to appreciate how good Sabean, and now Bochy, are, at what they do.

      The one thing I've never wavered, and really, was the one big "BUT" regarding Sabean is that BUT he has been excellent in trading, he has never given away a prospect in trade who turned out to be really good. Liriano is the closest so far, Wheeler probably, but that's a great record for 18 years of trades. And he's never really lost big on any trade, the AJP trade and the Villanueva trade probably are the worse.

      I can pop off a number of really bad ones easily for Beane, Hudson, CarGon, Ethier, and probably that top 10 SS he sent to Cubs, plus that Lester trade.

      So the key fact that bugged me and kept me on Sabean's side is that, how can a GM who really understands the players he has under his control, and can see and analyze, be that bad in free agency? And that made me realize that sometimes you need to fill a position, and that's the best available in the market. You have to sign him, else, what do you do, not field a team? Not try at all? No, you roll the dice, hope for the best.

      And really, all humans make mistakes. So when I compare his mistakes with the huge wins he got - Kent, Snow, Burks, Nen, Livan, Schmidt, Winn, Pagan, Pence, and Melky would have been a win too if he wasn't stupid, among others - it's no contest, he has been playing with the house's money for years now.

      And that is why I call the people who complain about Sabean Naysayers, because they can't get around their biases about him and see the true balance of good and bad, and they chose to be blind and see the bad.

      And I think I'll be calling the ones who call Bochy bad too the same, because they are missing all the good.

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    8. Oh, and if you want to learn more about sabermetrics, I wholeheartedly recommend Baseball Forecaster, just go to BaseballHQ.com and buy an old book (they are fantasy baseball driven, so most of the data is useless now) for, like, half priced or something, and read through the beginning section regarding hitters and pitchers. I have found their information to be good for teaching me how to do analysis on my own, whereas Baseball Prospectus likes the sound of their voice and keep everything very opaque and black box-ish, and I learned more in my first Baseball Forecaster about modern sabermetrics than I did buying years of BP books. And I stopped buying BP when they had the audacity to openly ask for Brian Sabean to be fired in their 2010 Annual (that is, before they won it all) and I go to the book store to see if they ever apologized for being wrong-headed, but they still seem to think that they know-it-all. So I don't recommend them at all, until they apologize, and now, after all these years, not sure I care that much to go back, been there, done that.

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  2. A comment I left on Raising Matt Cain (updated, of course, I also tinker...):

    As much as some might think of Tim as a grizzled vet, he's a sensitive flower who can lose his focus from a tiny thing, in this case, the muddy cleats, which I blame for all the acrobatics off the mound (but yeah, amazing how he still got that pitch to Buster!). But somehow the Reds guy handled it fine, so hopefully lesson learned for Timmy, he acknowledged losing focus because of the condition of his cleats.

    The thing for me is, he was one missed called strike away from escaping the 5th inning and probably replaced the next. The umpire blew a called third strike (PitchF/X confirmed the announcers and Timmy's call), which seemed to upset Tim, who ended up hitting that batter two pitches later, setting up the dink hit that scored the two runs.

    Which I guess is the universe balancing things out, because there were two monster hits previously with RISP that would have driven in a lot of runs. Or, if you play with fire enough, you will get burned, that was his third inning of RISP.

    Still, had the umpire not screw up that call, he would have been out of the inning, at 95 pitches, still with the lead and eventually the Giants would have won the game. Margin was that close in this game, one mis-called pitch.

    That's why, while I love the human touch umpires add, this really screwed things up for us and why I call for having technology call balls and strikes.

    I know people hate to do that, but here's an idea I just came up with, to integrate the two. Have the home umpire wear an earpiece and have the PitchF/X give him the call, which he then announces to the crowd. That allows them to still give the hand signals, maybe make a show of it, if he's into that, but allows us, the fans, to not get so mad about blown calls like this.

    Of course, if Timmy wasn't dancing so close to the edge almost every inning, it would have been a meaningless screw-up unnoticed and uncared about, so there is that too...

    But it's one start, after 6 OK to dominant starts, I know it feels like deja vu, but I'm still believing until he puts up a long string of starts like this, then I will concede that his change was not permanent (or as permanent as things can be for pitchers).

    Still, here's another point for this being a new Timmy: in the past three years, in that crucial 5th inning, we usually would see Tim give up a huge hit, driving in the runs. Tim got what he wanted in that situation, a pop-up that is normally an out, but it threaded the needle and fell in for a two run hit. That is all you can ask for in that situation (well, besides a strikeout), and 9 out of 10 times, that is an easily caught ball.

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  3. Wow. Your comments are so informative and insightful that I get more than what I paid for but the kicker is that, I didn't even paid a single penny! (Well, maybe the electric bills and the internet bills) Thanks for all of the websites! I I'll look onto those sites and take notes. On the other hand, unfortunately, I can't come to any Giants games or minor league games pretty soon because I live in the Philippines and we don't have enough money to try to go to America. Heck, I didn't even have a passport yet! I think BA is a great site although I can't look at some of the articles because it's paid subsciption and I don't enough money yet to subscribe. I hope I could watch Giants games soon as I earn enough to go see one and analyze the organization's pitchers mechanics. One of my dreams is to become a scout and I know that job is hard for newcomers like me but I still have my engineering course that I took on right now so if being a scout can't work, I can have a pretty good and stable career forward.

    All of the points that you pondered out are all I agree with but I think the only flaw that I see in the Giants front office is that they tend to overpay homegrown or guys that have experienced success in their FA years as a Giant or extending them like Lincecum's massively large deal. I really thank Timmy that he prefers short-term deals. I think the Wheeler-Beltran deal worked out because Wheeler dosen't want to accept the changes the organization wanted about cleaning his mechanics. (I said about the flaws of his mechanics on Mr. CC's Draft 6.0 if I am not mistaken.)

    I agree that Tim can be bothered by minor mistakes in-game and his problems in his previous seasons are all about the big innings where the opponents knock him out in just an inning. Overall, I love all of the information that you provided about the Giants and baseball overall. Great work, sir.

    Wrenzie

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    1. Wow, an international Giants fan! From where Timmy's mom came from to boot!

      Yeah, too expensive to go to games nowadays, even if you live here, not thousands of miles from here! I haven't been to one in years, but got a lot of SJ Giants tickets, they make good book marks.

      Frankly, the scouting life don't pay much, and it is lonely and cutthroat sometimes, at least from what I read from a couple of books, plus you need an internal connection to get the chance to get such a job.

      But if you want to learn about scouting, this books seems to be up your alley, I haven't read it, but check out the Amazon sample, see if you like it: http://www.amazon.com/How-Make-Baseball-Scouts-Notice-ebook/dp/B004T2LKTK/ref=kinw_dp_ke

      The key to understanding the free agent signings is about risk mitigation. So yes, if you want to point out mistakes, the Giants have signed some players to longer and bigger contracts that they should have.

      But the key is to at least try to understand the context of the decision making, and the actual alternatives available to them. For example, one that people like to beat up the Giants on is the Huff signing. The thing is, he produced a heck of a lot for them in 2010, and if you don't sign him, who are you going to sign at a lower price to produce the same amount. The choice was to sign him to that deal, and hope he comes close again.

      And often, that is the case with a lot of the deals that people would point out, there were no better alternatives. Not signing them back would automatically mean accepting that you will suffer a big loss in production, and thus not be competitive.

      And sometimes, you need to take such risks, in order to open up a spot for a young player to perhaps develop and grow into the role It is not an easy balance.

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    2. You mention Timmy as an overpaid deal. For me, I don't see it that way. Timmy delivered way more value to us in the years he did great for us. We could pay him another $50M and we would still be ahead, he was that good in those seasons.

      I saw this contract as a bet on his talent, and a bet that he will make the transition from thrower to pitcher. I wouldn't guarantee another such contract without some signs of production in this contract, but as I've been saying in posts the past few years, he's shown the ability to get batters out, and regularly, but his problem has been that he hasn't been doing it consistently and would throw the wrong pitch at the wrong time.

      What he has done this season - and for most of last season until he sacrificed his mechanics to get that save for the team - shows what he is capable of. I think it was worth risking that money to see what he is capable of doing. He'll never be a $100M contract pitcher again, but he's never been defined by that either.

      I think he has shown that he is capable of still being a good starting pitcher. I saw that as the upside of the contract. As far as floor goes, I saw him becoming a super-utility reliever, much like how Bochy has been using Petit the past couple of seasons, much like how they used Timmy in the 2012 playoffs. That is the model I refer to as the benefits of such a pitcher I still think Timmy can be that pitcher at some point, but for now, he seems to be doing well enough to be a starting pitcher.

      But nothing is proven yet. For him, it will be start to start, and at the end of the season, we see where he's at and what he's done, and go from there. But so far, so very good. If he can continue to pitch this well all season, he could very well have earned his contract just from this season, he is at 1.0 WAR right now and if he continues at this pace, he would be around 4.5 WAR, which is roughly $32M production for this season, plus anything he contributes in the playoffs.

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    3. I see all the worries about overpaying contracts to be too numbers driven. Baseball is not a business about being efficient at every dollar you spent. There is a balance you need to achieve between being frugal with your money and gaining a certain level of probable production in order to enable your team to win and get into the playoffs.

      Within the lifecycle of a team, there are the contention cycle, followed by the rebuilding cycle, then hopefully back to contention at some point, While rebuilding, you want to conserve spending while rebuilding the farm system, again, a balance. Money efficiency is more important, but I get that the reality is that teams can't just do the Phoenix Rebuild and keep fans coming to the ballpark, and so a rebuilding team might still sign a high priced free agent so that the team don't totally suck, and have a name player they can market and get people to pay good money to watch a game or a season's ticket.

      But once you are in the contention cycle, then you are dealing with a sharply depreciating asset, that of your core players, your Posey's, your Bumgarners, your Cains, your Lincecums. You don't want to waste any year of their career, because they can't hit the replay button and replay that last season all over again, like you can with a video game.

      Look at the Twins. Mauer's a certain HOF and Morneau was pretty good himself. But they bet all of those seasons that they were together on the proposition that Liriano would be their ace starting pitcher and would lead the staff. He never did, and thus they wasted that golden period where they had Mauer and Morneau at their peaks.

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    4. That is why I make the point about how the Giants practice risk mitigation, having a lot of interchangeable parts. Look at last season, they lost Cain early on, and Lincecum late, but Bumgarner could be their ace for them and lead the way. In 2012, they had Cain leading the way, as Lincecum worked his way into the bullpen (I think his yo-yoing diet and weight took a toll on his conditioning, and he couldn't start, but he could relieve) and Bumgarner stumbled himself, with Bochy skipping a start while Cain led the way. And, of course, in 2010, Lincecum led the way for Cain and Bumgarner to follow. They had three healthy aces to lead the way for them, not one who has a history of injuries, and when one stumbled or faltered, they had backups to step up and lead the way.

      So you overpay sometimes to have an abundance of options and choices. We don't know what life's deck will hand to you, maybe in 2014, Lincecum could have come through and pitch well all season, he was actually one of the better pitchers in the majors until that save threw his routine and mechanics out of whack. Part of me wishes that he didn't do that, and continued to pitch well, better to have lost that game, then he might have pitched better and we would have won those games he had disaster starts in, and got into the playoffs anyway, but with Timmy pitching effectively, that would have shortened the World Series, denied Madison his chance to be immortalized, but we could have won sooner with Timmy pitching well, instead of Peavy scuffling like he did. Options are good, even if you overpay sometimes, sure, Timmy and Huff didn't work, but without the reliever signings you don't win championships in 2012 or 2014 either.

      No one knows which deal ends up being the one you regret.
      In our reality, Lincecum's was the bad deal. Maybe in another, he worked out to be that great reliever he was in 2012, while Romo was the one that threw a lot of pitches into the wheelhouse (like Strickland actually did in 2014) and give up a ton of homers. Or maybe Affeldt or maybe Casilla.

      None of us knows which deal works out and which don't. So you pay the money for all these contracts knowing that a certain percentage is going to be bad. If you ever took an accounting class, there is the concept of bad debts accounting, where a business assumes a certain percentage of bad credit (checks bounce, people don't pay their credit bills), and it is accepted that you will tolerate such losses because enabling customers to buy on credit means that they buy a lot more of stuff from you, and you end up with more profits overall, even after accounting for the bad credit losses.

      That is how we should view bad contracts. Some will be bad, the idea is that you have a mix in your portfolio of contracts that enable you to still get into the playoffs even though you have to eat some bad contracts.

      But that's the rub. You have to balance that against the risks of no production. Like last season, Morse produced for us, but he has a long history of injuries and maybe in 2014 instead of playing well most of the season, he's injured and don't produce.

      We just don't know, so you try to have good floors of production, like having Blanco in reserve on the bench, ready to jump and produce something while Morse is out injured. Because you never know.

      So you practice risk mitigation by having a lot of options, a lot of interchangeable parts, so that should you need to go to plan B, you have a good alternative options. We don't win in 2012 without plan B's and C's, Lincecum fell out of the rotation, but Zito delivered for us because Bochy did not burn the bridge on their relationship in 2010 when he left Zito off the playoff roster. But if Zito was released as millions of Giants fans wanted before 2012, he would not have been around to save our ass and get us that second trophy.

      Delete
    5. Or, for example, Cabrera screwed up, but Blanco was able to step up and save the season by replacing him pretty well. In addition, Sabean got Scutaro, who first replaced Sandoval and Tejada at 3B, but then took over at 2B, once Sandoval returned to 3B. Some didn't think much of Petit, but he saved us by taking over the Lincecum and pitching great in 2014. Having good alternatives should reality bite you in the rear is a valuable thing to have, and to have that, sometimes you have to overpay.

      But you can't overpay willing-nilly either, or you become bloated with bad contracts, like the Yankees or even Boston, they were just lucky the Dodgers were willing to take on their bad contracts in order to boost their overall talent level. It is a tough balance, that the Giants have been able to handle pretty well given their three trophies.

      Delete
    6. Wheeler, to his credit, was trying to change his mechanics. That is why he did so poorly for the Giants, then went to the Mets and did well But then his mechanics caused him to need TJS. And as often as those work, there is no guarantee that he comes back better than ever, there are risks involved, which the Giants decided was worth trading away, much like LIriano.

      Delete
  4. We're all glad Lincecum has been pitching well, but the numbers frankly don't support (yet) that there is anything fundamentally different.
    In the first few games, Lincecum had a radically higher groundball/flyball ratio, but that has since normalized (if anything, lower than before).
    Also, his line drive percentages were somewhat lower than the previous 3 years, but the GB% itself would account for that.
    Since then, he's regressed back into the LD%, GB% numbers from the past. The primary difference has been that he hasn't coughed up as many home runs as before - but that appears to be primarily a function of him having pitched a lot at home.
    His home run/flyball ratio on the road is a bit lower than before, but still high at 15% - it is his home field HR/FB ratio which is really low at 3.3%. To a significant extent, this might be just the weather in SF being so home run unfriendly recently (i.e. cold and damp).
    Of course, sample sizes are small. He's pitched in only 9 games so far - 5 at home and 4 on the road. 1 road game was LA, which is a pitcher's park also. A 2nd is San Diego, which is neutral. Milwaukee and Cincinnati are both hitter's parks.
    Thing is, his xFIP number is 1.79 (!) over his ERA. If this is Matt Cain, no worries as he's historically done this - but the same hasn't held true for Lincecum (0.07 spread).
    Net net - jury's still out. We'll take the wins, but far from clear that this is a new Timmie.

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