Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: Thoughts on Lincecum

Tim Kawakami wrote a beautiful article on a great athlete - Tim Lincecum - on what could be his final days, at least with the Giants.  He termed it "the long goodbye" which seems appropriate for Tim's current two year contract.  What follows is the comment I left after this article (plus updates, I always tweak :^).

ogc thoughts 

What most people don't know is that Timmeh has actually been good most games than not, and despite his diminished velocity, was striking out people easily still.  Even last season, he was at 7.7 K/9 and the NL average was 7.8 K/9, basically average, even though his velocity was so down so low. His stuff is that good!

Timmy Has Been Good More Than Bad

And he has actually been pitching well for us even as late as last season. Game Score is a method Bill James created to compare a pitcher's start against others, with 50 being considered average (a study found that teams were at .500 and above starting with 47). In 2014, Lincecum had 16 starts with a Game Score of 47 or higher (high of 92 with his no-hitter) out of 26 starts, so he put his team into position to win 62% of the time. And the Giants did, they were 15-11 in his starts in 2014.

And he wasn't half bad this season either.  So far, he has 8 starts above 47 in 15 starts and the team was 8-7 in his starts, which is not bad for a 5th starter.  And, of course, he's not likely to start another game this season, but you never know.

And he was even better early on.  Looking at his first 8 starts, he had an average Game Score of 59 because he had 4 starts of 70 or above, which was pretty good (unfortunately for him and the team, when he wasn't good, he was bad, and the team lost those games).  He had a 2.08 ERA after those starts, despite a below average 6.8 K/9 and very high 4.0 BB/9, but that's because hitters couldn't square up his pitches, as they only hit .220/.309/.286/.595 against him in those 8 starts.

He basically lost it after that.  Perhaps the push of his pitch count above 100 worn his hip out, as he had 3 of 4 starts around 106 pitches just before his downturn.  Perhaps it was just coincidence.

The problem is that everyone looks at overall numbers to conclude things, but for pitchers, what really matters is what they do within the context of a game. And some starts are a disaster and really jumps up your ERA, and some are so bad that your ERA looks bad even though you had pitched well in a lot of other games.

When Things Went Downhill

And looking at his starts, where he fell off the cliff was after he was asked to save that long extra inning game last season. He was pitching like an ace in the seven starts before that, his best streak of the season. But after that, he lost it and eventually was taken out of the rotation.

I would bet that this hip problem was bothering him then or triggered by that.  Perhaps going out of his routine messed up his mechanism.  Or it could have just happened in that relief appearance.  And rest this off-season probably helped him enough so that he could pitch well early this season, but this degenerative hip ailment (and perhaps the high pitch games were the straw on the camel's back) worn on him until he couldn't do it anymore.

Did He Overdo the Off Season?

Though part of me wonder how much he actually pitched this off-season, training with his dad again. Could he have overdone things and never let his hips heal properly during the off-season? I don't know, but that is a possibility. I also wonder if this condition was brought on him because of his yo-yo diet a few years back, when he added 20-30 pounds before one season, then, after not liking it (and noting kneed issues), lost those pounds the next off-season, all without a dietitian or trainer guiding him on how to do it properly.

Thanks Timmy!

In any case, I don't begrudge him this last big contract. We owed it to him for how little he got paid when he was winning his Cy Youngs and when he was really good. He helped rejuvenate the franchise, just when many were giving up and assuming we were like the Cubs.  Just be glad that he turned down the Giants offer of $100M over 5 years and took the lesser deal.

He was no Koufax, so the Hall of Fame won't beckon, but I think he was good enough to get his number retired by our team. However, I don't see that happening, that only happens for Hall of Famers, it seems, heck, even Will the Thrill didn't get his number retired. Still, our Wall of Fame is still a great honor, and we'll always have our memories of Big Time Jimmy Tim.

I Still Have Hope for Lincecum as a Giant

Part of me still hopes that he heals well enough to be a reliever in our bullpen.  As I noted above, he has pitched well in spurts.  Maybe this hip thing heals if he don't pitch so much this off-season, I could see him overdoing things last off-season, just like when he yo-yoed his weight.   And his strikeout rate isn't great but it is not that bad either, if he can keep hitters from hitting him well, for the most part.  As I showed above, he is effective in short stints, perhaps relief will rejuvenate his career.

But with so little space and Strickland, Osich, Okert, Law, Black and Johnson rushing up the minors, that seems impossible. Then again, Petit hasn't been great this season either, Lincecum could perhaps battle with Petit for that position.  Or take the Vogelsong 2015 position of spot starter, if the Giants do that again, as we'll still have Cain and Peavy in the rotation, and we don't know who we might sign for the last rotation spot.

Plus, with as well as Beede is doing, the Giants might just re-sign Vogelsong and Lincecum to battle for the last spot with the loser as the spot starter, so that when Beede is ready, just as Bumgarner was in 2010 (Wellemeyer kept the spot warm that time), they bring him up and juggle the rotation as they have this season.

This is partly because I don't want to say good-bye yet, but it is mostly because I think he still has something good left to do in the majors, and I would like to see him do it for us.   We'll see how things play out this off-season, after all, Tim could decide to call it quits and move on, we just don't know.   However it plays out, I thank him for the great seasons we've gotten, the three rings, and wish him the best no matter what.

2 comments:

  1. I guess a medical decision will have to be made at some point, but I think everyone is jumping to conclusions unless his MRI was much worse than they are telling us. Today there are plenty of successful treatments for degenerative disease, including stem cells, and hyaluronidase. Timmy is supposedly getting cortisone shots, probably more like betamethasone or triamcinolone, but these are not the usual treatments for degenerative disease. These are treatments for inflammatory disease. I do not want to jump to any conclusions, and I am not sure that this is anything close to the end of his career unless he chooses so. Many major league players have some degeneration of various joints, and still have successful careers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree that there is not a lot of information regarding this condition right now. Tim has decided not to share that information, as is his right to do, and now people are in the dark and don't know what to think. As some Giants fans do, they go for the worse case scenario.

      Thanks for sharing possible ways he could be fixed up. I'm no doctor.

      I don't think I said anything about this being the end of his career, but in any case, I'm not saying that this ends his career as a major league pitcher.

      However, it clearly can be the end of his Giants career, as there are not that many spots on our pitching staff open, and with his numbers, he could end up not being on Your 2016 Giants team. For that's the key words, "successful career", he hasn't been all that successful in the public's eye since 2012 now. That's four seasons. And we got a lot of pitchers pushing up, as I've been writing about for 7-8 years now, the pitching cream rises and pushes out the not as productive. And he's getting near the edge of being pushed out.

      And with his bad numbers, he won't necessarily be on any other team's radar either, even his hometown Mariners, his best chances might lie with the Giants, who know him and love him.

      I think being a team's spot starter is Lincecum's best case scenario right now, and I don't know if he has the appetite and will (not that I know him at all; but after making nearly $100M lifetime, the push might not be there to take the hard road) to sign a minor league contract in order to play next season, nor even one of those $1M MLB deals that fringe players sign.

      But I wanted to wish him well, no matter what, and to point out that it wasn't all bad the past couple of years, and hopefully the Giants see that too and keep him around, he might not be able to take the mound for 32 starts anymore, let alone be our ace, but he could still be useful in a bullpen role, I think, as it wasn't all bad when he was pitching.

      Delete

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