Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Linceum Conundrum

Tim Lincecum is a free agent, and his future is debated vigorously by Giants fans.  His showcase, which he said would happen in January is so far MIA.  What should the Giants do, sign him or let him go?

ogc thoughts

Lincecum is probably one of the most divisive Giants free agents since probably Barry Bonds, and among pitchers, Jason Schmidt.  There are two main groups.  One is guided by how important Lincecum has been to recent Giants history, and the afterglow of his accomplishments, and the other is guided by the fact that Lincecum has been declining in production for the past four seasons, for them, he was the new Zito contract and now it's good riddance.  As usual, I'm with neither group.

All About the Rings

As long-time readers of my blog should know, my sole focus has been on the Giants winning a championship, period.  That is why I was angry about people who wanted to get rid of Sabean over the years, as I thought that he had a plan and was executing on it.  That is why I flipped from being "meh" about Bochy to loving him as I watched him ruthlessly ran the team in late 2010 season with the only goal of winning, egos be damned.  Now I'm a huge Bochy fan, he adds value through his ability to win one-run games, manage the bullpen to optimum effect, and improve the hitting of anyone joining his teams (research has shown this).  I look for qualities that I think are conducive to winning championships.

Now, the goal has changed, slightly, to winning their next championship.  Change is good in this case.  :^)  So my thoughts on Lincecum is focused on whether he can help the Giants win our next championship (and you know that it's coming:  Giants:  Team of the 2010 Decade!).

It has nothing to do with how appreciative I am of his Cy Youngs and his leadership in winning our first championship, and his ego-less performances that helped us win our second championship.  I will forever have a soft spot for him, he was a significant contributor to our first two championships!  But I guess I'm pretty ruthless when I think the player is no longer useful from a competitive standpoint (the Bill Walsh Principle of letting go players one year before he should, though in baseball, it should be modified, I think it's better to wait until you think he's done), I can separate the personal feelings for the person and his past from what he can do for us in the future, and if he's done, he's done, I'll thank him for past glories, but sometimes it is just time to move on.

Lincecum is Not As Bad as Thought By His Naysayers

However, I don't think he's done.  Many people understandably have been scarred by his decline over the past four seasons.  They see his declining seasonal stats, and they were ready to let him go after the first two declines, and after his $37M contract, they are waving buh-bye!  The thought of him returning is anathema to them because they think that him being around would prevent good young prospects from getting an opportunity.

But as I've been documenting over the past seasons, there has been a lot of good among the overall bad that Lincecum has done.  He was frequently one of our better pitchers, leading the way towards a good record. It wasn't like he was bad all the time and there was nothing redeeming about his performances, he just has to be handled differently. And now we know the reason for his declines:  his bad hips would eventually succumb to the regular grind of being a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball.

Bring Back Lincecum

Thus, I think it would behoove the Giants to resign Lincecum once they feel that he is healthy enough to expect him to contribute in 2016.   Not to a big contract, I think Lincecum at this point should be glad just to still be with the team (this appears to be something he appreciates and prefers) and if another team were to offer him a big contract, good luck and thanks for everything.

Whether it's to a minor league contract or to a low $1-3M contract, I think the Giants should pursue Lincecum (right now, only Marlins has openly stated interest, and the showcase is not scheduled yet, so a minor league contract looks more probable now).  People forget but Lincecum was a good pitcher, and often one of our top pitchers, during long periods from 2012 to 2015.  But at some points in the season, he just wasn't performing well, and he ended up with bad overall seasonal stats, which is what most people only see.   So it was not like Lincecum was horrible the whole time the Giants were throwing him out there, he was actually among our best pitchers for periods of time, before his physical or other issues (mechanics, lack of hitter knowledge) got the best of him.

Now with his hip operated on - and the surgeon stated that this should restore his velocity - this issue should no longer a problem.  Which means that he can be consistently good pitching for somebody.  And if he can be good, I think he would be perfect as our long reliever.

Could Be A Relief

I think that moving him into relief now is the perfect timing, as it appears that the grind of starting is what affected his hips, but now he can be a reliever and suffer less strain, throwing probably half the IP.  Some top pitchers transition like this at some point in their careers, with Eckersly being the biggest example of that, though obviously the gold standard.

And with his arm, he could probably pitch more frequently than other pitchers as he has a bit of a rubber arm.  He could contribute like he did in the 2012 playoffs, pitching multiple innings then coming back and pitching key innings in the following games, even spot starting.  Be a super-utility reliever.

However, he has stated that his main goal is returning to being a starting pitcher.  Right now, there is no space in the Giants rotation, so if he can get a starting job elsewhere, I'm OK with letting him go where his bliss is.  He would not be an improvement for us as a starter.

But if he was being smart, he would realize that it is the grind of starting that caused his body to fail him, and accept a move into the bullpen.  He's not getting younger, and he's in his 30's now, when the body will fail pitchers in other ways that are unforeseeable.  Why push it physically when you know that is the reason you were bad over the past four seasons?  The bullpen would cut down on the wear and tear on his body by a significant percentage, so it won't take as long for his body to recover.  He is not being realistic trying to be a starter again, though this stance probably works towards returning him to us, as I believe that few teams are interested in him as a starter.

Plus life does not end when you move to the bullpen.  And frankly, that is what every other team thought he was when the Giants drafted him, nobody wanted to take a risk on a pitcher with his short stature.  Many players find success as a reliever after being a mediocre or worse starter.  Examples include ex-Giants starters:  Salomon Torres, Jason Grilli.  And other ex-Giants, like Todd Worrell and Jeremy Affeldt.  Many MLB relievers are failed starting pitcher prospects.  Even his wildness would be acceptable if he can continue to strike out batters at a high rate and induce weak contact otherwise.

And this would extend his effectiveness by using him in key leverage situations.  As he has shown even in his diminished performances of the past four seasons, he can be very effective over long periods of the season, among the best in the majors, before his body failed him.  He was very effective over 50 IP in 2015, 100 IP in 2014, and in a similar range in 2012 and 2013.  Putting him in relief would enable him to be at his best at key moments in the game, instead of putting him through the grind of starting and have his body implode on us sometime in the season.   And it would fit the saber mantra of using your best pitcher in key situations, because when he's on, he's among the best.

Ruminations on What's Next

It is getting late for a January showcase.  It should have been announced by now, to allow teams make plans to attend.  But there is plenty of time before spring training in February, for example, the Giants pitchers and catchers are scheduled to attend spring training on February 17th, which is the earliest date that a handful of teams are having pitchers and catchers come in.  So there is still time to schedule a showcase in early February (but time is running out soon for even that).

Still, the fact that this target date has slipped suggests that Lincecum's rehab and recovery has stalled some in the past month or so.   And the longer he slips, the more likely other teams will move on and not keep a spot available for him.  The Giants meanwhile have already been publicly ambivalent about Heston being in the majors or minors and publicly open to Lincecum returning - even now, they have not publicly shut the door, as they did with Vogelsong - so there is an open position that Lincecum could be slotted into.  IF he is physically ready.

The longer the delay, the more likely he's going to need to be in the minors first.  If Lincecum has to start the season in rehab/extended spring training, the Giants probably will give him the best opportunity to make the majors, by noting their available long relief position, once he is ready, whereas I doubt any other teams will give him a lot of rope or promise.  His best opportunity should be the Giants, especially as the showcase slips.  So the later the announcement of his showcase, the more likely he just ends up continuing his rehab at the Giants facilities and get a spot on the 25-man roster once he is ready, shifting Heston to AAA.  

Heston ideally should be pitching as a starter, anyway (see how well he did until he tired out in 2015), and building up stamina that he clearly lacked late in the 2015 season, and which he lacked in the 2014 season as well.  He noted in spring 2015 that he worked on building up his stamina during the off-season, and hopefully he continues to build on that going forward.  Perhaps he could be ready to battle for Peavy's spot in 2017, assuming Peavy is not re-signed by the Giants (I assume he won't, not with Blackburn and Heston ready to battle for a spot for 2017 - and who knows, Peavy is injured a lot, they could be battling in 2016 already - plus probably Beede, Stratton, Blach, Mejia and perhaps Bickford, Coonrod, Johnson, Crick, among others).

But without improved stamina, a bullpen role is where he can shine best, because he was among the league's best (low 3 ERA) for much of the season, before his late season decline (and eventual shut down).   He had a 3.14 ERA at the end of July, still had a 3.34 ERA when he was shut down in mid-August.  However, he had a 5.92 ERA over his last two months, 4.88 ERA if you omit his last start, 4.58 ERA before he was shut down in mid-August for a while for rest, 6.75 ERA afterward (5.08 ERA without last start).   Still, after one start to get the cobwebs out on August 30, in his return from his rest, he had a 4.01 ERA over his next five starts before imploding in his last start.  So the potential is there, but he still needs more work on his stamina.

27 comments:

  1. From a pure baseball perspective, the Giants simply have better pitchers with more potential than Timmy does at this point. If they watch him throw and honestly slot him above the guys they have now, so be it. But they already gave him a "Thanks for what you did before" contract once. I'd rather not see them do it again.

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    1. I disagree, vehemently. Who do we have in our system who can deliver a low 3 ERA over an extended period of time in the majors? And Lincecum did that handicapped by an unhealthy hip joint.

      I guess you didn't bother to read my post, or didn't really it with great comprehension.

      I'll quote what's in my post above, if you think that this means a "Thanks for what you did before" contract, then we have wildly different definitions of that:

      Thus, I think it would behoove the Giants to resign Lincecum once they feel that he is healthy enough to expect him to contribute in 2016. Not to a big contract, I think Lincecum at this point should be glad just to still be with the team (this appears to be something he appreciates and prefers) and if another team were to offer him a big contract, good luck and thanks for everything.

      Whether it's to a minor league contract or to a low $1-3M contract, I think the Giants should pursue Lincecum (right now, only Marlins has openly stated interest, and the showcase is not scheduled yet, so a minor league contract looks more probable now).

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    2. Yes, I read your post. Don't get catty. :)

      I just don't trust the Giants to make a completely objective decision. They've paid Lincecum 100M over his career, w/ 75M of that being for his 4 terrible seasons. Two of those were even a contract after they -knew- he'd declined but refused to admit it.

      And the major problem with that "low 3 ERA over an extended period of time" idea you keep bringing up is that you can't isolate that. You don't know when it's going to come, or when it's going to be replaced by the 6+ ERA Timmy Hyde. If we could do that, Zito would've been a great pitcher for us as well!

      The bottom line is that without his velocity, Timmy is Zito: a poor-control pitcher whose stuff allows him to succeed in spurts, but whose median performance is a below-replacement-level pitcher.

      Who do we have in the minors that is better than below-replacement level (or cheaper)? I'd hope a lot of guys, or else our farm system is terrible. :)

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    3. If you think that was catty, then luckily you didn't read my first draft.

      You make it seem like there weren't good reasons to give him those contracts. The first contract was after the 2011 season, 2.74 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 2.56 K/BB, and 4.2 WAR is pretty good stuff, he deserved that contract. Unless you are clairvoyant, nobody saw the next two seasons coming, other than perhaps Chris Lincecum.

      The following contract for $35M is the only contract that is really questionable. But where the Giants went wrong there is that they didn't anticipate his hips going wrong.

      People forget but he had a 3.68 ERA after 20 starts in 2014. Then he jumped in to save the game in between starts, and apparently that got his mechanics (and though never mentioned, have to wonder if this hip issue reared its ugly head at this point) got out of whack.

      In his last four starts before that save (and I stopped there because he had a no-hitter in the start before that, and would skew the numbers), he threw 28.1 IP, gave up only 15 hits and 10 walks, struck out 25, and had a 1.27 ERA. He was on fire.

      After that, his first start was bad and it went downhill after that, six starts and none of them even marginally good.

      And he started out 2015 well too, until suddenly he couldn't anymore, and eventually got shut down and operated on.

      So no, without velocity, he's fine as a pitcher, without his hips, he's horrible.

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    4. I didn't say the first deal was a bad move at the time (except by Lincecum for not taking the long-term offer). They both ended up being terrible deals, and the second one was completely predictable. That's all I was saying.

      You keep cherry-picking segments of his performance, but unless the Giants have someone who can predict when the wheels are going to come off, that's useless.

      Lincecum's ERA is up, walks are up, hits are up, HRs are up, SOs are down. His performance on the road has been abysmal. Watching him, his performance against good teams has been terrible.

      Every time the Giants or their announcers trotted out the "he's figured it out!" line, I looked for it. And every time I saw a pitcher who puts too many guys on base and gives up far too many hard-hit balls to ever be successful in the long-term.

      What you have is a pitcher that is only effective in very carefully managed situations against weaker opponents. But a guy you can only pitch against San Diego at home just isn't worth having around.

      Clearly, you're emotionally invested in this topic, and I get that. He was a huge part of turning the team from a perennial "almost" team into an actual champion. I'm rooting for him, too! I hope he improves and gets to go out on top. but if that surgery just gets him back to his 2012-15 form, I'd let someone else have him, so I can root for him w/o cringing the whole time. :)

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    5. That is not the right way to analyze decisions. The Giants made the right decision to re-sign Lincecum given the information at the time of the signing. It ended up bad because he was suffering issues (which is still not entirely clear for that period).

      I'm not cherry-picking, I'm explaining the sequence of events given the information we have at hand. What's useless is throwing away this information because you can't see the whole picture.

      And it's fine that you have a different opinion, but I'm getting very sick and tired of what I've written being ignored or forgotten. As I made clear at the beginning of my post, I have nothing emotionally invested in the topic. STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP this BS!

      I think that there are good odds that he can be good given the relatively low cost I think it will take to sign him. I've already stated this a number of times that if he gets a much higher contract, good luck to him except against the Giants. All I care about is that Lincecum can be a great super-utility reliever for us, if healthy, and that I think we should do it ONLY if the cost is low.

      You are the one emotionally invested in this topic. You keep on describing certain attributes to me when I clearly stated in my post that these are NOT my feelings. Yet you persist because it is YOU who is emotionally invested.

      Much like all the fans who were against Zito all those years, when he was a perfectly fine and even good pitcher for us IN THE BACK OF THE ROTATION. Or worse, those fans who where against Cain because they labeled him a "loser".

      How you get 20 starts in 2014 as "carefully managed situations against weaker opponents" I have no idea, other than, again, you are emotionally invested in ditching Lincecum. And I understand that given his overall record the past few years. I'm trying to explain why I think he could add value, and it's fine if you don't agree, but stop labeling me things that I said explicitly in my post I'm not doing!

      All I'm emotionally invested in is improving the Giants, that's all I've been all these years I've been blogging, despite all these Naysayers who called me a homer or said I was delusional for saying that the Giants were going to be the Team of the 2010's.

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    6. We'll have to agree to disagree on whether Lincecum's last 2 years were a good deal at the time. I just know that at the time I thought it was an emotionally driven overpay, so it's not hindsight at work.

      The "whole picture" is a weird term to use for ignoring the bad parts of that picture. The "whole picture" is that if the name of the guy with those stats had been John Doe, he'd have been released or demoted.

      And I'm inferring an emotional attachment to the subject based on the emotional tone in your responses. This last post you made isn't really convincing me I'm wrong, but so be it.

      As for my own emotions, I'm still rooting for Lincecum, just as I never stopped rooting for Zito. The big difference is that Zito was already under contract, so the only point worth debating was what role (if any) his talent justified. With Lincecum, there's role, cost and whether he'd be blocking someone with more upside.

      And what the heck, let's look at 2014:

      Good starts (5+ IP, ERA <4): LAD, @ATL, ATL, MIN, CHC, COL, SD, STL, @SD, ARI, PHI

      Okay starts (4+ IP ERA <5): @SD, CLE, MIA, NYM, @MIA, @MIL

      Bad starts (All others): @ARI, ARI, @PIT, @CIN, @ARI, LAD, PIT, @KC, @WAS

      What I see there is that the good starts are heavily weighted towards home games and teams that couldn't hit. There's not one good start against a -decent- hitting team on the road. Only 2 of 11 good starts were against above-average hitting teams at all (LAD and COL). And the 9 bad starts were evenly spread throughout the season, with 1-2 every single month.

      To me it looks like 2014 does not support the idea that he's good for stretches until issues crop up. Those stretches are about 2-3 starts, which is impossible to plan for.

      2014 does support the idea that his lower velocity has made him vulnerable to hitter's parks and good hitting teams in a way that he wasn't before. Barring a fix to that, it's hard to see how his career arc will deviate from late-career Zito at this point.

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    7. Look, you seem to be a nice guy, so I'm trying hard here not to boil too much over.

      I got emotional because I hate (HATE!) being having a certain opinion when I don't have that opinion. It is exponentially worse when I make a point to anticipate people making certain assumptions and I addressed it right in the first part of my post. I wrote explicitly what I was and was not feeling and I felt insulted that you would comment as to my "feelings" when I addressed it explicitly in my post, right at the start.

      And here, in this comment, you do it again. I never said that his second two year contract was a good deal. The second contract was based on the Giants expert opinion that Lincecum could still do well, which he did for most of that first season, but he ended up being injured and not doing well for the rest of the contract. If you think teams should be able to foresee when a player will become injured, that's your right. The second contract was a calculated risk, one that turned out to be bad, but given the evidence I see, they were right to make the deal, but it ended up bad because they couldn't foresee that he had a hip issue that would ruin his performances. So they made the right decision given their expert information but it turned out bad because of that hip injury.

      I've had enough experience with comment wars that I have realized (though not fully practice) that it's OK, I got my opinion out, others will have opinions, I'll just have to wait it out and see who is right or wrong. This is one of those situations.

      The whole picture, as I see it, is understanding why he had his bad periods, and how his good periods fit into them. To put simply, he was good, then he was bad. With the surgery, we now know why he was bad, so I view how he did when he was good as his ceiling if the surgery really does fit up his body so it won't fail him again. All I've been seeing from you is this: he has bad stats and thus I don't want him back, period. There is no nuance with that stance. He wasn't bad all the time, in fact, he was good for most of the 2014 season, then was really bad until they took him out, which ruined his seasonal stats.

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    8. Your listing of his 2014 stats don't mean much to me because you mixed in the starts when he was doing poorly, in with the starts where he did better. Also, I use PQS to analyze each start, not with the old style IP/ERA. Per PQS, in his starts before the relief appearance, he had 13 DOM starts out of 20 starts, for a great 65% DOM (good is above 50%) and an OK 4 DIS starts for a 20% DIS. Any pitcher would be happy to have such a DOM/DIS combo. Only the best pitchers can do that. Looking at ERA introduces in random good and bad luck with regards to runs, PQS uses sabermetric rules in their methodology, to easily rate a start.

      And if you use GameScore, he had 14 of 20 starts with a GameScore of 49 and higher, which are good scores to have, that puts your team in position to win more often than not.

      In any case, my research has shown that teams win at a very high rate when their pitchers throw a DOM start, and lose at a very high rate when they throw a DIS rate, so you want that ratio and difference to be large, and especially your DIS% to be 20% or lower.

      I know none of this means anything to you, but I'm writing for my long-term readers who have followed my posts on PQS.

      I do agree that it seems like he has trouble with better hitting teams, which are mostly in better hitting ballparks, and that's something I'll look further into, thanks, once I see how it splits out pre and post relief appearance.

      But as my PQS analysis showed, he was an premier pitcher (and near elite, which I've been using 70% as that threshold) in the NL until that relief appearance appears to have done a number on his hips. I think there is a chance of getting that, so as long the contract is not that onerous, I think it's a better bet to utilize him in the long relief role.

      My emotions run high when I think there is a move that the Giants can make that makes them more likely to make the playoffs than not. I agree that Lincecum is a gamble, and perhaps a long shot. But if that first half 2014 Lincecum is still in there, and we can get that at a low cost, we should go for it.

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    9. I never said that you said the 2nd deal was a good deal. You said it was a good deal AT THE TIME, which you reiterated in your admonishing reply.

      And, "I know none of this means anything to you" is just catty. That's not the sign of a strong argument.

      I will say that Lincecum makes an excellent test case for the stat, because if you -watched- those games in 2014, I'd bet you would in no way characterize him as "dominant 70% of the time". The stat also seems to discount appearances that are so bad that the team had to yank him before it could become "a disaster", as I can see at least two starts of the "4IP, 4ER" variety that sure felt disastrous at the time. :)

      One thing we can agree on: PLEASE don't let him sign w/ the Dodgers! :)

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    10. Again, you seem to be a nice person. I wasn't trying to be catty there, but I had just said that none of your stats meant much to me, and then I talk about my stats, which I've been writing about for the past 7-8 years or so, and since you clearly are new to my website - since you are now here disagreeing with something I've been writing about for a couple of years now, that Lincecum has been good but it's been hidden by his bad performances at the end of the season, and you didn't post anything at any of those posts, meaning that you are coming in new to these stats, so that is all I meant by that statement, not as a way of getting back at you for using stats that had no meaning for me.

      Best laid plans of mice and men...

      Your disagreement with the term "dominant" shows that you don't really understand the PQS methodology and terminology, which, again, is why I noted "none of this means anything to you."

      Dominance per PQS has nothing to do with your visual perception of his pitching. It has to do with his statistical performance in a particular stat. PQS has taken some sabermetric concepts and tied them to other baseball concepts, and their study found that this methodology works well in identifying when a pitcher has done enough to dominate a game or to make it a disaster.

      And he was dominant before that relief appearance, horribly disaster prone afterward.

      But your misunderstanding of my usage of "dominant" shows that what I thought, that you didn't know this concept, was accurate, and hence I was trying to be nice and saying it was not directed at you, but towards the readers who understood it.

      And it's fine, I don't need to convince you, I know it's out there, I've just been angry about you misrepresenting my views or, worse, misreading what I've been saying.

      I'll also admit that my emotions are wildly up and down, as I'll be soon burying my sister, but I've been checking what I write a "million" times to make sure I'm not throwing in emotions that don't need to be in there.

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    11. Nah, I'm not new to the site, and I have read many of your posts about PQS. It -is- possible to read something, understand it, and still not agree with it in every case. :)

      I'm just saying that we know that all stats paint an incomplete picture. In the case of Lincecum, I believe that either the stat is not doing a particularly good job of rating his performance, and/or that I disagree with your interpretation of it. But "Any pitcher would be happy to have such a DOM/DIS combo. Only the best pitchers can do that." indicates a level of performance that his other stats (well beyond ERA) and the "eye test" just don't bear out.

      I mean, he was worst on the team in BB, WHIP, K/BB and threw 15 (!) wild pitches. Even pre-relief spot, his Win Probability Added was negative in 10 of his 20 starts.

      You can look to that 2/3rds of an inning relief appearance as the explanation for why his 2014 season went into the tank, and I can look at his midseason upswing and see a string of fortunate matchups against very poor hitting teams as the explanation for that. Perhaps we're both right.

      But even if I agreed with you on every interpretation of his past performance, I'd still think he'll end up elsewhere, simply because I don't see much middle ground between "Good enough that someone gives him a chance to compete for a starter role" and "so bad that he's not an upgrade over the guys we already have". I mean, the Reds just gave JONATHAN SANCHEZ a spring invite! :)

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    12. If you have a problem with PQS, fine, but if I am discussing a PQS topic and you use a term from it incorrectly, then you invite being called unknowledgeable about PQS.

      Of course all stats paint an incomplete picture. I started that with pointing out your incomplete stats. I incorporated stats with things that were happening to the pitcher to paint a story about how and why he went from good to worse, whereas you look only at his full season stats and think that's the entire story.

      Even here, after I noted the issues with using his stats after he injured himself and you yourself state that stats paint an incomplete picture, you continue to quote his full season stats. By ignoring real life events and things that happen physically to the player in conjunction with the stats, you are missing huge chunks of the picture, hence why I've been saying you need to look at the bigger picture.

      It was not just a short mid-season upswing, he did well for most of the season. After a slow start, he was very good over an 18 start stretch, 3.11 ERA over that run, but people had accused me of cherry picking before, hence why I used his pre-save stats instead, from the start of the season.

      And you like to denigrate the poor hitting teams, but somehow, those poor hitting teams aren't conquered by every pitcher who pitches against them, they are not the Cleveland Spiders, you still have to be a good pitcher to do well against them. It is not Lincecum's fault that poor hitting teams are scheduled against him, but it is his fault if they do well against him, and they didn't.

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    13. I agree that the odds are against Lincecum returning, at the moment, simply because we don't know what other teams are thinking.

      I see a window for him returning, and being a stereotypical cheap Chinese, :^), I hate to miss out on bargains, especially those I think will have a good chance of working out really well.

      Personally, I think he will have a good workout. One big question is when he will have it. January has already pushed into February, and here it is, 2/2, with spring training to start in just two weeks, and no showcase has been scheduled yet. The reports from his group is that he's healthy, that his hip is fine now, and that he's just waiting to reach 100% before showcasing. Well, if I were planning on showcasing, the early the better, and once spring training starts, teams' interest will wane greatly, particularly given the bad connotation of how long it is taking him to reach 100% (and that's their official story, so you have to take that with a giant grain of salt). Yet here we are with no scheduled showcase.

      Second big question is his velocity. I don't think his velocity is returning big-time. People expecting mid-90's heat because of the Doctor's statement will be in for a big surprise.

      I found this article, good for velocity data: http://www.fangraphs.com/community/tim-lincecums-february-showcase/

      And I basically agree, 90-ish MPH is the best he can hope for when he returns, anything much more is unrealistic, but, of course, if he does do much more, I would just say good-bye because a team will give him a chance if he's throwing some decent heat.

      While I believe that he can still do very well with 90-ish velocity, I am not sure other teams' believe that.

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    14. Yeah, I was amazed to see that Dirty was back after being out for so long. Maybe he was using Johan's mechanics again. :^) But all he got was a spring training invite, there is no MLB contract attached to it, that I've seen.

      The way I see it, if the best that any other team can offer is a spring training invite with a chance to win a starting spot, I think the Giants can get Lincecum back with a guaranteed long relief spot, with a promise to use him as a super reliever, like in 2012, where he might close out games, say, pitch the final three innings, and a promise that, should god forbid, a spot opens up in the rotation (Peavy, Cain...), he'll be the starter.

      The question in my mind is how much another team would have to offer to get Lincecum to leave the Giants. Obviously, a starting rotation spot would seal the deal. And probably an MLB deal in the $5M range (like Vogie last season) with incentives and a chance to win a starting rotation job, else put in relief. But I don't see other teams offering that.

      Most teams are thinking spring training invite, I believe. That won't seal the deal for him.

      The main competitors, to me, are any team willing to give him a MLB contract above $1-2M, which is an easy contract to write off (see poor Ishi in 2015). That would be in the ballpark that I think the Giants will be offering.

      Delete
  2. Btw, apparently Lincecum has scheduled his "Show My Stuff" day for early February. Hopefully he does well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course they announce that right after I post this, which I had written for a while now, but never got to finishing it as I've been dealing with my sister's death.

      Still, I find it odd that they did not address the fact that they originally said that it would happen in January, but now it's early February. They claim that all is fine, and that 30 teams have contacted him.

      Of course they did, if he's back to old Timmy, there will be a long line pursuing him. The Doctor encouraged such thinking.

      But I think that the days of Timmy with extra velocity is over, he's probably more in the low 90's at best. And when teams see that, they will pass on him, after kicking the tires to see how's he's doing.

      But my gut says that the Marlins are going to try to get him, and I'm resigned to that already. But we'll see, Tim doesn't do very well in sweltering heat, maybe his agent will remember that and talk him out of it.

      Delete
  3. "Now with his hip operated on - and the surgeon stated that this should restore his velocity - this issue should no longer a problem."

    OGC, love your passion and logic for Timmy, but his recovery is far from guaranteed. Restoration to his previous velocity is a pipe dream at this point, not a medical certainty. In fact, he hasn't had his previous velocity for four years. And his velocity has a lot to do with his effectiveness.

    That doesn't mean we can't hope he will recover his velocity, K 'em up, and return to his Timmylicious blazing glory. But don't count on it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment MS.

      Yeah, I clarified what I meant in the comment above, I agree with you that high velocity days are gone.

      What I meant is that he could get back to the low 90's.

      And even if he doesn't, and just stay at his latest velocity, my main point is that even with his diminished velocity, he was still very effective, low 3 ERA, in the past couple of years, but his hip being fixed would stop the declines that he would have eventually in those seasons. This is why I want him back, he can still pitch effectively in shorter stints, but now the hips that end those stints is fixed. I don't know why people can't see that, but that is why I write these posts, to explain my view.

      He has still been very good these past seasons but his physical deterioration then caused him to be bad. I'm not willing to give him Vogie money, mainly because I don't think other teams will give him that, but also because we overpaid the past contract, but at the prices I expect, he should be a good bargain, particularly in a long relief role.

      Delete
    2. And to be absolutely clear, which I tried to do in my post, Lincecum does not need velocity to be extremely effective. I have documented this the past couple of seasons and was referring to them in this post, but it appears that some don't remember those facts, so I might follow up with a refresher.

      Delete
  4. Timmy's last four years Quality Starts & Total Starts:

    2015 - 5 of 15
    2014 - 13 of 26
    2013 - 15 of 32
    2012 - 13 of 33

    46 QS in 106 starts (44%) spread over 4 years.

    That's not particularly good. It's probably better than some #5 pitchers in MLB, and maybe even some #4's. But it's not what you need if you're going to be a 90+ win team and contend for the World Series.

    So while I really hope he can salvage something of his career, I think the Giants simply need to move on. With Cain penciled in at the #5 spot, the Giants can't afford to take anything more than a flyer (incentive laden minor league contract) on Timmy. And I'm sure that, if all goes well, he'll get better offers than the Giants can make on a strategic basis.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, we mostly agree, I said in my post above and numerous times in my comments above that I only want to sign him if we give him a low-end contract.

      That's actually pretty good for quality starts in the majors, from what I understand about QS. Most #5 starts don't get the chance to throw 26-33 starts. Similarly for #4 starters. I'll have to check among borderline #3 starters, but I'll bet he's right in that mix.

      And Zito had around that number in 2010 and 2012 and the Giants seemed to handle that OK. Wellemeyer in 2010 as well.

      Delete
    2. Plus, not once did I say that I wanted Lincecum in my rotation, I said that he would be a great super-reliever, handling long and short relief duties, plus spot starts.

      Delete
  5. As far as potential is concerned, if healthy and able to throw in the mid 90's with some control would give Timmy a very high upside, probably higher than most of our guys in the minors. Secondly Florida plays in a stadium with a roof that is air-conditioned, and if it meant the difference for his effectiveness I am sure the fish would keep the stadium cool when and if Timmy pitches for them. I still have hope that he gets some of his stuff back and he continues to pitch for the giants. If not, so be it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Now that he has his showcase, I see a number of reporters being downcast about the odds of him returning.

    Again, I'm not being emotional about him leaving, but excited about what he could do for us in long relief.

    I think if the Giants are willing to give Lincecum a MLB deal PLUS guarantee the long relief role once he's healthy, then it would be hard for any other team to beat that, because I would think that none of the other teams would be willing to guarantee him an MLB roster spot once he's healthy.

    The question is whether the possibility of a starting role from another team is enough to outweigh a certain position with the Giants, at roughly equal salary. Of course, a team could blow it out and offer him a lot and a spot. In which case, good luck except against the Giants.

    But I don't think any team would be willing to offer him a big contract and a starting role, especially off a surgery involving an important part of a pitcher's mechanics, his hips. I think most will be minor league contracts with spring training invite to compete for a starting role. One or two might offer an MLB contract on the low side, but with a chance to start, and that could sway him. But I don't see many teams offering an MLB contract.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'd love to see Timmy back in a bullpen role and I think you've made a good case for that. It's all up to him, really. He has to be willing to accept that and play for a lot less than he's used to. Then again, some mystery team could throw some money at him and away he'd go! I'm still holding out hope we will see him in orange-and-black. I think he'd make a dandy reliever and I'd hate to see him in another uniform. Sometimes I just have to toss out logic! I'm glad you attacked this question with some analysis, I have not been able to come at it yet and this gives me a starting point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I think the super-reliever long relief role is perfect for him: he can have a relatively easier season for his body, as it continues to recover, get a try out and see if this is something he might consider down the road, and in 2017, try again for a starter's role somewhere, whether here or elsewhere.

      But clearly, his body could not put up with the rigors of starting full-time. Continuing to pitch as a starter is just accelerating his body's decline, whereas relief would allow the team to push on the throttle when he's fine, or loosen up on the reins when he's scuffling, something that can't happen too often when starting. At minimum, taking a transition year to allow his body to better heal seems like a better plan than grabbing for the brass ring immediately. Too bad his agent is not getting him to see this, this is important for him too, nobody knows how much Tim's body can take, his hip has already deteriorated, maybe another part next. And relievers can make a lot of money today, closers especially, and if Timmy could do what he can do in a super-reliever role, including close, he could make close to what he was making before.

      I think a 3-ish ERA is possible if he's healthy, as that was what he was doing throughout much of 2014. Romo had 0.8 WAR in almost 60 IP in 2015 with a 3-ish ERA, so Lincecum doing 120 IP, 3-ish ERA, that's 1.6 WAR, roughly $13M value. If he gets his velocity back up to 90-91 MPH, maybe closer to 2.0 WAR, around $16M value. And the salaries just keep on going up, so whereas his career as a starter might last another 2-3 years maybe, with his rubber arm, if he can keep his body healthy, he could last into his 40's doing this type of relief. And as a starter, few teams are going to give him big money, due to the past four seasons, and fewer any multi-year contracts. By the time he built up any starter value, his body might be faltering again by then, as he'll be in his mid-30's and, again, his body might not be up to the punishment. Yet he continues to persist.

      But athletes are like that, I know that, but one can hope.

      After losing the players we did in the 70's, like Bobby Bonds, George Foster, Gaylord Perry, Gary Mathews, Garry Maddox, Willie Mac!!!, I got to understand that it's a business, and while I hate to see any of our star, significant players move one, that's the nature of the game, few players retire with the team that brung them.

      Glad to give you a starting point, it's not like I'm totally convinced that he'll be back, but I see silver linings that I feel explains his ups and downs, and thus give us a look at what he can do when healthy. Maybe you find the bad that convinces me, but so far, I think my explanation for the timeline of his good and bad periods is the best I've seen. I think he's a gamble worth taking at the right price.

      Then again, as you say, some mystery team could throw some money at him, and I'll be OK with that. I think he can do great things for us in the long relief role, and at a low price, but he's a grown man and will decide what he thinks is best for himself.

      Delete

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