What to Expect from Tim Lincecum in the Second Half: The Return of the Giants Ace to Form?

Thursday July 12th, 2012

Sam Evans: Tim Lincecum has been proving doubters wrong his whole life. Despite his small frame, Lincecum has managed to win the Golden Spikes award and two N.L. Cy Young awards. However, in 2012 Lincecum hasn’t looked like the same pitcher. He has not only lost velocity on his fastball, but his numbers across the board are not what we expected from one of the best pitchers in the game. It’s hard to conclude what has caused Lincecum to struggle in his first fifteen starts. But the question on everyone’s mind is: what is next for Lincecum?

From 2007 to 2011, Tim Lincecum ranked fifth in Wins Above Replacement among all starting pitchers. He was simply dominant. In 2008 and 2009, Lincecum became the first pitcher ever to win back-to-back Cy Young awards in their first two full seasons. The Giants largely owe their 2010 World Series title to Lincecum and his 2.43 ERA in the playoffs. Heading into the 2012 season, the Giants reportedly offered Lincecum a five-year, $100 million contract, which he turned down to sign a two-year deal worth about $40 million. Looking back at it, Lincecum probably should have taken the deal which offered him long-term security.

So far this season Lincecum has been one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball. Even though he has a decent 3.98 FIP, he’s walking more hitters and giving up more home runs than he ever has. Not to mention, his fastball velocity has lost almost two miles per hour since 2011.  The Giants have been patient with Lincecum, but they have to be shocked with what has happened to the face of their franchise.

I have no idea what is wrong with Tim Lincecum. He lost a lot of weight over the offseason, and that could be part of the reason his fastball velocity has dipped. As a recent fangraphs article noted, Lincecum has been struggling with his command all season. He’s no longer placing pitches exactly where he wants them to go. Lincecum’s struggles are probably due to a number of things, so that makes it even harder to predict what to expect from him.

Part of Tim Lincecum’s struggles have been due to pure bad luck. His .333 BABIP is among the top ten highest for qualified starting pitchers heading into the break. The Giants have a slightly above-average defense, so hopefully Lincecum will be able to catch a break in the second half. Just due to what we have learned about pitchers and their tendencies, it is reasonable to expect Lincecum’s BABIP to drop in the second half, therefore allowing fewer runs to score.

What makes Lincecum so hard to predict for the second half is that we don’t really know what was wrong with him in the first half. There hasn’t been just one thing that we’ve been able to point to blame for Lincecum’s struggles. Not to mention, he has never had something like this happen to him before. As bad as he’s been, we have to think he can only get better, right?

ESPN’s midseason Top 250 rankings for Fantasy Baseball recently came out, and the projections on Lincecum are varied. ESPN’s fantasy analysts ranked Lincecum anywhere from 93 to 194 overall. If you average the predictions from the seven writers polled, Lincecum would rank as the 174th overall fantasy contributor for the second half. That would make him the 45th ranked starting pitcher, between the likes of Ryan Dempster and Jeremy Hellickson. For someone who finished as the fifteenth ranked starting pitcher on ESPN’s fantasy Player Rater last year, that’s a pretty big dropoff.

Using projection machines like ZiPS, we can see that the computers also think Lincecum will be better in the second half of this season. ZiPS projects Lincecum to have a 3.28 ERA over his final fifteen starts, and that his walk rate will return to where it was last year. While I don’t believe ZiPS uses velocity as one of its predictive factors, it has been proven to be fairly accurate in the past.

For me, Lincecum is going to have another rough three starts, and maybe get demoted to Triple-A. Then, all of a sudden I think things are going to click for “The Freak”. He’ll finish the season strong, and help the Giants make a strong playoff push. While it might be a good idea to drop Lincecum from your fantasy team now, monitor his starts very closely. Once Lincecum gets things going, he will be a great option to have on your fantasy team, especially down the stretch.

We all know Tim Lincecum has the potential to be one of the top five pitchers in all of baseball, but in his first fifteen starts that hasn’t been as obvious. The Giants need Lincecum to regain his previous success, particularly because they are in the uber-competitive N.L. West. If Lincecum can figure things out, the San Francisco ballclub will be hard to stick with during the dog days of August. However, there is also the chance that Lincecum’s problems are more serious than we think, and he’s not the same pitcher he was last year. Even though Lincecum’s struggles have been concerning, it is smart to remain optimistic and believe in Lincecum’s potential to regain his previous form.

***Today’s feature was prepared by Sam Evans, Baseball Writer.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter. (@RJA206)***

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About samevans87

I love writing, talking, watching, and playing baseball. I am a baseball writer for MLB Reports and Fish Stripes. "No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined." -Paul Gallic

Posted on July 12, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles, Players: Fantasy Baseball Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Lincecum has to go back to the drawing board and find out what his problems are. Only then will he be able to regroup and get back into the groove of good pitching to win ball games. He needs some good advice from some good pitching coaches. Good luck. Without knowing the origin to his pitching problems, it’s like throwing into the air.

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