A dominant playoff performance out of San Francisco’s bullpen en route to a World Championship might have saved Tim Linceum‘s fantasy value. Still, that one month doesn’t forgive the other six in which Lincecum tortured fantasy owners.
For the third straight year his walk rate rose, and for the second straight year his ground ball rate declined. Lincecum’s 14.0% HR/FB rate might be considered unlucky by some, especially for a player that calls such a pitcher-friendly park his home, but Lincecum forced infield flies just 3.8% of the time, well below the league average of 10.0%. Like BABIP, HR/FB rate is one of those stats that requires a little context to be properly understood, and pitchers that don’t induce a lot of infield flies (which won’t ever cross the fence) tend to have higher HR/FB rates.
Lincecum was much better in the second half last year, posting a 3.83 ERA after the All-Star Break versus 6.42 before, but none of his peripheral stats really explain why he was better. Honestly, it just looks like a case of Lincecum being insanely unlucky before the break and slightly lucky after it. His month-by-month FIPs back this up.
And one look at his yearly velocity chart is enough to scare anyone off. I wouldn’t expect Lincecum to return to his pre-2012 ways, but if he can at least get his walk rate back to his career average that should be enough to help him rebound and be a very useful fantasy pitcher.
At a Glance
Strengths: K, K/9, QS
Neutral: W, L, ERA, WHIP, BB, BB/9
Best-case scenario: Gio Gonzalez (WAS)
Likely scenario: Lance Lynn (STL), Yovani Gallardo (MIL), Matt Moore (TB)
Worst-case scenario: Bud Norris (HOU)
Tim Lincecum 2013 Fantasy Projection
Remember what we said about Kyle Lohse and low-strikeout pitchers? (Click here if you don’t.) The opposite applies to Lincecum. While he was absolutely HORRENDOUS for half of last year, finishing the season with a 5.18 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, and 614th overall ranking, pitchers with high strikeout totals are usually more immune to fluctuations in ERA.
Of course, I say usually because few pitchers (correction: no pitchers) will be able to maintain their value when their ERA nearly doubles, but I do believe that Lincecum’s surprisingly terrible 2012 was a blip on the radar — like a baby falling when it’s first learning to walk (though I guess that analogy works in reverse). Lincecum doesn’t have the same velocity and skill level he used to, and he stumbled and fell when he could no longer overmatch hitters.
Hopefully his next steps in 2013 go a little more smoothly as he moves into the next phase of his career.