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Friday, October 25, 2013

Freakish Gamble

The San Francisco Giants resigned starting pitcher and former two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum (10-14, 4.37 ERA, 193 Ks in 2013) to a two year, $35 million extension that will keep The Freak in San Francisco through the 2015 season. Lincecum is getting ace pitcher money. While he has demonstrated ace pitcher potential, many of his performances have been drawn from the bottom of the deck over the last two years.

She won't be taking that shirt off any time soon, possibly to the chagrin of many Bay Area men.


Lincecum has won consecutive Cy Youngs in the past (2008-09). Lincecum has shown he can be nearly unhittable over extended periods of time. This was literally the case last season, in which he threw his first career no-hitter. In spite of drifting into mediocrity (if not liability) in 2012 and 2013, Lincecum appeared to get some of his groove back after the All-Star break. He was 5-3 in August and September. His batting average against was only .212 in July and .235 in August.

He also chews up a lot of innings. The Giants starting pitching did not do a good job of keeping its starters viably in the game, wearing down the bullpen. Lincecum, on the other hand, has pitched 186 innings or more the last six consecutive seasons, every year of his career following his rookie season. That kind of durability is invaluable from an otherwise average pitcher with otherwise average potential, let alone a former Cy Young winner with a high ceiling. 

Lincecum pitched a no-hitter in the second half of the year. The potential is evident. The results have been questionable. 1

All negotiations are about leverage. I doubt, given Lincecum’s 5.18 and 4.37 ERAs in 2012 and 2013, respectively, that many other teams were willing to throw $35 million in The Freak’s direction. The Giants are rolling the dice on Lincecum’s and track record of good health, youth, he’s only 29 years old, and the chance that he can regain the form that made him a nightmare for opposing batters for several years.

For the money, they could typically sign an older pitcher with a more stable, productive resume in recent years. If this pans out, however, the Giants may be able to lock up Lincecum, and the innings he can deliver, for the remainder of his career after 2015. If not, it’s only money. Worse deals have been signed (see Alex Rodriguez).


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