Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Baseball Post

So, Tim Lincecum, two years, $35M.

Here's what I think. It all comes down to one thing: is Tim Lincecum likely to be a reasonable rotation starter for the next two years?

If you think so, then...well, yes, he's overpriced, but it's better to spend $17M on a $10M starting pitcher than to spend $10M  and give 20+ starts to a guy who shouldn't be on the roster. Sabean was looking at three open rotation spots; there's absolutely no guarantee that he could have filled all three with guys you want to take the ball 33 times each at any price. At any rate, if he's a league-average starter than $35M/2 years is high, but not outrageous; there will be much worse contracts for pitchers this winter.

On the other hand, if you don't want him to make 66 starts over the next two years, regardless of price, then it's a bad signing.

It's really that simple.

So do the Giants want Tim Lincecum to be a rotation starter in 2014 and 2015? It's not clear, from the number. He's coming off a year with a 76 ERA+, and before that he was at 68 ERA+. That's not good enough, so the question is whether he'll be better. And I think there's a reasonable case for it. His K/9 is still a very solid 8.8; his unsustainable BB rate spike from 2012 disappeared in 2013. He didn't exactly do clearly better in the second half of the season, but there's at least a plausible case to be made that there was improvement.

It's probably worth noting that he's been extremely durable; of course, that may not last as he gets older, and is only worth anything if he's better than he has been.

Is it wishful thinking to think he could build on what success he had in 2013? Maybe!

There's also a part of this that really does go past the stats. The Giants are in an excellent position to see beyond the numbers. There are risks at that kind of scouting, but there are opportunities as well, and I think it's reasonable to give the Giants the benefit of the doubt on that kind of thing, especially with pitchers.

If they gave him the money because they thought it would sell tickets, it's a mistake. There's no way a mediocre Tim Lincecum is going to sell more than a few season tickets at this point, and he certainly won't help specific game sales if he slumps from the beginning of the season. And at any rate, it's not even close to worth risking a postseason appearance over.

But if they think he's a league-average pitcher over the next two years, and that given their position it's probably a good idea to overspend for a league-average pitcher right now, then it's a reasonable move. As long as they're right about him bouncing back just a bit more.


  1. Its interesting, I was looking at Lincecum's stats in the link above, and I was trying to determine who would be a good comp for a pitcher who was Cy Young quality, high-100s for ERA+ in his early 20s, and dropped back to double digits as he turned the corner to age 30?

    Barry Zito. Which example doesn't bode terribly well for Lincecum. Wondering, though, whether a Nate Silver type has looked at this systematically - early 20s CYA quality, drops back by age 30 - is Zito the norm or the exception?

  2. I dunno, I was originally in the camp that thought 2012 was flukey and he'd mostly bounce back to being an above average pitcher. But his velocity is down for two years in a row now, with this year's barely staying above 90. For a pitcher with a pedestrian BB/9, losing your velocity will pretty quickly render you replacement level. He is going to 30 in June, so I don't see him turning his velocity issues around. Maybe he can morph into more of a finesse pitcher the way kenny rogers did in the latter half of his career. But Im bearish.

    That being said, it's a pretty low risk deal for an organization like the Giants.

  3. IMO there are at least twelve better free agent pitchers. But I don't know what the demand will be. Maybe the Giants know what they are doing, but if pitchers like Colon and Kazmir go fo significantly less they will look bad.

    1. Perhaps. But Colon was 40 in 2013, and his GS (going backwards) have been 30, 24, 26, 0, 12, 7...the odds that he starts 60 games (let alone 66) in 2014-2015 have to be about zilch, and the odds that he can take the ball 50 times aren't very good.

      Kazmir is youngish, but he's only reached 30 starts twice in his career, the last time in his 23 year old season. And he wasn't actually all that much better than the Freak this year.

      Granted, we don't know what either will go for. But we also don't know if either would want to be in San Francisco.

      And, at any rate, the Giants still have two open rotation spots; if Colon or Kazmir or even both is willing to come to China Basin for not much, Sabean could still do that.

  4. I can see the case that they have a lot of slots to fill, but it's hard for me to imagine that this is anywhere close to the market rate for Lincecum.

    It's the hometeam anti-discount. The Giants had to overpay, because if they just gave him a qualifying offer, he probably wouldn't be back, even if he couldn't find a better deal elsewhere (see Lohse and the Cards last year).


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