Tim Lincecum is pitching for a contract and with that good things are happening.
After the game yesterday Steve touched on how well Lincecum has pitched so far this season, so I figured this would be a good time to explore just how much Lincecum has improved as the season has progressed. To get an idea, here is the game score for each of his starts this season:
Game Score is a rough shorthand for figuring out how well a pitcher did in a game — a quality start is considered any score of 50 or above. Lincecum’s average Game Score is 54 in 2013, and he has reached at least 50 in 56% of his starts this season. To top it off the trend is moving in the right direction, suggesting that he has gotten better as the season has progressed. If we expand our view to include last season, the improvement trend looks even more clear.
Another very positive sign: his peripheral numbers have rebounded to the point where they’re nearly as good as they were in 2010. His strikeout rate — which had fallen every year since 2009 — has bounced back to 25% this season. His walk rate — which had risen every year since 2009 — has fallen back below 9%. With the drop in walks while still maintaining his strikeout stuff, he has brought his WHIP back down to what it was in 2010.
Two things are still lagging from where they were in 2010 and 2011 — Lincecum’s results with men on base and the home run ball. The numbers have improved over last season, but they are still well below his career numbers. His strand rate this year is 68.5%, well below the league average number of 73.3% and much lower than one would expect from a guy who is striking out over 25% of the batters he faces. Lincecum is giving up a home run on nearly 13% of his fly balls in 2013, a very high rate. The league average this season is just barely over 10% and his career rate is about 9%. Even more puzzling is that AT&T Park suppresses home runs.
Both of these numbers probably won’t stay below league average. In addition, his strand rate and home runs are what are driving the difference between his below average ERA and his pretty good FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching).
The bottom line? The more you examine things, bringing back Lincecum for next season doesn’t seem like a bad idea. This season he has bounced back from being a horrible pitcher to being an average pitcher with flashes of brilliance. If he were on another team he would be an excellent buy low candidate with hopes that he could improve even further next season.