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Ricescapades: Tim Lincecum, Buy-Low Candidate?

Tim Lincecum's early season struggles potentially make him an ideal buy-low pitcher. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Tim Lincecum's early season struggles potentially make him an ideal buy-low pitcher. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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After spending the entire past week in the desert watching zombie Tupac and getting angry because Radiohead didn't play "Fake Plastic Trees", I returned to reality this morning having been completely shut out of all baseball happenings this past weekend. After a taking a brief crash course, one thing immediately caught my eye: Tim Lincecum got hit hard not once, but twice, continuing a disturbing trend that began on Opening Day.

Last Wednesday night, Lincecum was lit up at Coors Field by the Rockies, exiting in the third inning with runners all over the bases after having already surrendered six runs. Then last night, he was touched for four first inning runs by the Phillies before settling down a bit, ending up surrendering five runs over six innings of work. That makes three straight poor starts for a pitcher who was likely taken in the very early rounds in most drafts, and who was projected to be in the top ten of starting pitchers.

Glass half-empty types will look at it like this. His velocity thus far has been way down (his fastball is averaging 90.3 mph so far this season; last year it was 92.2). His command has been poor and he's been wild in the strike zone, which is never a good thing. The struggles are simply an extension of last season, when his strikeout rate was at a career low and his walk rate was its worst since his rookie season. His small frame has made many fans skeptical about his long-term durability and now a breakdown is finally happening.

Glass half-full types will say: His first two starts were in two of baseball's most notorious bandboxes, and in his starts against Philly and Arizona, he had first inning troubles but then settled down and pitched well. Despite the loss of velocity, his strikeout rate thus far is very strong (10.5 K/9), and he hasn't walked an abnormal amount. Plus, he's had stretches of ineffectiveness before (most notably in August of 2010) and has been fine.

The pessimists will say that you should have seen the warning signs from last year and should never have drafted him in the first place. The optimists will say that you should immediately try to get him for below market value from a reactionary manager. Which side do you fall on? Is Timmy going to bounce back, or is his freakish arm finally shagged for good?