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Fantasy Baseball: The Tim Lincecum Opportunity Is Now

Catch ya later, dude.
Catch ya later, dude.

This is a moment that a lot of fans have been waiting for since the day that Tim Lincecum was drafted. The unorthodox pitcher would have been a top 3 pick in 2006 if we knew then what we know now, but fell to the Giants at 10 because people were skeptical how well his stuff would hold up in the long run.

What we found out in the short run though, was that he'd be a two-time Cy Young winner and the Giants would win a World Series with him. However, his loss in velocity has now tarnished his legacy at the age of 28, though we'll never forget how great he was from 2008-2009.

Lincecum won the Cy Young awards both years and led the league in strikeouts from 2008-2010. Even last year he posted a 2.74 ERA and struck out 220 batters in 217 innings, but he went from "dominating" to "pretty darn good." With a 2-8 record and 6.19 ERA, he's now among the worst starters in fantasy baseball. This is a good time to remember the difference between fantasy and reality and find where Lincecum's true value exists for the rest of the 2012 season.

Despite his high ERA, Lincecum has a FIP of 3.88 and xFIP of 3.84. Those aren't dominating numbers, but they suggest that luck has yet to be on his side this season. We can't deny the 2 MPH lost off of the fastball or the 4.79 BB/9, but the .330 BABIP against and 60.5 LOB% show the reasonable difference between ERA and FIP.

ZiPS projects the rest of Lincecum's season as this: 9-5, 3.15 ERA, 9.53 K/9, 3.53 BB/9.

Those are top-of-the-rotation fantasy numbers that could possibly be had at bottom-of-the-barrel prices right now if you find the right, disgruntled owner of Lincecum. More after the jump...

ZiPS is, of course, an inexact science. We can't reasonably predict anything right now. Did you reasonably predict that R.A. Dickey would become the world's best pitcher? Lincecum's issues aren't just mirage, many of them are real. Batters have tortured him this season and the hitting numbers against have only gotten worse as the season has gone on.

Opposing batters have hit .275/.347/.529 in June (76 batters faced) and already 3 HR have been hit in 16.2 innings this month after allowing 5 HR in his first 60.1 innings of the year. But it's not all bad this month: Lincecum has posted 10.26 K/9 and 3.78 BB/9 in the admittedly small sample, but perhaps a suggestion that good news is bound to come for the rest of Lincecum's season.

Bruce Bochy has re-iterated since his last start that Lincecum will be given a chance to improve in the rotation and not in the bullpen until it absolutely comes down to the only option:

"He's healthy. He feels good," Bochy said, per Andrew Baggarly of "I know the results haven't been great for Timmy, but you just see too many good signs. Even after the first inning [Saturday], he had bad luck there.

"At this point we think the best thing is to let him fight through this. If we felt different, we'd do it."

Of course, these things can change with one more bad start, but a player with his reputation will probably get a reasonable chance. His next start comes at Oakland against the Athletics lineup. And after that he should be facing the Reds at home, the Nationals on the road, and then the Astros at home. A good opportunity to fine-tune his skills and get back to basic Lincecum.

If a reasonable fantasy owner would take a reasonable offer for the Giants former ace right now, I'd say it's the perfect chance to pull the trigger. The only problem might be finding that reasonable owner. You want to buy Lincecum as a washed-up has-been. He wants to sell Lincecum as an ace who is just having a bad moment, unwilling to admit that he's nearly dropped Lincecum three times before he got scared and was unable to do it. Somewhere you'll have to find that balance between the two.

Sort of that same internal struggle that dropped Lincecum to the 10th overall pick during the 2006 draft, but we all know how that turned out.

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