By Dalton Del Don
Three bad starts to open a season isn’t anything to worry about, but when you combine that with a noticeable decrease in velocity and a stated refusal to throw a slider, owners of Tim Lincecum certainly have the right to be concerned. While he’s proven he can be successful without an overpowering fastball in the past, he’s never been a great control guy, so if further losses in velocity make his changeup less devastating, this could be a real problem, and there’s also obvious concern it’s something physical. On one hand, it’s telling the Giants have locked up Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner with recent deals, as maybe the franchise is skittish about Lincecum’s long-term prognosis. But on the other hand, Lincecum has been difficult to lock up, and his willingness to sign a two-year deal could suggest he’s fully confident in his health, with eyes toward a monster deal when he becomes a free agent in 2014.
I’m sure most of you have seen this by now, but in the off chance you haven’t, Sweet Brown has no time for bronchitis.
I don’t want to give away any of this story, but I implore you to read it. One of the crazier I’ve come across.
Lincecum’s first two starts this year came in Chase Field and Coors Field, two venues that rank No. 3 and No. 1, respectively, as the best hitters’ parks in all of baseball over the past three years, according to The Bill James Handbook. He hasn’t allowed a homer since the first inning of his first outing, which was more a result of a poorly located changeup than a loss of velocity on his fastball, and after giving up four runs in the first inning of Monday’s game that was aided by a badly botched play in center field by Angel Pagan, he settled down nicely, retiring 10 straight batters at one point. This isn’t to make excuses, as there’s no denying Lincecum has been hit hard this season – his career BAA is .225. This year it’s .344. It’s been noted a sudden spike in BABIP could be a sign of someone pitching hurt, but his peripherals are otherwise terrific, with a 16:4 K:BB ratio over 13.2 innings (his current 10.54 K/9 rate is actually a career-best, and yes it’s a tiny sample, but you can’t freak out over his runs allowed over the same time frame without acknowledging the other).
Man allegedly commits 10 felonies in nine hours. My personal record was eight in seven, so bravo sir.
Lincecum has been more prone to hot/cold bouts throughout his career than most elite starters, as he followed up a 7.82 ERA in August of 2010 with a 1.94 ERA the next month. Last year he had a 4.84 ERA in June and a 1.80 and 1.90 in the following two months. Moreover, after throwing just two sliders over his first two starts combined, Lincecum threw 20 on Monday, which could be key to a turnaround moving forward. The decrease in velocity is a concern, but remember Lincecum throws a two-seam fastball (which makes it all the more insane when he was regularly working in the mid-90s when he first came up), as he gets a ton of movement and can rack up Ks while remaining down in the zone. Digging deeper, his SwStr% is 11.7 (this is the percentage of pitches a batter swings and misses, and to get an idea of what this means, only one pitcher last year had a higher SwStr% than Lincecum’s current mark), which is actually the second-highest of his career, and according to Fangraphs’ Pitch Values, the biggest problem through three starts has been Lincecum’s changeup going from one of the best pitches in baseball to one of the most hittable. That might be a function of a smaller discrepancy in speeds between it and his fastball, but as someone who’s watched all three of his outings in 2012, I credit it far more to poor location. With a small frame and unorthodox delivery, it’s entirely possible Lincecum is wearing down like many predicted would eventually happen, but if I’m a fantasy owner, I’d personally be targeting him heavily right now in trades.
This is probably the best marketing ploy I’ve ever seen.
This is probably the best obituary I’ve ever read.
Jordan Schafer is hitting just .256 on the year, strikes out too often and is playing for what’s likely to be the worst team in baseball. Still, it would have to be an awfully shallow league for him to be not owned in fantasy right now. He’s locked in as a leadoff hitter, and with nine walks already, he’s got a .396 OBP. After stealing 22 bases over just 302 at-bats last year, he has five already this season, and his seven attempts are the second-most in MLB. Schafer is an injury risk and will be a major drain on RBI, but he’s capable of hitting 5-8 homers, giving him real fantasy value if he approaches 35-40 stolen bases, which I say he does.
Raul Ibanez finished with a .245/.289/.419 line last season and will turn 40 years old this summer, but he’s another outfielder who shouldn’t be available on most waiver wires, at least in daily leagues. He still managed 20 homers with 84 RBI last year in just 144 games played, and he’s going to be used in a stricter platoon in 2012, helping his batting average (and making him much more valuable in daily formats). Ibanez is hitting just .222 on the year, but that’s accompanied by a 1:2 K:BB ratio, and he’s even contributed two steals to go along with two homers. His nine RBI over eight games is a strong reflection of the benefits of batting in the Yankees’ lineup, and it can’t be underestimated just how much the home stadium boosts left-handed power. Yankee Stadium has a HR Park Index of 143 for LHB over the past three years, meaning 43% more bombs have been hit there by lefties than other parks, which is the most by a wide margin. If you have a deep roster, platooning Ibanez and Andruw Jones like the Yankees do would be an interesting and likely productive fantasy strategy.
I typically post silly UFO sightings, so why stop now?
This guy’s cat-like reflexes saved his life.
In my home league this past Friday, my team allowed 23 earned runs over 10.2 innings and lost Jacoby Ellsbury for who knows how long. It wasn’t ideal. The Ellsbury loss is going to be tough to overcome for fantasy owners. Not sure we can call him injury-prone after the nature in which he broke his ribs two years ago and his most recent one appeared unavoidable, but I guess it’s safe to call him a bit brittle at this point. Sticking with my home league team, I have no clue what to make of Francisco Liriano. I fully admit I bought into his spring stats (not his ERA, but how he was doing so, as I couldn’t ignore the 33:5 K:BB ratio over 29.0 innings), but it’s certainly been to my detriment so far, as he’s currently sporting an 11.91 ERA and a 2.74(!) WHIP with an unsightly 8:9 K:BB ratio. Liriano appears to be a headcase, but even after coming off such a disastrous 2011, I still wouldn’t drop him at this point.
Here’s Vince Carter airballing a finger roll.
Well, the ending of this video is a bit ominous.
Jason Heyward owners have to be pleased with the start to his year. Hitting .341 and recently moved up in the lineup, he’s already racked up four steals without being caught. It’s obviously extremely early, but looking deeper, it gets even more encouraging, as he’s hit 15 flyballs compared to nine groundballs early on. During his rookie campaign, Heyward had a 2.03 GB/FB rate, while last year it was 1.63. This season it’s at 0.60, which is an indication he may very well reach his power potential many predicted coming up from the minors. Let’s see if he can actually stay healthy for once.
Great article about Dave Cameron – one of my favorite baseball writers who’s battling a deadly illness.
Two high school pitchers combined to throw 347 pitches in one game.
Meet the world’s shortest man, who’s 22 inches tall.
Any Giants fan shouldn’t be surprised by the latest news on Brian Wilson, who’s been pitching with a damaged arm since the end of the 2010 World Series season. While last year it was an apparent forearm issue, it’s likely related, and there were red flags when there was no offseason surgery to correct the problem, and Wilson showed up to spring training still hurting, totaling just 4.2 innings with an obvious decrease in velocity. It was admirable of Wilson, who once “fired a Red Bull down” in between innings after tearing his oblique during his major league debut, to throw 10 more pitches after hearing a pop in his elbow (and telling the training staff he rolled his ankle after they went to the mound when Buster Posey called them after hearing him scream in pain). Wilson, who has the most saves in MLB since 2008, was pitching in Coors Field in a two-run game with the bases loaded with noticeably diminished stuff and showed a ton of guts in what would prove to be his last outing in quite some time.
Saw Radiohead in San Jose this past week, and they killed it. They played a ridiculously long set (23 songs, two-plus hours) that was fantastic, even if it didn’t feature any of my 10 favorite songs by them.
Saw “American Reunion” this weekend, and while biased as an unabashed fan of the original, it really wasn’t that bad (and certainly the best of all the sequels). I enjoyed it.
Santiago Casilla, who reminds me a lot of former A’s prospect Jairo Garcia, looks next in line to close in San Francisco. Sergio Romo throws a ton of sliders, so the team is extra careful about his workload and also results in him being used as something of a righty specialist. Romo just finished one of the more dominant relief seasons you’ll ever see, posting a 1.50 ERA with a 0.708 WHIP and a ridiculous 70:5 K:BB ratio over 48.0 innings. His 1.49 xFIP would have easily led all pitchers in baseball had he qualified, as his Frisbee slider is death to righties, producing a .391 OPS against. But Casilla has a 1.85 ERA over the past two seasons himself, and although his control is shaky, most importantly, he seems to be management’s preferred choice to replace Wilson as closer (although it will be something of a committee). Whether Casilla can take advantage of the opportunity remains to be seen.