Tim Lincecum’s Decline

Tim Lincecum was roughed up for the second start in a row last night, and now sits at 4.1 fWAR on the season (in 29 starts). By all means, that’s a great mark — but among Giants starters, that ranks him third, behind Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain. It’s looking like — for the first time since 2007 — Lincecum will not lead Giants pitchers in fWAR.

In large part, this is due to an uptick in walks. With a month left to go, he’s already walked more hitters than he did last season; his BB% is at 9.8%, which is sixth-worst in the majors. That’s approaching A.J. Burnett territory. Overall, Lincecum’s shown a steady decline over the last few years, as illustrated by his year-by-year K/BB ratio:

Tim Lincecum's K/BB by season

His FIP, 3.15, is identical to the mark he posted last season, but given that scoring is down league-wide, his FIP- (which adjusts for park/league factors, and is scaled such that 100 represents league average) is 81. Again, by all means a very fine mark — it puts him in the top 20 in all of baseball — but it’s also the worst FIP- he’s ever posted. It’s even worse than his rookie season.

Lincecum’s arbitration-eligible for the second-to-last time this offseason, and the Giants are most likely looking to sign him to an extension. Timmy’s still an elite pitcher, obviously, and has had another great season, but as Zack noted in last night’s recap, the decline is definitely something to be aware of.


8 thoughts on “Tim Lincecum’s Decline

  1. The one thing that the stats can’t show is mind set. Timmy has been repeatedly let down this year like no other year he has pitched. I feel Timmy is not one on giving up, but I do believe the stress of this pathetic offense has played games with his mind, as well as the other pitchers. With the last short off-season and frustration of dealing with the Keystone Kops offense and defense, a lesser person would have gone postal already. I have always felt this is the time of year when the stats start becoming tweaked and not the true measure of a player.

    • I second this. I cannot imagine how frustrating it is for this staff to go out there and know that you can’t make a mistake because your offense/defense can’t bail the team out. Hell, even when they don’t make mistakes they lose.

    • True, and a very good point actually. Though given his age, he’s entering the point in a career when pitchers typically peak, so I’d hope he’d at least be above his career norms.

    • Timmy hasn’t had much of an offense since he has been with this team. Maybe the stress is building up. There are times when he is just invincible and other times it is a total fight. He has to find that in between mode. So in other words, you think he is fizzling out?

  2. What an absurd post. Athletes will have variation in their performances from year to year. To say that Lincecum is in decline is to be alarmist. As for the increase in walks, let’s be real here. If the Giants could hit at all (and Sabean ought to be fired if he doesn’t add at least 2 bats this off season) then pitchers could just throw and not try to be too fine.

    • Gonna have to disagree. He’s not in decline from being a good pitcher (obviously), but he’s in decline from being the elite (8 WAR) pitcher he was in 2009. As for the effect of the Giants’ hitting on his performance, and his “trying to be too perfect”, I don’t think there’s any evidence whatsoever to indicate that that’s played a role in his performance.

      • Please, he is a human first and he has emotions. Are you telling me that Lincecum isn’t affected by giving up three runs? All season long, it has been the Giants lack of offense that has plagued this team. The media has ran with this fact daily and you don’t think Timmy changed as soon as he gave up a couple of run??? He has pitched out of the stretch with the bases empty and if he isn’t trying to pitch too fine, my 60 years of watching baseball is out of whack. WAR 8 or whatever, in a WS game he is as good as they come. He is not a robot but a pretty sensitive gentleman.

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