Two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum is available this off-season, and he’s ready to show his skills off to any team that wants to watch.
Giants insider Alex Pavlovic reported that Lincecum plans to throw for teams in a showcase in January, as soon as his rehab from hip surgery is complete and he is “100 percent” healthy.
Lincecum threw a no-hitter in 2013 and 2014, but he hasn’t been close to an elite starting pitcher since 2011. Two questions come immediately to mind.
Since Lincecum will be 32 in June, why would anyone believe that he can improve?
There is reason for hope. Pavlovic quoted Lincecum’s camp, saying the man who performed the surgery, Dr. Marc Philippon, believes “there’s a very good chance he will regain some of his lost velocity.”
In Lincecum’s peak years of 2008-2011, he never averaged fewer than 91.3 miles per hour on his fastball per Fangraphs. Since then, he’s been on a steady decline, averaging 90.4 miles per hour in 2012, 90.2 in 2013, 89.6 in 2014, and 87.2 in 2015.
There’s a big difference between a pitcher that averages 87 and can top out at 90 and one that averages 90-91, but can hit 93 or 94.
What will Lincecum’s roll be?
Lincecum’s future might be as a reliever. But according to Pavlovic, the Freak doesn’t quite see it that way.
“Lincecum has spent all nine of his big league seasons with the team that took him 10th overall in the 2006 draft, but a reunion would be complicated by the fact that he’s aiming to return as a starting pitcher, not a reliever or swingman.”
The worst season of Tim Lincecum’s career was 2012, but he was dominant that postseason as a reliever. In 13 innings out of the bullpen, Lincecum posted a 0.69 ERA, 0.385 WHIP and struck out 17 batters.
Since relievers aren’t called on to throw 100+ pitches, they can naturally throw a little harder on each pitch. Even if Lincecum is routinely hitting 93 or above on the gun at this showcase, who’s to say that he can’t push that to 95 as a short reliever?
There are definitely better free agents on the market, but Lincecum is one of the more interesting names out there, given his resume.
Will his body hold up? Will he take on a different role? Will he have to? Most importantly, which team will sign him?
He’s a gamble, especially as a starter, but given his rough performances over the last four years, Lincecum shouldn’t be a terribly expensive gamble. If the surgery gives his heater a few more miles per hour, then he could bring whichever team signs him a big reward.