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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Neyer: Should We Start Working On Tim Lincecum’s Epitaph?

On the whole I would rather be pitching in San Francisco.

Before we send a cable to London announcing Tim Lincecum’s demise, though, we should probably take note of a couple of facts ... Tim Lincecum’s strikeout rate is dead in line with his career rate. Same goes for his home-runs allowed. The only real differences in his statistical performance are his walk rate and his batting average (allowed) on balls in play.

...The other thing is Lincecum’s BABiP, which is .359 this season. As you know, major-league pitchers, whether good or bad, tend to hover in the .290-.300 range. Lincecum entered the season with a career .298 BABiP. Even if his stuff isn’t what it once was, there’s simply no reason to believe he’ll keep giving up a BABiP well north of .300. Last season, Ricky Nolasco led all qualifying major leaguers with a .331 mark. Only five guys were above .320, and they weren’t bums: Nolasco, Edwin Jackson, Derek Lowe, Ryan Dempster, Madison Bumgarner.

It’s quite possible and perhaps quite likely that Tim Lincecum circa 2008-2009 is gone forever. Those two Cy Young Awards are probably the only two that Lincecum will ever win. But it’s too soon to say he’ll not pitch in 2012 roughly as well as he pitched in 2011. And he was pretty well in 2011.

And yes, all generalizations are false, including this one.

Repoz Posted: May 10, 2012 at 06:56 PM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: giants

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   1. cardsfanboy Posted: May 10, 2012 at 09:11 PM (#4128806)
The other thing is Lincecum's BABiP, which is .359 this season. As you know, major-league pitchers, whether good or bad, tend to hover in the .290-.300 range. Lincecum entered the season with a career .298 BABiP. Even if his stuff isn't what it once was, there's simply no reason to believe he'll keep giving up a BABiP well north of .300


This is the part that always bothers me about attempts at analysis. Not that Rob is wrong on the whole, but the line I just posted, is a counter argument, not a an argument for Lincecum. It states in the quote, major league pitchers average that. If Lincecum 'stuff' isn't what it used to be, babip is the exact evidence someone would use to point that out.
   2. zachtoma Posted: May 10, 2012 at 09:52 PM (#4128839)
He was hitting 93-94 on the fastball last night, so the velocity made a jump. He was having trouble controlling the slider all night, bouncing it in front of Posey quite a few times - he must have been wary of this with runners on because he left it up a few times in 0-2 or 1-2 counts and it got hammered which is how most of those runs scored. Will his walk rate go back down? It hasn't shown any sign of doing so yet. I'm still in 'wait and see' mode with Lincecum, definitely not ready to write him off.

PS Contra Neyer, Derek Lowe is indeed a "bum". A dirty, stinking bum.
   3. KT's Pot Arb Posted: May 10, 2012 at 10:49 PM (#4128916)
If Lincecum 'stuff' isn't what it used to be, babip is the exact evidence someone would use to point that out.


Don't buy your argument. No hitter has sustained a BABIP that high over the last 7 years ( 2,500 PAs). The idea that Tim's stuff is suddenly so hittable that league average hitters are hitting the ball harder than Joey Votto and Matt Kemp against him seems like a huge stretch. Hitting a baseball is hard, even against terrible pitchers who can't throw anywhere near 90 MPH. BABIP is one of he most predictive raw stats, and it says that if Tim keeps pitching like this, he'll be giving up a lot fewer hits.
   4. Johnny Slick Posted: May 10, 2012 at 10:51 PM (#4128920)
This is the part that always bothers me about attempts at analysis. Not that Rob is wrong on the whole, but the line I just posted, is a counter argument, not a an argument for Lincecum. It states in the quote, major league pitchers average that. If Lincecum 'stuff' isn't what it used to be, babip is the exact evidence someone would use to point that out.


The point is that a high (or low) BABIP isn't necessarily a harbinger of anything but bad (or good) luck. Bad pitchers (at least the ones who have the ability to get to the major leagues) have almost as much ability to produce lower BABIPs as good ones and vice versa.
   5. tshipman Posted: May 10, 2012 at 11:12 PM (#4128932)
If Lincecum 'stuff' isn't what it used to be, babip is the exact evidence someone would use to point that out.


The problem with this statement is that BABIP is a ######## dump. People use it as evidence that velocity has declined, that pitch sequencing is bad, that a defense isn't performing, etc. etc. etc.

Lincecum's stuff is fine.
   6. jack47 Posted: May 10, 2012 at 11:47 PM (#4128945)
Rob's not good with evaluating young pitchers. I recall an article he wrote speculating on Mark Prior's Hall of Fame plaque. It had him with a couple of no-hitters and playing his twilight years in Portland.
   7. hokieneer Posted: May 10, 2012 at 11:50 PM (#4128948)
While we're talking about SP's stuff and BABIP, can someone smarter than me explain Johnny Cueto for me?

Since he came off the DL last may, here is his numbers:

31 GS, 204 IP, 162 H, 55 BB, 135 K, 10 HR, 192 ERA+, 2.4 BB/9, 5.9 K/9, .250 BABIP

He has ridiculously outperformed his FIP and xFIP over that span, and has a mind boggling 0.4 HR/9 while pitching at GABP half the time. His K rate has declined sharply each of the last 4 years, while his velocity has maintained. He's turned into more a GB pitcher and the Reds have had a very good defense the last 2+ years, so is that it? Dumb luck? Has the re-invented Kevin Brown-ish delivery really baffled the NL for 200 innings? How do you explain the .250 BABIP?

I'm worried as #### he's going to turn into a "pumpkin" come July.
   8. cardsfanboy Posted: May 11, 2012 at 12:04 AM (#4128951)
The point is that a high (or low) BABIP isn't necessarily a harbinger of anything but bad (or good) luck. Bad pitchers (at least the ones who have the ability to get to the major leagues) have almost as much ability to produce lower BABIPs as good ones and vice versa.


No, the point I was trying to say, is if a player has lost the ability to pitch at the major league level, it would show up in his babip. Not saying that is true about Lincecum at all. Just stating that the comment Neyer made is incorrect.

   9. McCoy Posted: May 11, 2012 at 12:31 AM (#4128967)
Well, the problem is that most pitchers are not Lincecum so most pitchers don't get to have that high of a BABIP for very long and still get to pitch every 5 days.

Danny Jackson's final 3 seasons had a combined .329 BABIP and his final year had a .363 BABIP. Nobody asked him to come back the next year. Adam Eaton's final 3 seasons had a combined .323 BABIP with a final season having a .340. He did not last long that final season.
   10. McCoy Posted: May 11, 2012 at 12:42 AM (#4128972)
That being said 7 starts is a little early to be calling Timmy toast. Last year he had a 7 game stretch (6/1-7/4)in which his BABIP was .374 and he still wound up with a .288 BABIP for the season.
   11. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: May 11, 2012 at 01:41 AM (#4128993)
Nobody would be saying that Timmy was toast if his velo was up. But he's clearly a different pitcher than the historical Lincecum. That his walk rate is up may point to the fact that he recognizes this, too, and doesn't trust his stuff like he once did. Or, he just doesn't have the control he once had (the cause of which may or may not be related to his reduction in pitch speed). So, the options moving forward, as I see it:

1) Dead arm period. Velocity returns. Everybody chills the #### out.
2) New baseline. He adjusts. Still a # 2 ish talent. Eventual chilling, but with laments.
3) New baseline. He adjusts- somewhat. 3rd or 4th starter talent. Gnashing of teeth and wailing heard frequently at AT&T Park.
4) The Unthinkable. He does not adjust. BABIP reflects new reality. Rending of garments, sackcloth, ash.

I'm not a Giants fan, but I truly hope it's number one, because I like it that he's a little guy who can do great things. But I think it's most probably 3.
   12. jack47 Posted: May 11, 2012 at 01:41 AM (#4128994)
I'm worried as #### he's going to turn into a "pumpkin" come July.

He may face LAA in June. Lincecum vs Pujols.......someone's gotta win, right?
   13. zachtoma Posted: May 11, 2012 at 01:50 AM (#4128997)
His velocity probably won't come back, when does it ever? That hardly means he's finished, almost all pitchers lose velocity over the course of their careers. I see him going from "best pitcher in baseball" in 2009 to "one of the better pitchers in the NL" for the next several years. There's a lot of room between his back-to-back Cy Young peak and "not a good major leaguer". People are being pretty hysterical.

But, as I pointed out earlier, Dodger Stadium gun was giving readings of 93-94 last night. So who the hell knows... nobody. Nobody knows a damn thing about predicting pitcher performance and/or health, and this is quickly replacing individual player defense as the biggest gap in our knowledge about baseball.
   14. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: May 11, 2012 at 07:08 AM (#4129010)
According to Pitch f/x his last start was his best of 2012, velocity-wise, but it's still at the bottom end of his career numbers.
   15. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 11, 2012 at 07:39 AM (#4129016)
hoke

cueto has some kind of bill swift thing now in place with his fastball where he throws it at 92 mph and it changes directions about 3 times on the way to the plate. is it the new motion contributing?

don't know if it's a great sinker or a cutter or what he's doing but batters have a tough time squaring up that's for sure.

so i think it's real but he's so darn little i don't know what's sustainable.
   16. God Posted: May 11, 2012 at 07:50 AM (#4129020)
So great to see Harvey's posting again. Welcome back, sir.
   17. Hotel Coral Esix Snead (tmutchell) Posted: May 11, 2012 at 09:51 AM (#4129086)
Certain hitters do maintain a high BABIP for sustained periods of time. From 2006-2011, Votto, Kemp, Ichiro and Shin Soo-Choo all had cumulative BABIPs of .350 or higher. Derek Jeter's BABIP for his entire career is .355, and I imagine there must be others.

Hitters can do that, but as someone mentioned, pitchers who do that for more than about a season at a time don't stick around long. No pitcher with more than a few hundred innings of major league service time, at least not since 1974, when we have complete play by play data, has amassed a BABIP over .331 for his career. (Glendon Rusch, in case you're curious.)

My only problem with Rob's assertion is that while, yes, major league pitchers (as a whole) may hover in the .290-.300 range, individual pitchers obviously can vary significantly from season to season. A quick search at baseball-reference.com shows that almost two dozen pitchers have put up a BABIP of .340 or higher for at least 150 innings in a season since Y2K. (Kevin Millwood appears on the list twice, and yet is still somehow employed.)

The best thing you can do with BABIP, it seems (and all Voros McCracken ever intended anyone to do with it, I believe) is to say that if it is very high, and there is no obvious reason for it (like a velocity drop or the team's recent acquisition of a bunch of infielders with iron gloves, for example) then it is likely to go back down. And if it is unusually low, particularly for an entire season, then it is likely to go back up in the next season. But the latter is more likely than the former.
   18. boteman digs the circuit clout Posted: May 11, 2012 at 09:55 AM (#4129089)
But, as I pointed out earlier, Dodger Stadium gun was giving readings of 93-94 last night. So who the hell knows?

Last week the TV RADAR displayed 97 while Vin Scully was declaring, "Wow! Stephen Strasburg delivers a 100 mile per hour fastbuuuulll".

So while I don't *know*, I wouldn't trust Dodgers Stadium's RADAR gun. They might have "tuned" it for dramatic effect for all we know.
   19. hokieneer Posted: May 11, 2012 at 11:41 AM (#4129217)
HW, great to have you back.

I think the new pitch from Cueto is a 2-seamer or maybe some sort of sinker. He Started messing with it in '10 and has relied on it more and more the last 2 years. Yeah that's been a huge part of his success, but I just wonder how sustainable it is.

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