Explaining and defending the Tim Lincecum contract

The Tim Lincecum Contract Why?

10/24/13 in MLB   |   PAULLEBOWITZ   |   109 respect

Sep 26, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning at AT&T Park. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY SportsThere are simplistic answers being given for the Giants signed Tim Lincecum to a two-year, $35 million contract when he’s been mostly awful for the past two seasons. In general, they center around alleged stupidity in the Giants front office led by GM Brian Sabean and that the club is paying Lincecum for what he was and not what he is.

Let’s take a look at the Lincecum signing and theories of why it's a good or bad idea.
Lincecum’s stuff
There’s no denying that Lincecum has lost velocity on his fastball. It’s down about 3-4 mph from where it was in his first three big league seasons when he won two Cy Young Awards. However, it must be remembered that you can’t use conventional analysis when assessing an unconventional pitcher.
Lincecum is so small, his motion is so unique and his training techniques are so outside the box that him becoming as great and durable as he did is such a rarity that it can’t be treated with a cookie-cutter series of issues to explain away his struggles. It was the uniqueness that made him a phenomenon and it has left the Giants and Lincecum searching for answers as to why he’s getting hammered. There are no injuries that we know about, so the diminishing of his stuff is the culprit for his terrible performances.
My belief is that Lincecum got by in his first few seasons because he had a power fastball to blast his way out of trouble. Once the fastball diminished in velocity and movement, problems with command became prominent and he can’t get away with as much as he did before. As long as he’s not hurt, this is something that can be fixed.
Pitchers tend to have peaks and valleys in their careers. They’ll get injured, be dispatched, then return to a high level. Lincecum may never be the same pitcher he was, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be effective.
Who would they replace him with?
The Giants traded their one big pitching prospect that could conceivably have replaced Lincecum when they sent Zack Wheeler to the Mets for Carlos Beltran. They don’t have anyone that’s big league ready in their own system which would leave them either having to buy a pitcher through free agency, trade for one, or hope to find another Ryan Vogelsong-type off the scrapheap.
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