On Saturday afternoon, the Los Angeles Angels designated RHP Tim Lincecum for assignment, just one day after allowing six runs on nine hits in just 3.1 innings against the Seattle Mariners. At just 32, and after having been ineffective since 2012, he has probably thrown his last pitch in Major League Baseball.
From 2007 to 2011, Lincecum was undeniably the top pitcher in the National League. While sharing the spotlight with the prime years of Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, and Cliff Lee, Lincecum, who could never look the part of an ace when lined up against those four, still was just as dominant. Lucky for him, he was the only one in the NL for all five of those seasons, which resulted in his two Cy Young awards (2008 & 2009), which were obviously earned with his incredible overall numbers.
Lincecum was nicknamed “The Freak” due to his absurd mechanics, which resulted in his 5’11” frame somehow striding 7.5 feet towards home during his delivery. The torque and motion resulted in this small man being capable of throwing a baseball in the high-90s. During all of his success, so many questioned his size, in the same way that others questioned the likes of Bob Feller, Johnny Cueto, and even future Hall of Fame closer Billy Wagner, something I looked into further over 2.5 years ago. Mechanics are a difficult thing to question, given that even those with perfect mechanics – I’m looking at you, Mark Prior – can still manage to get hurt. Lincecum proved many people wrong for several years, but it is, most likely, his small stature and workload that resulted in his struggles since the start of the 2012 season.
The Giants, unfortunately, paid Lincecum $75MM from 2012 through 2015 for him to post a 4.68 ERA and 1.40 WHIP over 113 appearances (106 starts) and 615.2 innings, while he posted a WAR of 3.2. Not quite the bargain. It isn’t likely that the Giants knew that Lincecum’s final six starts of 2011, when he posted a 4.03 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, was going to become the “norm” for their four-time All-Star. The club signed him in January 2012 to a two-year, $40.5MM deal to avoid high-priced arbitration years and buying out those two years of arbitration prior to free agency. They then re-signed him to a two-year, $35MM deal, just a few days after he pitched out of the bullpen in helping to lead the Giants to their second title in three seasons.
Maybe Brian Sabean missed something…maybe he was still high from the champagne. Still, Lincecum’s career in San Francisco was a two-part movie, where the sequel wasn’t worth seeing. His incredible run from 2007 through 2011 resulted in his being able to stick around up to this point, but he truly doesn’t have much left to offer as a starting pitcher.
Because of Lincecum’s struggles with the Angels, this will be it for him.
The first time through the order this season, teams are hitting .394/.457/.676 with six home runs in 81 plate appearances. If you thought for one second that he could still be a reliever, that is all that you need to know.
Tim Lincecum was an absolute freak, which made his nickname well-earned and well-placed; however, once he lost a tick on his fastball and had to learn to get people out by pitching alone, he wasn’t very successful. It is sad to see someone fall so far from the top so quickly, but at least he was there for a long enough time to have etched a memory into the minds of baseball fans of this generation forever.