Will the elite Lincecum return in 2013?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - We can select San Francisco right-hander Tim Lincecum for what seems to be a bargain in this year's fantasy baseball draft. His current Yahoo rank (No. 115) means he's not coming off the board until the 10th round in a typical 12-team league.

That might be too soon if he puts up numbers similar to last season, but he'd be a steal if he reverts back to his production level of 2008 or '09.

Determining whether we will get the two-time Cy Young Award-winning version of Lincecum for a bargain price or last year's pale imitation could be one of the key decisions for fantasy owner this offseason.

"Last year was tough to swallow," Lincecum told Ann Killion of sfgate.com in a recent interview. "When you're used to things going well and all of a sudden they're not going well, you start questioning yourself and doubting yourself. You start feeding off negatives and that turns into a spiral."

Wow, did they nosedive.

In 2012, Lincecum's fifth full season in the majors, he set new personal low marks for wins (10), ERA (5.18), innings pitched (186), strikeouts (190), WHIP (1.468), BB/9 (4.3) and losses (15).

This from a man who had never had a full-season ERA over 3.43, WHIP above 1.272 or struck out less than 220 batters.

According to BaseballAnalytics.Org, the speed on Lincecum's fastball has gone steadily downward each season from 93.8 mph in 2008 to 90.2 mph in 2012.

For his part, Lincecum appears to have made changes to his offseason lifestyle to help him for the upcoming season.

For the first time, he's training under the direction of others, working out a minimum of five times a week, under the direction of the people at Impact Performance. He's changed his diet and began throwing in mid-December. He's added 10 pounds, which is a good thing, as increased body mass can be directly correlated to increased velocity on the fastball.

He's also shed his famous long locks for a shorter, more business-like hairdo.

But the question we need to answer is whether he'll regain his 94 mph fastball and the pinpoint control that went with it.

Digging deeper, he was particularly ugly with men on base (.269 BA, .804 OPS) and runners in scoring position (.286 BA, .887 OPS) last season compared to his career numbers with men on base (.221/.642) and RISP (.225/.666). It appears that he simply wasn't pitching well from the stretch.

So our assignment for this spring is to watch how Lincecum performs with men on base. If he's getting them out, then he should return to his high level of production. However, if he's still giving up hits from the stretch, he's probably not going to be the bargain most want him to be.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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