Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I genuinely want to see the 2008-11 version of San Francisco Giants starter Tim Lincecum return. It was a joy to watch a pitcher with a wind-up like a corkscrew and a similar frame to mine turn Major League Baseball into his personal playground.
But even Lincecum realizes he'll never be that guy again. His career-low 30.9 percent four-seam fastball usage rate is evidence of that.
I'd even settle for the occasionally dominant pitcher we saw in Lincecum's last 10 starts (3.23 ERA, 1.06 WHIP), but I don't think that one is going to stick around either.
After no-hitting San Diego Padres for the second time in the last calendar year on June 25 and holding the St. Louis Cardinals scoreless over eight innings on July 1, Lincecum lowered his ERA to 4.06 and created a sell-high window I thought would never open again. It will widen even more after he faces San Diego again on Sunday and fantasy owners should climb through it.
While there are some positive signs -- Lincecum has allowed line drives at a 16.4 percent rate and home runs on just 7.7 percent of his fly balls in his last 10 starts -- I just can't buy into the idea that Lincecum has figured out how to cope with the velocity deficiency that has afflicted him in the past three years.
Of those last 10 starts came I mentioned, eight came at AT&T Park, where Lincecum has continued to pitch decently even as he's declined overall since 2012.
His swing-and-miss rate is a career-low 17.2 percent, down from 19.1 percent in his first seven seasons and just 1.1 percentage points above the MLB average. His 21.2 percent strikeout rate and 77.9 percent contact rate are also career worsts.
Lincecum still hasn't been able to solve what has been his biggest issue in the last three seasons: pitching from the stretch. It's the reason his ERA has been so much higher than his fielding-independent pitching since 2012 (4.62 ERA, 3.92 FIP).
With men on base this season, Lincecum has allowed a 24.4 percent line-drive rate, a 16.2 percent HR/FB and an 18.1 percent strikeout rate. He's fortunate to only have a .290 BABIP in those situations with such a high rate of hard contact and that good fortune won't last forever.
Following the gift that is another start against the San Diego Padres Sunday, fantasy owners should assess the trade market for the Giants right-hander.
There may be owners who think "The Freak" is back.
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