Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
He did what? That was my reaction when I heard that San Francisco Giants starter Tim Lincecum, in a performance straight out of 2008, threw a no-hitter and struck out 13 Saturday night against the San Diego Padres.
Lincecum won two Cy Young Awards and had a 2.81 ERA and a 9.97 K/9 from 2008-11 but frankly, considering how he has pitched the last two seasons, I'd have been less surprised to hear that he allowed 15 hits and 10 runs Saturday.
Fantasy owners shouldn't let the game cloud their vision, however; this was likely a one-off performance, one last burst of light from a once-blinding star.
That doesn't mean the no-hitter was meaningless; even if it doesn't say much about Lincecum's long-term prospects, it does give owners something recent to use as a selling point. Instead of peddling what Lincecum did in the past and harping on the fact that he still had a 9.19 K/9 and a 4.18 FIP last season, fantasy owners can point to this start as proof that Lincecum is "back," even if that isn't necessarily true.
Overall, Lincecum's ERA is 4.26 and his WHIP is 1.33, and he's not likely to get much better than that, even with a 9.67 K/9 and a 3.34 FIP.
Lincecum is still plenty good at limiting contact -- his 11.6 percent swing- and-miss rate ranks sixth in baseball -- due to the effectiveness of his secondary stuff, but it's what happens when batters make contact that has been troubling for the right-hander.
While he has made improvements from last season, lowering his BB/9 by 0.64 and his HR/9 by 0.34, he still has allowed too much hard contact for comfort. His line-drive rate for the season is a career-worst 26.6 percent, and that number is even worse with runners in scoring position (RISP) at 28.1 percent. That should tell you why he has stranded just 67.4 percent of his baserunners.
Even when we include Saturday's game, in which Lincecum allowed only two line drives, the right-hander still has a 26.8 percent line-drive rate during his three starts in July. He had a 29.5 percent line-drive rate last month, when he had a 3.60 ERA, and his BABIP was .318. This month, however, he has been more fortunate on balls in play and has a .262 BABIP and a 2.53 ERA.
Lincecum also threw 148 pitches Saturday, the most in the majors since Edwin Jackson threw 149 in his no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2010, and that is obviously the most immediate concern.
After his no-no, Jackson allowed 38 hits and 22 earned runs while walking 15 in 27 1/3 innings over his next five starts. New York Mets starter Johan Santana threw 134 pitches during his no-hitter last June against the St. Louis Cardinals, and he went 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA over his next 10 starts before being shut down for the season.
Those two cases are not guaranteed to be indicators of how Lincecum will do the rest of this season, but they are worth mentioning considering the right-hander already has been struggling with reduced fastball velocity since last year.
For those who stuck by Lincecum this season, even through a month of May in which he had a 6.37 ERA, his stock is higher now than it has been in about 15 months. Don't hesitate to cash out.
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