Being able to find dependable starting pitching at the back end of fantasy baseball drafts is often a measure of that team’s success.
Once the big bucks are spent, snagging a mid- to late-round pitcher like the San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum could prove to be what your team needs to put you over the top.
» Tim Lincecum, SP (current ADP: #213):
No one in recent memory has fallen off more than Giants’ starter Tim Lincecum.
If you recall, the 29-year-old won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008-09 — long hair, stoner look and all.
He also led the NL in strikeouts those two years, as well as in 2010.
Lincecum was on the brink of achieving greatness — if he hadn’t done so already.
For two more seasons, Lincecum continued to blow hitters away, and finished 2011 with a phenomenal 2.74 ERA.
Then came 2012.
His ERA (5.18) and WHIP (1.47) were atrocious, but it was his propensity to give up the home run ball that made his season crumble.
In just 186.0 IP, Lincecum gave up 23 HR (29th in HR/9), which led to a career-worst 107 earned runs. His HR/FB ratio of 14.6% was more than 5% worse than his previous low. He also issued 90 free passes, the most in any season during his career.
It’s possible all the wear and tear from his Cy Young campaigns had caught up with him. During those two years, Lincecum led all major-leaguers with 452.1 innings pitched.
Despite the declining numbers, Lincecum still managed to rack up 190 K, something that has never waned — even in bad years.
It was Giants’ playoff run that year that may have turned around his career, though.
Lincecum was heading in the wrong direction, and manager Bruce Bochy decided to use him out of the bullpen during the playoffs. While pitching 17.2 innings over six appearances, Lincecum allowed just 5 ER and struck out 20, helping the Giants win a World Series title.
Things definitely improved in the control department last season.
His ERA was down to 4.37 and he only walked 76 batters. The home runs were still there (21), but beggars can’t be choosers. He finished with yet another 190+ K season and even achieved his first career no-hitter.
The days of Lincecum’s sub-3.00 ERAs are over. He’s put far too much strain on his arm to think he can be that dominant again. Since 2010, though, he has the fifth-most strikeouts in all of baseball — and that is something owners can bank on.
The Giants must see some renewed potential in Tim Lincecum, because they signed him to a two-year, $35 million contract this winter. Fantasy owners looking for a “name” in the bottom third of their draft could do far worse. He’s not yet 30, plays his home games in a pitcher’s park, and has a solid bullpen to back him up.
2014 Projections: 13-11, 4.19 ERA, 189 K, 1.30 WHIP, 192.0 IP
» Missed any of my earlier picks? Please click here for links to all the sleepers I’ve have covered from each team so far.