San Francisco Giants Must Re-Sign Tim Lincecum


Jul 14, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) in the dugout prior to the game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Many people thought Tim Lincecum would be traded at the 2013 MLB trade deadline. He wasn’t. Many think he won’t be retained by the San Francisco Giants this offseason.

Those people might be right. And if those people are right, it would hurt the Giants.

A glance at Lincecum’s stats would make re-signing him seem unreasonable, as his stats this season aren’t great; he is 5-11 with a 4.43 ERA. He has been fairly inconsistent, pitching terribly in the month of May and failing to complete five innings three times. He has been better lately, but his overall performance this year has been disappointing.

Well, that’s what the basic stats seem to indicate. However, it’s not completely true.

Since the start of June, Lincecum has compiled a decent 3.78 ERA. Excluding one start in which he surrendered eight runs in 3.2 innings, his ERA in that span is a stellar 2.89. Four of his last five starts have been quality starts, one of them being a no-hitter.

His subsequent start was appalling, but his 1.93 ERA in his last two starts brings up ample reason for optimism. His recent success has bolstered his season stats, as his FIP, basically what a pitcher’s ERA should be, is a stellar 3.61. In addition, his xFIP, which calculates what a pitcher’s ERA should be with the standard HR/FB rate, is 17th among starters in the entire MLB.

Oh, and he has averaged more innings per start than three of the top 10 pitchers (in terms of ERA).

He is gobbling up innings, having finished seven innings or more 10 times this year. In addition, he has completed seven-plus innings in four of his last five starts and five of his last eight starts. He is averaging more than six innings per start this year, having stayed in games for a long time lately.

And, he has done a good job late in games. Frankly, he’s done a good job overall.

In his most recent start, Lincecum dominated. He pitched seven innings and surrendered just one run to the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the best offensive teams in the league. The only run scored on a cheap infield hit that involved a collision between him and first baseman Brett Pill.

The Giants lost the game, but Lincecum showed that he can still dominate and compete with opposing aces (he traded scoreless innings with Rays ace David Price). He has piled on the strikeouts lately, accumulating an astonishing 49 strikeouts in his last 39 innings (or 11.31 strikeouts per nine innings).

In other words, he is still the same pitcher who has two Cy Young Awards under his belt.

Aug 3, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) throws a pitch during the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Because of his track record, his 13-strikeout no-hitter and his recent dominance, Lincecum will command a hefty paycheck on the free-agent market. Seven of his last 11 starts have been quality starts, and he has allowed more than three runs just twice in that span.

In addition, he has strayed away from walking batters. Control has been an issue for Lincecum in the past, as he walked 39 batters in his first 14 starts this year and walked a baffling 90 batters last year.

However, Lincecum has walked one batter or fewer in five of his last eight starts, having walked a mere 13 batters in his last eight starts (or about 1.6 batters per start). In addition, his K/BB ratio in those eight starts is an exceptional 4.69.

For some perspective, Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, he of the glistening 2.81 ERA, has walked about two batters per start this year. So, it’s safe to say Lincecum has done a solid job with his control.

Teams need consistent starters, and Lincecum, who has a career 3.43 ERA, can be that guy. So, he will definitely lure in a lot of cash this offseason.

If the Giants are wise, they would give him that cash.

The Giants aren’t going to give Lincecum $22 million (what he’s earning this season), but they should offer him a fairly lucrative deal. His sub-par ERA and horrid record don’t reflect what he has done lately and overall, but manager Bruce Bochy and the Giants know that he is turning a corner and can still put up gaudy numbers.

Lincecum’s mechanics are in the right place, and, for the first time since 2011, he is doing everything well. That has led to incredible outings, ones in which he has kept hitters off balance throughout the game. Lack of consistency has plagued Lincecum in the past, but he has certainly demonstrated consistency this season.

And that’s all the Giants need.

The Giants lack consistency in their rotation, as it ranks 23rd in ERA. Lincecum has helped this year and in the past, and if he bolts from, the rotation would miss him. Chad Gaudin and Ryan Vogelsong are also impending free agents, so general manger Brian Sabean the Giants have their work cut out for them this offseason.

If they don’t sign Lincecum, they would likely lock up Vogelsong and Gaudin. Vogelsong’s career was transformed when he began his second (and far more successful) stint with the Giants, and he has loved his time in Sam Francisco. He should return, which would leave two spots in the rotation.

Gaudin could fill one of them, as he has been nothing short of marvelous this season. His ERA is 2.56, and he has done a great job in San Francisco’s rotation. However, he entered this season with a lackluster 4.72 ERA as a starter and could definitely regress.

If Gaudin can sustain his incredible performance, he would be donning orange and black for at least another year (although the Giants would have to pay him). But if not, he would either be in San Francisco’s bullpen or in another uniform.

Even if both Gaudin and Vogelsong re-sign, the Giants would have one open slot in the rotation. They would have to turn to Lincecum or someone outside of the organization, as starter Barry Zito, he of the 5.21 ERA and 1.70 WHIP, wouldn’t fill it. Zito’s ludicrous $18 million club option isn’t going to be picked up, and the Giants won’t want him in their rotation.

So, the Giants would either have to sign Lincecum or add a starter from another team.

Re-signing Lincecum would be the popular choice among the fans who love the eccentric right-hander. His no-hitter united the entire Bay Area once again, and it proved that Lincecum is nothing short of a god in San Francisco.

If the Giants let him go, it would definitely anger the fans. However, more importantly, it could also anger the players and damage team chemistry. Lincecum has been an integral element to the Giants’ success on the field in his seven years with the team, and he has also been a key component to the team’s incredible chemistry.

Chemistry was key in the Giants’ two World Series titles. Without Lincecum, the chemistry would be nowhere near where it was in 2010 and in 2012.

Lincecum has proven himself on the field this season, and the result will be a solid contract. Teams will target him as a starter and a reliever, as he registered an amazing 0.69 ERA in 13 innings of relief last postseason.

Apr 26, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) during the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

In other words, there will be a rampant bidding war for Lincecum.

The Giants would have to pay Lincecum to retain him, but they wouldn’t regret doing so. He has done fabulous things in his career, and his incredible performance suggests that he will continue to do so.

And if the Giants are lucky, he will be striking out hitters and putting up quality start after quality start on the shores of McCovey Cove for years to come.