Friday, September 4, 2015

A Few Words About Tim Lincecum

Three articles in the SF Chronic today about Tim Lincecum.  I suppose, much like myself, they want to avoid writing (or thinking) about last night's game.  Ann Killion is on the front page, "Hip Surgery might mean the end of the Lincecum era."  Also in the news section next to the continuation of Ann Killion's article, from Hamed Aleaziz, "Lincecum news crushing blow for Giants fans."  Finally, John Shea's is the lead story in the sports section, "Lincecum's S.F. future in doubt."  (note: articles in are written earlier, so are slightly different and titled differently).

Just in case anyone missed the blaring subtext from the articles, they hit the reader over the head:
Killion: "While team executives say the door is still open for a Lincecum return, the subtext is that, with his contract expiring at the end of the season, he may have pitched his last game in a Giants uniform."
Aleaziz: "Known around AT&T Park as 'The Freak' Lincecum could be finished as a Giant." 
Shea:  "But suiting up for another team next season is a distinct possibility in the wake of Thursday's season-ending hip surgery."

Tim had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip and shave some of the bone that was impinging on the labrum.  From Shea, quoting trainer Dave Groeschner, "The doctor's pretty confident this is going to help him out and get back to major-league pitching for next season."  I don't know if Tim Lincecum will be able to pitch by the beginning of next season, before I read the description of the operation, I might have speculated that it would involve more intrusive surgery and possibly a year's recovery and rehabilitation time, meaning he wouldn't pitch much before 2017.  But if he can recover his form, good for him.

Every one of the articles states that Tim Lincecum's contract expires at the end of the season. So, as is true for any Giant whose contract is expiring, they may have (as the season ends) played their last game as a Giant.  Ryan Vogelsong (at the end of the season) may have pitched his last game as a Giant.  Nori Aoki (at the end of the season) may have played his last outfield as a Giant.  But these articles simply can't help but emphasize that fundamental tenet of contracts as though it were something special about Tim Lincecum.  Remember two years back, when there were already many, many questions about Tim's ability to be effective on the mound?  He was signed to a new (and very lucrative) contract.  So why the emphasis?

I think it is because the contract was so rich.  $35 million for the overall production the Giants received (although, 1 no-hitter and 1 more World Series championship) is not a good value.  But baseball contracts are never about what a player will do, they are about what a player has done.  Marco Scutaro was signed to a 2 year contract because of his tremendous 2012 stretch drive and the iconic picture of him in the rain as the Giants won the National League, not because a rational person would have expected two years of production out of him.   Tim Lincecum was paid for his two Cy Young awards, his dominant 2010 playoff and series performances, his bullpen work in 2012 and his 2 no hitters.  The Giants executives (Larry Baer and Bobby Evans) are quoted as saying that the door is open.  No Tim Tribute nights are planned, because they would be premature.  Yet these articles emphasize the obvious, that a player at contract expiration might sign with a different team.

I wouldn't expect the Giants to offer Tim Lincecum (should he, hopefully, recover and look like an awesome pitcher again) a $35 million dollar contract.  But maybe one loaded with incentives.  And who else would offer as much?  No other team's fans have the personal connection with the Timmeh that Giants fans do.  No other team is selling Lincecum jerseys in the team stores and "Let Timmy Smoke" shirts on the street corners.  I don't know if Tim Lincecum will be able to pitch at an awesome major league level next year.  But if he can, I would bet that the Giants are more likely to work a deal for him than any other club.


Ron said...

Now qualifying as a tortured Blazers' Fan & sharing a half season-ticket plan 3 ways, I must take issue with your reasoning, Zo. Let's examine your final paragraph:

- I have no issues with your 1st two sentences - they make total sense.

- The 3rd sentence is where you start to lose me. On March 5, I witnessed first-hand the destruction not only of the Trail Blazers' 2014-2015 Season, but the short-term (let's just call it 3 years minimum) future of the Franchise. Coming off of their 1st 2nd Round Playoff appearance in 14 years in 2013-2014, they were cruising along, leading their Division & maintaining home court advantage for the upcoming playoffs, with a beloved starting 5 that had been together for a few years & was getting better. Sure, Power Forward LaMarcus Aldridge was about to become a Free Agent, but everyone knew that he wanted to stay & set records in Portland, enjoyed his Teammates & the City, & believed that the core group could compete for a Championship in the very near future.

Very early in the 3rd Quarter, my favorite Player, Shooting Guard Wesley Matthews, the grittiest guy on the Team, the undrafted guy who always plays with a chip on his shoulder, the guy who HATES to lose, the guy who gets every ounce of energy out of everyone else on the Team, partially because they're a little bit scared of what he would do if they didn't, went down in a heap with what was very obviously a ruptured Achilles Tendon. Many folks in attendance, including myself, immediately worried that the whole happy plan might have just gone up in smoke.

A couples of month later, after yet another 1st round exit from the Playoffs & a very visible growing discord among the remaining Players, it all started to unravel. Small Forward Nicolas Batum was traded. After a lengthy saga, Aldridge signed with the Spurs. The Blazers didn't even try to bring back Center Robin Lopez, a guy whose effectiveness was more based on chemistry with the other 4 Starters than on ability. And, directly to your point about Lincecum, the Blazers never engaged Matthews in any discussions, because, obviously, you're going to be pretty cautious, when it comes to bringing back someone who has had pretty much the worst possible injury that a guy who constantly makes sharp cuts to get open & defends with everything that he has could possibly have. Naturally, the thinking must have been that no one would offer that guy a big Contract, & that, at some point, he could come back on reasonable terms. Guess what? The Dallas Mavericks signed him to a 4-year, $70M Contract!

- You mention Lincecum's personal connections. Matthews' personal connections are here in Portland, in his home state of Wisconsin, & in Minneapolis, where his Mom lives. The only personal connection he has to the Mavs is that the Blazers were playing the Mavs, when he blew out his Achilles.

- It is inconceivable to me that an NBA Team would commit $70M for a guy coming off an Achilles Tendon rupture. But, one Team did. It only takes one, I guess. I am distraught that my immediate sensation has come to pass - that that single injury to a beloved, favorite Player would instantly transform a Contender into a rebuilding project. Point Guard Damian Lillard is the only Starter remaining.

- As far as they merchandising angle, I tried to use that one to convince myself that the Giants would have to keep Brian Wilson. That one didn't exactly work out the way that I had sized it up.

- Luckily, the Giants' situation is not as drastic as the Blazers', because we have been winning without Lincecum for a few years, & because we have quite a few excellent pieces. But, it would be foolish to think that Tim Lincecum will have no alternative to returning to the Giants. He could very well get sizable offers to pitch elsewhere. It will then be up to him whether his heart leads him back to SF - I hope that it does, but I have a feeling that pitching for us will not be his most lucrative option.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Sure, another team could offer Timmy money, but why? He's going to be 32 and coming off surgery. In fact, I'll be surprised if the Giants offer him anything except a Spring Training invite. At this point he's a massive risk. They tried the "get a heap o'guys and some starters will come out of that" this season (Cain, Hudson, Vogie, Timmy, Peavy) and it failed miserably. Missing out on Lester hurt, and he's pitching below par, but at least he's made all his starts and has a positive WAR. I know Bochy loves Tim, as does Baer, and they know what he means to the franchise, but from a purely baseball point of view it is hard to justify pursuing him. That makes me sad, naturally.

campanari said...

Maybe Scutaro was given a reward as well as a contract, maybe not. He got three years at $20M, 2013-15, and put up a 2.7 fWAR in the first of those years. Had he not been injured, and put up 1.3-1.5 fWAR in 2014, say, he would have fully justified the contract right there. It was a rational business decision to expect him to play in 2014 at that level, and the Giants knew of no good alternative--the blossoming of Panik in 2014 was a surprise. I don't, therefore, see the comparison with the treatment of Lincecum being valid.

Lincecum had two great years, 7+ fWAR, two excellent years at about 4 fWAR, and two quite mediocre years at 1-2 fWAR. The last two have been poor, under 0.5 fWAR; and not only have they soaked up a lot of salary money, as did the mediocre years, thereby precluding the Giants' active search for someone distinctly better, they also hindered the Giants from searching for a top notch starter by the implicit assumption that Lincecum was going to be taking up one slot in the rotation, for reasons of sentimentality as well as of salary. Well, now it's clear that we need two new good starting pitchers, isn't it? Leake looks as if he will do very nicely for one of them; I hope we can re-sign him. But Bumgarner, Leake, and (under contract) Peavy, with uncertainty about Heston and vast uncertainty about Cain, won't really do. I dread the scenario in which glimmers of resurgence from Lincecum, magnified by sentimental wishful thinking, make fans and the Giants' marketing department believe that we might get by in 2016 without bringing in someone new and very good, and instead trusting that Timmy's glimmers are the glowing embers under the phoenix.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Good news about Lincecum's surgery, recovery, and future prognosis. However, I think this good news might lead other teams to offer him more than the Giants. I was hoping he could be signed as a super utility reliever. But now some team might offer him a starting position. The money won't be there in any case, but he might go for starting role.

Still, he seems to like continuity and is loyal,and he clearly thinks differently so maybe as long as the Giants approach him, he'll sign with us.

People like to start seasonal stats as if that explains every situation. But people are forgetting how good Tim pitched before things go bad. He was the good skills still but his body has not been willing. I think relieving should be his future, both for health as well as production. There was no way the Giants could know he was having hip problems before signing him, but now that we do, and he should be healthy, I hope the Giants sign him for relief.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

To clarify I was talking start of 2014 and 2015, as he was among the best pitchers on the staff until his body broke down on him.

Zo said...

My point, Ron, is that Tim would be at least as likely to get an offer from the Giants (in my opinion, at least slightly more likely) as any other team, not that he would not have any other alternative.

JC Parsons said...

We need some comparison information on this kind of injury. Anybody know of an example in the last few years? Hip labrum surgery is not real common but there must have been others. That should give us an idea of just how far fetched his return actually is.

campanari said...

If one looks on line, one finds that the vast majority of pro athletes return to playing their sport. I'm skeptical that anything will tell us, though, how likely it is that this professional athlete, who may well have been playing with deteriorating conditions in his hip for some years, can resume pitching at a high level. If his stepwise decline over the last four or more years has resulted from the hip problem, then his mechanics have kept altering and may take a long time to come back into his muscle memory. To the degree that his decline has had other causes, those are likely to remain, no? and stress on his body as the result of adjusting to the hip degeneration may well have caused other damage, no? We have seen what a "healthy" Matt Cain has been like after arthroscopy. Knowing that, ogc, on what grounds do you assume that a " healthy" Lincecum will be an optimal choice for the Giants' pen, so that you hope they hire him?

Invite him to Spring Training, as MOC suggests? Sure. Of course. But more than that? I hope not.