Clayton Kershaw has 20 wins this year. Five of them have come against the arch-rival Giants. Four of them have come when Tim Lincecum was going for San Francisco. In short, he has crushed his enemies, has seen them driven before him, and has heard the lamentation of their women.
Last night was no different. He allowed one run on six hits over seven and a third. He has done his fair share to stay in — and maybe take a slight lead — in the three-man race for the NL Cy Young award. Yes, his 2.27 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 242/53 K/BB ratio in 226 innings keeps him very close to Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, but his 20 wins on a weak team may give voters something to grab onto in the near-impossible task of differentiating these guys.
As for Lincecum, he has had quite a bad bit of luck this year. Against Kershaw this season he has an 0-3 record, but a 1.24 ERA. Someone may look at his 13-13 record and ask “what’s wrong with Timmy,” but the first thing that needs to be said about that is that Lincecum got zero or one run of support in 11 of those losses. Overall he’s been a better pitcher this year than he was last year.
The wins just tell a different story. One that says more about the Giants’ offense — and a man named Kershaw — than they do about Lincecum himself.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.