Tim Lincecum isn’t quite back to being his old, Cy Young-winning self in terms of raw stuff or performance, but he’s bounced back from a terrible first half to quietly pitch very well for the past two months.
At the All-Star break Lincecum was 3-10 with a 6.42 ERA in 18 starts.
Since the All-Star break Lincecum is 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 13 starts.
He’s pitched better, no doubt, but it’s also worth noting that his secondary numbers in the first half weren’t nearly as bad as his ERA. For instance Lincecum struck out 104 batters in 98 innings before the break, which suggests he was anything but totally washed up and is actually a higher strikeout rate than he has in the second half.
Much of the difference in his performance came from the fact that Lincecum’s batting average on balls in play was .338 in the first half–which is very high–and is now .304 in the second half. In other words, when some of the bloopers stopped falling for hits and some of the line drives started finding gloves Lincecum magically ceased giving up runs in bunches.
You may want to attribute that to a change in luck or a change in approach or a change in the quality of his pitching, but whatever the case it’s nice to see Lincecum thriving again. And after 6.1 shutout innings against the Rockies last night his overall ERA is under 5.00 for the first time all season.
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.