Tim Lincecum shuts down Dodgers, lowers ERA to 2.08

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After three straight rough seasons in which he went 32-38 with a 4.76 ERA, two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is shutting lineups down again.

Wednesday night Lincecum threw seven scoreless, three-hit innings against the Dodgers, allowing zero runs for the third time in his last four starts and lowering his ERA on the season to 2.08.

Lincecum’s average fastball is down to 87 miles per hour and his secondary numbers are nowhere near as great as they used to be, including just 36 strikeouts in 48 innings and the second-worst walk rate of his career at 4.0 per nine frames.

So yes, his current success is due at least somewhat (and perhaps a lot) to smoke and mirrors, but whatever the case it’s fun to see (unless you’re a Dodgers fan) for however long it lasts. Or as the 30-year-old right-hander told Chris Haft of MLB.com:

I relied on stuff back in the day and now I’m trying to pitch my way through games. The evolution of the last few years has been pretty rocky, so I’m taking what I’ve got going right now as a definite plus.

For the first time in his career Lincecum is inducing more than 50 percent ground balls and he’s allowed just one home run in 193 plate appearances. Getting a bunch of grounders and keeping the ball in the ballpark can cancel out a lot of otherwise negative stuff.

Whether or not he can keep that up, it’s good to see The Freak back. Baseball missed him.

Braves sign Marcell Ozuna to one-year, $18 million deal

Marcell Ozuna
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The Braves have announced on Tuesday evening the signing of free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that it’s a one-year contract for $18 million.

Ozuna, 29, hit .241/.328/.472 with 29 home runs, 89 RBI, 80 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 549 plate appearances for the Cardinals last season. He’s been consistently above-average in each of the past four seasons, which also included a career year in 2017 in which he was worth 6.1 WAR, per Baseball Reference.

It is surprising that Ozuna, a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, had to settle for a one-year deal. The Braves are happy he did as he will help make up for some of the offense lost when third baseman Josh Donaldson became a free agent and ultimately signed with the Twins. Ozuna can become a free agent again after the 2020 season but won’t have qualifying offer compensation attached to him, part of the reason why his market may have been slow to develop.

Along with Ozuna, the Braves have signed in free agency this offseason reliever Will Smith, starter Cole Hamels, and catcher Travis d'Arnaud. They re-signed relievers Chris Martin and Darren O'Day, catcher Tyler Flowers, infielder Adeiny Hechavarría, and outfielder Nick Markakis.