On February 15, the Atlanta Braves will be among several teams to watch former San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum pitch at the Driveline Baseball facility.
With Lincecum showcasing at the Driveline facility, this make me feel that Lincecum has legitimate potential for a comeback. As you may have read in a recent post by Jeff Schafer here on Tomahawk Take, Atlanta Braves prospect Kyle Muller was throwing 95mph+ at Driveline. I praise pitchers that utilize Driveline because the facility uses modern technology to analyze every aspect of a pitchers pitching motion, and they are well known for developing velocity.
One of the telling reasons that Lincecum fell off of the map as a relevant pitcher was because of his decease in velocity. In 2007-08, his fastball averaged 94.5 mph. That dropped to 93 in 2009, 92 in 2010. By 2014 he was down to 90.4 mph, and that was about that.
If Lincecum has been working with the folks over at Driveline and restored some/most of his prior velocity, I have a strong feeling that we could see Lincecum back in the majors in some sort of capacity.
But the big question: Will Lincecum regain his ace status?
More than likely, no. Could he be a middle or end-of-the-rotation starter? Absolutely. Could he end up in the bullpen? Most likely.
I feel that if the Braves, or any other team, sign Lincecum to a minor league contact, the end result may be similar to Atlanta Braves’ signing of Ryan Howard in 2017. But if Lincecum has regained the strength in his hip, at 33 years old, then I wouldn’t put some type of comeback past him.
Before his hip surgery, Lincecum pitched for 9 years with the Giants from 2007-2015 and 1 year with the Los Angeles Angels in 2016. He won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009 along with 4 All Star selections (2008-2011). After 2011 is when Lincecum began to fade as a dominant pitcher.
From 2012-2015, Lincecum pitched a 4.68 ERA, 75 ERA+, 4.08 FIP, and a 1.402 WHIP as compared to the first 5 years of his career from 2007-2011 where he pitched a 2.98 ERA, 137 ERA+, 2.93 FIP, and a 1.118 WHIP.
My issue with Lincecum’s return…
He wasn’t a dominant pitcher when he required season-ending surgery in 2015: it had been a gradual downward progression: it’s not like he was dominating and all of the sudden required surgery.
Due to the fact that Lincecum fell off of the board as one of the leagues best pitchers in the years leading up to 2015, I feel that several teams may shy away from giving him a shot, but this is all just speculation before he shows teams what he’s got on Feb. 15. If he comes out of the gate throwing gas, I would expect many teams to hop on the hype train of a Tim Lincecum return.
Does Lincecum’s comeback attempt affect the Atlanta Braves?
Not really. A Lincecum signing would at the very least give the Braves a bit of positive publicity. The last such bits were the Matt Kemp trade and the Alex Anthopoulos hiring. Before that was a storm of negativity with the John Coppolella scandal and the loss of 13 international prospects.
However, Lincecum is at least worthy to have a look at. Any type of production out of Lincecum would be a plus as signing him would be a low risk with the potential for a high reward for which ever team signs him.
Where might Lincecum land?
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My gut tells me the San Francisco Giants. The Giants have taken a huge chance with aging stars in Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, and just recently in 2017 signed former Giant star Pablo Sandovol.
The Giants recent history of going after aging stars and former stand out players who used to be on the team which makes me believe they will push hard to reunite with Lincecum. Plus, he’d be cheap and cheap is what the Giants need now.
The current Giants rotation consists of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Ty Blach, and Chris Stratton. If Lincecum proves that he can pitch at the big league level once again on Feb. 15 and beyond, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Giants would try to put him in the rotation, or at least give him a relief position in their bullpen.
But Lincecum to the Braves? Not much of a reality there… ♫ Dream on ♫