Closing Time: Letting go of Lincecum

Scott Pianowski

Everyone remembers the good old days with Tim Lincecum. You had a couple of Cy Young Awards, in 2008 and 2009. He made the All-Star Team four years in a row. He topped the NL in strikeouts for three years running. Long hair and surfer looks, must-see TV by the bay.

Alas, it's time to accept the old version of Lincecum is gone somewhere, unlikely to return. Heck, that realization is well overdue, gamers.

What would it take to get you out of a Lincecum engagement today? Why is he still owned in 88 percent of Yahoo! leagues?

Lincecum was dealt his third consecutive defeat in Wednesday's 9-6 loss to Oakland, compiling a messy line along the way: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 4 K. His ERA swelled to 5.12, his WHIP now sits at 1.48. He's currently ranked 854th in Yahoo's fantasy game.

If you want to shrug and say "it's only 11 starts," okay, that's your constitutional right. But please note he posted basically the same line in 2012 (5.18/1.47), over the course of 33 starts. In other words, this guy has been a horrendous major league pitcher over 44 turns, covering 251 innings. There's a mountain of evidence against Lincecum now. We're not looking at a small sample of crummy results, we're looking at a big chunk of numbers.

Maybe he needs to go back to long hair. Ah skip it, that didn't really work in 2012 (unless you count his electric run as a playoff reliever — now there is an idea worth exploring).

To be fair, you can still construct a defense of Lincecum if you really want to. Outlier pitching stats usually come with outlier support numbers; the unlucky sign is going to flash on just about anyone getting knocked around. Lincecum's HR/FB rate has soared over the last two years, the main reason xFIP backs him up (3.50 this year). The .320 BABIP against him is the highest it's ever been, but I'm not calling that bad luck — he's allowing line drives 25.1 percent of the time, and his rate of infield pops has basically fallen off the sheet. Quality of contact tells an important story, and with Lincecum, it's a sad song we can't make better.

Another misleading positive with Lincecum comes with the strikeout rate. Sure, a punch-out clip of 9.4 per nine innings sounds nifty, but note how Lincecum's percentage of strikeouts per batter is falling significantly. He was over 28 percent in this area during his best days; over the last two years, he's in the 23-percent range. It's still a good number in a vacuum, but in this case it reflects a slipping profile. Meanwhile, his walk numbers are out of control, no matter how you want to collect and grade them (4.3/9, 10.8 percent overall).

I know some readers will wonder why we're even having this discussion, but that's where the 88-percent ownership tag comes into play. It's never easy to accept when a name brand crashes and burns, but these choppy waters have been here since the beginning of 2012. At some point you have to cut bait (I doubt he's tradable in most leagues), and if someone else picks him up and takes a chance, so be it. Let Timmy torch someone else's ratios for a while.