One week ago at AT&T Park, the second-most dominating pitching performance in big league history occurred. 'Stros whiffed often. Cheers roared. Perfection was achieved. For the Giants zealots in attendance, it was an unforgettable night by one of the game's foremost workhorses.
Sadly, it wasn't twirled by Tim Lincecum.
As Matt Cain has anchored one of the finest rotations in the National League, the former Cy Young winner, once an invaluable K machine, has horrifically underperformed, leaving owner ERAs inflated, egos bruised and deficits deep. Because of his unsightly superficial numbers, many of his owners are THIS close to ending their misery. Still, based on his 95-percent ownership in Yahoo! leagues, most have stood by the righty's side hoping his next start will be the spark that ignites a turnaround.
Too bad the Freak continues to pitch like a fake.
Concern, understandably, remains palpable for Timmy. Before his last turn June 16 in Seattle, he declared he needed to make a stand in front of his hometown crowd. Instead he resembled General Custer, surrendering five earned in five innings. Including his latest implosion, he hasn't earned a win since April 28 and has recorded only one quality start in his past nine attempts. With a 6.19 ERA, 1.57 WHIP and dreadful No. 1,021 rank in the Y! game, he's become a multi-categorical liability. When Fransucko Liriano bests you in overall value (No. 988), you know something has gone terribly wrong.
Though owners shelled out roughly $32 and sank a top-30 pick into him back in March, the unthinkable is at the forefront of their thoughts: Is it time to bail on Tim?
In short, no.
When recently asked if Lincecum would be demoted to the 'pen, Bruce Bochy faced a similar dilemma. But instead of banishing his former frontman to mop-up duty or skipping his next start, he reaffirmed his dedication to the dimming star. Optimism, at least for Bochy, still hangs in the air. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
"He's healthy. He feels good," Bochy said. "I know the results haven't been great for Timmy, but you see too many good signs. At this point the best thing is to let him fight through this. If we felt differently, we'd do it."
And by "do it," he means pulling Lincecum from the rotation.
"The kid is fighting, doing all he can do to get out of this every start," Bochy said. "He's taking it hard. At the same time he hasn't lost any fight in him."
Despite speculation to the contrary, health does not appear to be an issue. Lincecum hit 93 mph on the radar gun in Saturday's loss and still threw 92 mph in the fifth inning. Bochy acknowledged again that a loss of confidence is a big factor in Lincecum's struggles.
"It's human nature when you've had success. Self-doubt creeps in that something's going to happen rather than you controlling the situation."
For the opportunistic owner, now is the time to steal Lincecum on the cheap. For starters, his velocity, which hovered around 90 mph earlier this season, has rebounded to 92-93, an increase which should eventually improve his changeup's success. More encouragingly, he's shown little to no erosion in several key saber categories. His swinging strike (11.2), contact (74.6) and K/9 (9.70) rates have all actually improved compared to last year.
Of course, not all is rosy for the hurler. Location continues to be a bugaboo, evident in his BB/9 hike ('11: 3.57, '12: 4.79). No surprise, that downturn has also triggered a sharp rise in line-drive and HR/FB percentages. Until he hits his spots with vintage accuracy, opponents will continue to crush his mistakes. Still, considering the minimal investment needed to acquire him via trade — Tim was swapped straight up for Bryan LaHair, Mike Moustakas, Michael Brantley and Carlos Zambrano in one-for-one industry deals last week — he's well worth the minimal risk. His .330 BABIP and 3.82 xFIP arrow to High Times ahead.
It's been an unbearable stretch for the Giant failure, but, believe it or not, he has a few aces left up his sleeve.
The Noise is all-in on Tim.
Fearless Forecast (Rest of season): 121.1 IP, 7 W, 3.69 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 130 K
FLAMES OF THE WEEK
Adam Lind, Tor, 1B (19-percent owned) — Apparently all Lind needed was a slap in the face. Demoted to the minors in May because, according to Jays manager John Farrell, he was out of sorts and out of shape , the once cherished fantasy corner has trimmed down and charged up at Triple-A. With Las Vegas he's tallied a .412-6-22 (22:15 K:BB) line over just 102 at-bats, potentially paving the way for a return to the bigs. After a fast start, David Cooper has grinded to a halt. He hasn't driven in a run since June 5 and has collected just two hits in his past nine games. It seems his days as the regular 1B in Toronto are numbered. Yes, the PCL is a hitter's haven, but a motivated Lind could do wonders once recalled, which seems imminent. At 28, he should have plenty of life left in his bat. Deep leaguers in need of a power injection should snag him off waivers immediately.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 277 at-bats, .275 BA, 15 HR, 43 RBI, 35 R, 0 SB
Brandon Moss, Oak, 1B/OF (21-percent) — Josh Reddick may no longer be the "it" slugger in O-town. Tapping into his inner Canseco, Moss, the reigning AL Player of the Week, has taken the Bay Area by storm cracking five homers while driving in 10 since June 12. The 28-year-old, once a top prospect in the Red Sox organization, may be attempting to crash through the Quad-A ceiling. Moss has always exhibited prodigious power at the Triple-A level, but it's failed to translate to the senior circuit. Prior to his promotion, he tallied an impressive .286-15-33 line for Sacramento over 196 at-bats. Knowing this could be his last chance to stick at the major league level, the vagabond is seizing the moment. Now entrenched at first base for Bob Melvin's club, he's a quality add for the power starved. However, due to his high-K yield, his HR production could come at a BA cost. Think of him as a mini-Adam Dunn.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 261 at-bats, .247 BA, 12 HR, 36 RBI, 31 R, 1 SB
LAMES O' THE WEAK
Daniel Hudson, Ari, SP — After a breakout 2011, it's been a tumultuous encore for Hudson. A shoulder impingement sidelined him for two weeks in April and most of May. Since his activation he hasn't exactly lit the world on fire, evident in his ERA massacres versus Oakland June 8 (1.2 IP, 6 ER) and Seattle June 19 (4 IP, 7 ER). Still, his last start at Texas was very encouraging (7 IP, 3 ER, 7 K, 0 BB, W). Also, there are several underlying signs of additional spectacular starts to come. Overall, his profile remains intact from last year. His swinging strike, K/9 and groundball rates are nearly identical. Harmed by the home run (1.65 HR/9), he needs to keep his fastball down. Do that and his positive xFIP forecast (4.00) will lead to an ERA correction. With his numbers inflated, now's the time to steal the Snake. This week he was dealt for Justin Morneau, Jordan Schafer and Jed Lowrie in one-for-one industry deals. From this point forward he should deliver sound SP3 numbers in 12-team mixers.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 118.1 IP, 7 W, 3.78 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 98 K
Dexter Fowler, Col, OF — There might be no commodity more frustrating to own than Fowler. After a torrid May (.333-4-16-15-3), the object of inconsistency is once again on the downward swing. Through 50 at-bats this month he's collected a mere 10 hits (.200 BA) with zero homers and one stolen base. His ongoing split personality (.324 BA home, .157 BA away), struggles versus southpaws (.209 BA) and susceptibility to strikeouts (32.2 K% in June) continue to be major obstacles. If his spiral drags on, Tyler Colvin could wrest away more at-bats in the near future, putting the outfielder's rest of season viability in question. Because of his career-best ISO (.239), success against fastballs and plus speed, he's worth hanging onto in 12-team mixers. However, if the 0-fers dominate over the next couple weeks, supporters, even in deep leagues, will have plenty to cry Fowl about.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 242 at-bats, .262 BA, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 41 R, 8 SB
QUICK HITTERS (Random musings from my demented brain)
• Kevin Youkilis is a complete waste of roster space. With oodles of talent wasting away in the minors and space crowded at the corners as it is, the Sox are desperate to unload the veteran to anyone and everyone. As Ken Rosenthal noted earlier this week the Diamondbacks, White Sox, Dodgers, Indians and Pirates are teams showing "varying levels of interest." Slowly but surely slumping toward the meat grinder, Youk desperately needs a change of scenery. For some guys that's all it takes to reinvigorate the juices. But because of his tumbling ISO, walk rate and contact numbers, it's unlikely he will suddenly regain his previous form in a new locale. If shipped to the senior circuit, spend your FAAB dollars elsewhere NL-only players.
• Yet another reason why the Mayans could be correct, Mark Prior, long thought swallowed hole by a whale shark, is on the verge of netting a promotion to The Show. Time to dig that backyard bunker. So far with Triple-A Pawtucket, he's whiffed 19 in eight innings (That's right, a 21.4 K/9), surrendering just two runs. It's undetermined if he would be deployed as a reliever or starter at the next level, but given the Sox's shortcomings in both areas, the feel good story could make a miraculous return in short order. Obviously, he's not roster-worthy in shallow mixers, but for those in AL-only formats he presents a great deal of interest. His velocity has hovered in the 90-93 mph range and his curve is again bewildering the competition. Stunning. Amazing. Unreal.
• It's quite conceivable Ryan Dempster will not take the mound again as a Cub this season or possibly ever. Placed on the 15-day DL Monday with lat tightness, he could be dealt to a contender before he's eligible to return in two weeks. Buster Olney reported over the weekend the Red Sox and Dodgers are the strongest candidates to land Dempster. Plagued by a chronic lack of run support, he would benefit greatly in either location, though owners should pray he's shipped west. Already an effective groundball pitcher (1.19 GB/FB), his baseline numbers would likely stabilize playing half his games at Chavez Ravine. Given LA's offense, he could also net an additional 8-10 Ws. As an ardent Cubs supporter, and manic depressant, the day Demps is traded will be a somber one. But for Theo Epstein to rid the North Side of its World Series futility young talent must be stocked. Unfortunately, that's the business of baseball.
• When on the road, I'm always curious exactly how clean my room is. No surprise a University of Houston study unveiled that remote controls housed were a petri dish littered with bacteria. Think about it. When people are watching certain films, what's the first object they likely grab after the fact? Bingo. And with drunken antics and floozie activity also commonplace within these venues a remote is open to all sorts of unintended uses. This is why when traveling, I always pack a pair of Franklin batting gloves and a large bottle of Purrell … for cleanliness.
• Last week's "Rock of Ages" letdown was a breath of fresh air. It's about time theater patrons finally came to their senses. Musicals are the dregs of the movie-going keg. I've never understood the popularity of shows like "Glee" or massive success of "Chicago." Singing instead of saying lines is beyond ridiculous. Could you imagine if the producers of "Fantasy Football Live" wanted to incorporate a musical theme? Chris Liss may have an angelic voice (not really), but no one wants to hear his diatribes a cappella. Then again, that could be very entertaining.
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