Fantasy owners that used their second or third round pick to select Giants ace Tim Lincecum, affectionately referred to as The Freak, have been banging their heads against the wall since he made his first start on Opening Day. He coughed up five earned runs that day, not even making it out of the sixth inning, and hardly looking like the player worthy of such a high draft selection. From there, he went on to give up another 11 earned runs in 8.1 innings over his next two starts, pushing his ERA to a very uncharacteristic 10.54 with an equally atrocious 1.90 WHIP and suddenly there was panic in the air. Was he hurt? Was he having a mechanical issue? Was he done?
But none of this should have been a surprise to you if you did your due diligence before making that ill-fated draft day selection. If you looked at Lincecum’s numbers over the last few seasons, you would have seen the gradual decline that has led us to this point. Both his overall strikeout total and K/9 have dropped over the last four seasons, his walk rate has increased over the last three years, and he’s given up as many home runs in the past two seasons as he did in the three years prior. These are all fairly strong indicators that there is something amiss with the overall product.
This season, not only has he been giving up runs at an alarming rate, but we have a few other things to worry about, most noticeably, his decrease in velocity. In 2007 and 2008, Lincecum’s fastball averaged around 94 mph. The next three seasons it ranged between 91.3 and 92.4 mph. This season, his fastball is down a little further, sitting around 90. Still powerful, yes, but certainly not what it used to be. Then there’s the fact that he has seemingly scrapped his slider. After gradually adding it to his repertoire, Lincecum threw his slider 15.1% of the time last season and this year, it’s already back down to 7.2% of the time and almost 2 mph slower than normal. Questions of whether or not he hurt himself while increasing its usage as he did last season have begun to re-surface again.
And even though he turned in his best start of the season and notched his first win of 2012 on Monday, there were still plenty of things wrong with his outing. Yes, he allowed just one earned run. Yes, he struck out eight batters. And yes, he was even clocked at 92 mph in the first two innings. But still, the real story is that he only lasted five innings, that he needed 108 pitches to get 15 outs and that his velocity dropped to 88 mph towards the end of his outing. Scouts at the game speculated that his hip was bothering him and that he wasn't able to drive towards the plate with his usual strength; that there was no power in his legs. So while on the surface, it looked as if Lincecum was back on track, he really is far from it.
As a fantasy owner, you have to be concerned. It’s always tough to count out a guy like Lincecum, because he has shown resilience during his career. Back in August of 2010, Lincecum finished the month 0-5 with a 7.82 ERA, by far and away his worst month of his short career. But he turned things around and had a 1.94 ERA in September and October and sported a beastly 11.23 K/9 with a 6.50 K/BB. He also had a pretty weak June last season and turned things around quite nicely, until a few late season stumbles in September. However, that trend can probably be included with the decline as he is found to be struggling during more months now than he ever was before.
To put him on the trading block now, though, would probably result in some pretty lame offers. You’re obviously not going to get full value for a guy who is struggling through April and has numerous scouts speculating injuries and decline. But sticking with him for the entire year and, in some keeper leagues, beyond that might not be the wisest move. If I were a Lincecum owner, and happily I am not, I would hope and pray for the most spectacular month of May and start shopping him then. I certainly won’t say that he’s done and I won’t speculate as to how much longer he may have at the top of the heap, but I am saying that the end is coming sooner than you think.
Now let’s get to the highlights…
|Nate Schierholtz, OF SF||6-10, 2 R, 2 3B, HR, 3 RBI, SB|
We’ll stick with the San Francisco theme here and throw the honors…the very well-deserved honors to Nick Schierholtz. The guy played both ends of the double-header on Monday and turned in 3-for-5 performances each time. He flashed a little power, he flashed a little speed and was a major reason the Giants were able to walk out of New York having taken three out of four games. For now, he seems like a worthwhile add to your team in deeper leagues, but the problems that usually arise, stem from a lack of consistent playing time and a lack of consistent power. Defensively, Schierholtz is absolutely amazing and no one plays that right field corner at AT&T Park better than he does. But he doesn’t possess the power you’d like to have in a corner outfielder and therefore, gets a few more off-days than you’d like as a fantasy owner. He does seem to be playing a little more than usual over these past two weeks, but really is only reliable in a plug-and-play situation.
|Cody Ross, OF BOS||2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI|
|Juan Uribe, 3B LAD||4-4, 2 R, 3 RBI|
|Jason Kubel, OF ARI||3-4, 2 R, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI, BB|
|Ryan Braun, OF MIL||3-4, 2 R, 2B, HR, 2 RBI|
|Jake Peavy, SP CHW||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, 5 K|
Cody Ross seems to be endearing himself to a new set of fans with his knack for timely and sometimes dramatic performances. He had shined on several occasions with the Marlins, became a Bay Area cult hero for his late season and playoff performances with the Giants, and now steps up to help put an end to the Red Sox five-game losing streak. Though his playing time will eventually dwindle within a few months time, Ross can be a very useful fantasy asset. He may only be a career .262 hitter, but with consistent playing time and the benefits of Fenway Park (he’s a right-handed pull hitter who can bounce ‘em off the green Monster with serious regularity), Ross is very capable of increasing his average while possibly returning to that 15-20 home run range. When Carl Crawford returns, Ross should still see a good amount of action in both center and right, but once Jacoby Ellsbury returns, things get awfully cluttered in the outfield with Ryan Sweeney and the newly-acquired Marlon Byrd. But that’s still almost two months away, so enjoy the ride for now.
Juan Uribe? Insert the typical sun shining/dog’s posterior cliché here and let’s move on…
I do like seeing Jason Kubel finally making it into this section though. I was pretty high on him in the offseason as a left-handed bat leaving pitcher-friendly Target Field and heading west for hitter’s haven Chase Field, but so far the results have been fairly mediocre. He hasn’t done anything to hurt your team, but he hasn’t quite excelled to the levels I had hoped. Perhaps this is just a minor adjustment period as this is the first consistent work he’s had against NL pitching, and if so, then there’s plenty of fantasy gold on the horizon. If not, then he’s still not going to hurt you. He’ll just make for a decent number four or five outfielder for your fantasy team.
Welcome to the part, Mr. Braun. We’ve been expecting you….
And finally, let’s talk a little Jake Peavy, shall we? Some of you are probably going banana-cakes over Monday’s complete game victory, and while you have every right to celebrate right now, you better be making trade plans at the same time. The guy is a walking disaster wrapped in an Ace bandage and surrounded by gauze. He hasn’t started more than 18 games in a season over the last three years and hasn’t posted an ERA under 4.63 in the last two. His K/9 has dropped the last two seasons and his fly-ball rates are seeing a steady increase – not the recipe for someone who pitches his home games at U.S. Cellular Field. I don’t normally like to link to something I did for another site, but I learned this Peavy lesson a while ago and shared my story back in March of 2011. If you own him, you should probably give it a read.
|Ike Davis, 1B NYM||0-5, 3 K|
|David Wright, 3B NYM||0-7, R, 2 BB, 2 K|
|Mike Napoli, C TEX||0-4, 2K|
|Jason Motte, RP STL||L, BS, 27.00 ERA, 4.50 WHIP, K|
|Kyle Kendrick, SP PHI||L, 21.00 ERA, 4.00 WHIP, K|
Nothing too surprising here…
The Mets are struggling offensively and got swept by the Giants in the Monday double-header, so while I still believe in both of these guys for the long haul, both Ike Davis and David Wright hosed plenty of fantasy folk with their doughnuts in the boxscores.
Kyle Kendrick got the spot start with Cliff Lee hitting the DL, but it would be tough to see him get another shot in five games time. He looked terrible on Monday, throwing just 38 of his 63 pitches for strikes while coughing up seven runs off 11 hits and a walk in just three innings of work. Maybe the Phillies will get lucky and have an off day that will permit them to skip a start for him and just hold tight until Lee returns.
Tough break for Jason Motte who blew the save on Monday for the Cardinals, but hey…these things happen. On the bright side, these were the first runs he’s given up since April 8th and no one’s talking about him losing his job So he’s got that going for him…which is nice.
Chipper Jones, 3B ATL – knee (questionable)
Nolan Reimold, OF BAL – neck (questionable)
Brandon Phillips, 2B CIN – hamstring (questionable)
Travis Buck, OF HOU – hamstring (questionable)
Omar Infante, 2B MIA – groin (questionable)
Alexi Casilla, 2B MIN – illness (questionable)
Jason Bay, OF NYM – ribs (questionable)
Hunter Pence, OF PHI – shoulder (questionable)
Kyle Blanks, OF SD – shoulder (15-day DL, out for season)
Jon Jay, OF STL – shoulder (questionable)
Adrian Beltre, 3B TEX – leg (questionable)
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B WAS – shoulder (questionable)
Takashi Saito, RP ARI – on Class-A rehab assignment
Tim Hudson, SP ATL – expected to return April 27
Tsuyoshi Wada, SP BAL – on Triple-A rehab assignment
Daisuke Matsuzaka, SP BOS – on Class-A rehab assignment
Jeanmar Gomez, SP CLE – eligible to return from suspension April 28
Lorenzo Cain, OF KC – expected to return April 27
Felipe Paulino, SP KC – expected to begin Double-A rehab assignment April 25
Freddy Sanchez, 2B SF – on Class-A rehab assignment
Mike Carp, 1B SEA – on Triple-A rehab assignment
Allen Craig, OF STL – on Class-A rehab assignment
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over ten years on a variety of web sites including his own, The Fantasy Baseball Buzz. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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