Tim Lincecum is good. It’s almost like he should get some sort of award. Something like: “Award for Guy Who Throws Good” or something. Nah, it’ll never happen. Watching Lincecum throw another CG against the A’s last night was just what the doctor ordered after watching Sanchez struggle against a largely punchless hitting A’s team.
Some stats re: Lincecum’s dominance this season.
- His FIP now sits at 2.08. That’s the 2nd best FIP in baseball — only Zack Greinke has a better FIP (1.90). Even if you normalize his HR rate, his xFIP is 2.80.
- Lincecum’s 10.63 strikeouts per 9 innings ranks him 3rd in baseball. Only Justin Verlander (10.84) and Javier Vasquez (10.64) squeak by Lincecum.
- Lincecum is punching out hitters via the strikeout as usual, but what’s really encouraging is that he’s walking fewer hitters this year. Lincecum’s maturation at the big league level is pretty amazing. During his first two years at Washington Lincecum was wild, walking nearly 6+ hitters a game. His BB/9 dropped to 4.5 during his final year at Washington and since he joined the Giants, he’s reduced it even more. In ’07 with the Giants, Lincecum walked 4 hitters per 9. In 2008 he walked 3.3 hitters per 9 and this year he’s lowered it to 2.4 hitters per 9. To be able to cut your walks like that against the highest level of competition speaks to the special talent that Lincecum possesses.
- I think most would agree that Lincecum’s changeup has been a large reason that he’s had so much success early in his career. According to Fangraph’s pitch type linear values — Lincecum’s changeup is the best changeup in baseball.
Lincecum finished the night with a line of: 9 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, and 12 SO.
I thought it would be fun to check up on the Giants and baserunning up to this point in the season. Baseball Prospectus has a handy (and free) player baserunning section on their website. The metric — EQBRR — is defined as:
Equivalent Base Running Runs. Measures the number of runs contributed by a player’s advancement on the bases, above what would be expected based on the number and quality of the baserunning opportunities with which the player is presented, park-adjusted and based on a multi-year run expectancy table. EqBRR is calculated as the sum of various baserunning components: Equivalent Ground Advancement Runs (EqGAR), Equivalent Stolen Base Runs (EqSBR), Equivalent Air Advancement Runs (EqAAR), Equivalent Hit Advancement Runs (EqHAR) and Equivalent Other Advancement Runs (EqOAR).
In short, how many runs above or below average a player chipped in with his feet. To the numbers.
Even though he’s struggling, Fred Lewis is still adding postive runs when he’s running the bases. Randy Winn, as usual, is a very steady and solid baserunner. He’s added almost +2 runs to this point in the season by running the bases well. Most of the rest of the team shakes out as average-ish on the base paths. Bengie Molina, probably the worst baserunner in baseball, has been docked about -3 runs to this point because of his lack of baserunning skills. But, fear not Bengie, Melvin Mora (-5.6 runs) and Carlos Lee (-4.4 runs) aren’t burning up the base paths either.
Baserunning is often an overlooked component to a player’s value. Most players won’t add much to their total lines by baserunning but occasionally you’ll get players like Fred Lewis that might add up to +5 runs — or a half-win — to their total value just by running the bases well. Or, you’ll get players like Bengie Molina who could lose up to a half-win by their baserunning.
The above baserunning numbers really make me think that Fred Lewis does a lot of things that add to his value that are pretty easy to overlook. His hitting has been in a bit of funk lately, but his components really aren’t that far off from his 2008 season.
He’s walking slightly more, striking out a little more, and hitting for a little less power. His BABIP has dropped from .367 to .340 and that might very well be indicative of his true talent BABIP level. Maybe Fred is more of a .340 BABIP guy than a .360+ BABIP guy. But, otherwise, he’s pretty close to the same guy that he was in 2008.
He’s still playing above-average defense in LF — currently around +6 runs per 150 games — and he’s still running the bases well. This all begs the question: What exactly did the Giants expect from Lewis in 2009? The preseason talk was mostly centered around him hitting 3rd and somehow, magically, transforming into a 20 HR hitter. It seems to me that the Giants saw Fred Lewis and were guilty of wish casting. Instead of focusing on the things he’s done well in his major and minor league career, the Giants’ had warped expectations of what he should be. The truth is that he’s going to strikeout, but he’s also going to walk and he’s going to hit for average power. He’s going to look bad on defense sometimes, but he’s still better than your average slow-footed LF by a half-win or more.
I like Andres Torres as much as the next fan. He’s been a really great addition to this team. He can defend in CF and he’s fast and he can handle the bat some. He’s a fine player. But he really shouldn’t be starting over Lewis against RHP. If the Giants want to sit Fred against tough lefties, I’m OK with that. But yanking him out of the lineup against RHP for doing pretty much as well as he always has is weird.
The Giants need to stop wish casting with Fred and frankly, and accurately, examine his strengths and weaknesses. The Giants will be a better team, both in the short term and long term, for it.