Dan Haren, Tim Lincecum, and Perception Gaps

An hour ago, we released the results of our free agent crowdsourcing project, in the form of a list sorted by the highest projected contract values. On that list, Tim Lincecum was projected to sign the 10th largest free agent contract of any player this winter, coming in at $40 million over three years, even though it is pretty clear that the Giants are going to make Lincecum a qualifying offer, which will require any team signing him to give up a draft pick and the draft dollars that go along with that spot.

The crowd was not so optimistic about Dan Haren, however. He’s projected to earn $19 million over two years, and the two years is rounded up from an actual estimate of 1.76 seasons, so it might be fair to categorize that as one guaranteed year and the expectation of some kind of vesting or team option. There is basically no chance that the Nationals will make Haren a qualifying offer, so he will come free of draft pick compensation to any signing team.

That’s a pretty huge gap in expected cost, especially once you factor in the draft pick. We’re talking double the guaranteed money, plus whatever value a team places on the draft dollars it is giving up, which will almost certainly translate into a few million of extra lost value. Once you factor in the value of the draft pick, the projected cost difference between the two hurlers is around $25 million. And yet, no matter how you slice their recent performance data, they look pretty darn similar.

Here is a table of their recent performance data, broken up into three different timelines. The first line is just 2013 performance, so you can see what both pitchers did last year. Then, below that, we add in 2012 data, so it’s the last two years. And then, finally, we add in 2011, so it’s the last three years. Go ahead and see if you can figure out an area where Lincecum has been better than Haren.

2013 IP BB% K% GB% HR/FB LOB% BABIP ERA- FIP- xFIP- WAR RA9-WAR
Dan Haren 169.2 4% 21% 36% 13% 70% 0.302 125 109 97 1.5 0.3
Tim Lincecum 197.2 9% 23% 45% 12% 69% 0.300 124 105 94 1.6 0.2
2012-2013 IP BB% K% GB% HR/FB LOB% BABIP ERA- FIP- xFIP- WAR RA9-WAR
Dan Haren 346.1 5% 20% 38% 13% 71% 0.302 118 108 97 3.2 1.3
Tim Lincecum 383.2 10% 23% 46% 13% 69% 0.304 132 109 96 2.5 -0.5
2011-2013 IP BB% K% GB% HR/FB LOB% BABIP ERA- FIP- xFIP- WAR RA9-WAR
Dan Haren 584.2 4% 20% 40% 11% 71% 0.290 103 95 91 9.4 6.7
Tim Lincecum 600.2 10% 24% 46% 11% 72% 0.296 112 101 93 6.1 4.4

Last year, from a results perspective, they were nearly identical. Their BB/K/GB rates suggest above average performance, but problems with home runs and runner stranding pushed their run totals to something close to replacement level. When you add in 2012 data, the story is basically the same, except Haren takes a bit of a lead by ERA. Toss in 2011, and Haren pulls way ahead by results while maintaining a slight lead in peripherals.

Lincecum gets more strikeouts and more groundballs, but Haren walks half as many batters as Lincecum does. Their HR/FB rates, BABIPs, and LOB% are all nearly identical. The overall packages are pretty similar in terms of expected results, but Haren’s actual results over the last three years have been a little bit better than Lincecum’s. So why do people think Lincecum is worth the Shane Victorino contract — plus the loss of a draft pick — while Haren is settling for something closer to the Joe Blanton deal?

Well, for one thing, there’s age. Haren is nearly four years older than Lincecum and has 600 more big league innings on his arm, so it’s easier to believe that Haren’s recent HR problems are the result of him losing his stuff as he heads towards the end of his career. People are less likely to see long term upside in a guy headed into his age-33 season as well, so even if you bet correctly on Haren being a rebound candidate, you’re probably not getting a long term rotation workhorse, while a bounce back from Lincecum could theoretically put you in position to re-sign a guy who still has several years left as a quality starter.

But, is that potential longer term reward, which you’d have to pay for with a new fancier contract in order to extract value from, really worth the significant cost difference? I don’t think so. I think the perception is that Lincecum is just a better pitcher than Haren, and so in the short term, you’re buying low on a potential ace versus just settling for a hittable end-of-the-rotation starter. That perception could be fueled by a number of things, including the fact that Lincecum’s best years were better than Haren’s best years, and perhaps the lingering memory of back-to-back Cy Young seasons still hold some weight with the crowd.

I’d suggest that Haren’s 2008/2009 seasons in Arizona were nearly as good, however, and that there’s never really been as large of a gap between them as it might appear. Especially once you factor in Haren’s impeccable track record of health — even his DL stint this summer was more of a mental health break than an actual injury — I find it hard to believe that Lincecum is actually that much more of an attractive free agent than Haren. These are the kinds of similar players where one probably shouldn’t have a strong preference either way, and the likely presence of a qualifying offer for Lincecum might even be enough to push you to prefer Haren.

At these expected prices, I wouldn’t have much interest in Lincecum, but I do think Haren might be a nifty bargain. They probably should sign for something much more similar in price to each other than what is projected here. It will be interesting to see how MLB GMs price these two comparable pitchers this winter.



Print This Post



Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Alex D
Guest
Alex D
2 years 10 months ago

While I agree with you that their values should be similar, there are more factors than age working in Lincecum’s favor. His 2013 season was better than his 2012 season (Higher IP and WAR and Lower ERA) Haren’s 2013 was worse than his 2012 season (Lower IP Higher ERA and almost the same WAR). While they were both similar in 2012-2013, Haren is trending the wrong way while Lincecum is at least trending the right way.

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
2 years 10 months ago

What everyone, including Giants fans, are trying to sort out is what that unbelievable post season performance by Lincecum in 2012 meant. I’m at a loss myself to make sense of it beyond, the clue to Lincecum is seeing him twice in a game.

Gyre
Guest
Gyre
2 years 10 months ago

that fails against Lincecum’s problems in the first inning

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
2 years 10 months ago

His more typical meltdown is by far inning 5-6.

thirteenthirteen
Guest
thirteenthirteen
2 years 10 months ago

I think even that is selective memory. We all remember how when Zito blew up in Game 4 of the NLDS, Timmy came in and was awesome. Which earned him a start in the NLCS, and then this happened: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN201210180.shtml.

JJ
Guest
JJ
2 years 10 months ago

FUCK THE GIANTS.

Deelron
Member
Deelron
2 years 10 months ago

I figured part of the difference would just be the Giants bidding against themselves to retain him (and I say that as a Giants fan), not tha he’s notably better.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Well that’s clearly not true, the Giants held to a two year offer and that is why Lincecum is going to check out free agency, according to media reports.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Whoa, I stand corrected, the Giants just outbid themselves, wow, 2 years at $35M

Westy
Guest
Westy
2 years 10 months ago

Why did Kayne propose at AT&T Park?

Because no one has accepted a ring at Dodges Stadium since 1988.

Rippers
Guest
Rippers
2 years 10 months ago

BOOM.

JS7
Guest
JS7
2 years 10 months ago

Dodges?

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
2 years 10 months ago

Kayne?

Money ball
Guest
Money ball
2 years 10 months ago

I think he meant Doyers.

Tim Armstrong
Guest
Tim Armstrong
2 years 10 months ago

working strike on the Kanye show in SJ in an hour. LOL

MrKnowNothing
Guest
MrKnowNothing
2 years 10 months ago

Last years FIP shows Lincecum being better.

But you didn’t include that stat. Despite it being a standard stat used by FG almost everywhere. Because that wouldn’t fit your narrative.

Four years younger. Better FIP. Better era. And his peak has been higher. This isn’t rocket science. Lincecum’s projected deal would end at a younger age than Haren’s would START.

cass
Guest
cass
2 years 10 months ago

One of the stats Dave included is FIP-.

Your chosen name seems to be quite accurate.

Basil Ganglia
Guest
Basil Ganglia
2 years 10 months ago

MrKnowNothing ignored that because it didn’t fit his narrative.

MrKnowNothing
Guest
MrKnowNothing
2 years 10 months ago

Did not know FIP- was the same as FIP.

Oh, wait. It isn’t.

I know that for some, reading skills are tough, but Dave loves to use FIP in articles. But in this one he has to obviously go out of his way not to. Because it didn’t support what he was saying. There’s no chance he didn’t look at their respective FIPs when writing this. He then didn’t include it.

It’s intellectual dishonesty. His point still could have easily been made as he had a lot or good evidence that support is position. That he ignored FIP, ON FANGRAPHS OF ALL PLACES, is laughable.

RJ3
Guest
RJ3
2 years 10 months ago

“Did not know FIP- was the same as FIP.

Oh, wait. It isn’t.”

FIP & FIP- are substantively the same thing. FIP- is just taking FIP and putting it into a 100 scale so that 100 is average.

You should change your name to Mr. Ignorant, in my opinion.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
2 years 10 months ago

sounds like you ignored Dave’s use of FIP- because that didn’t fit your narrative.

What color is that kettle, Mr. Pot?

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

And FIP, either one, does not capture Lincecum’s performance well for 2012-2013. Giants fans saw and know that Lincecum’s problem the past two seasons is that Lincecum has been getting blown up, either early on, or mid-game, resulting in less IP/start and higher ERA, as he would be cruising along, striking out a lot of batters until he starts giving up the key hits that drive in runs, or he would just start out like that.

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
2 years 10 months ago

If Bochy hadn’t started pulling him early, instead of believing it was a hiccup and not a seize up, his number would have been dramatically worse. I think his average inning exposure dropped by about 1 inning in 2013.

Steve
Guest
Steve
2 years 10 months ago

“Go ahead and see if you can figure out an area where Lincecum has been better than Haren.”

Cy Youngzzz

Steve
Guest
Steve
2 years 10 months ago

Also, higher Nickname Above Replacement Level.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 10 months ago

NARL-y.

cl
Guest
cl
2 years 10 months ago

What kind of a guy who writes about sports doesn’t appear to know two things about professional sports/baseball?

the first being is that it is entertainment. Lincecum might be tyhe most entertaining pitcher in baseball. haren who???
the second being is age. Older physicall anad more used up Haren is a big pass for me.

those people who make contracts arent going to pay lincecum more money just because of Lincecum’s name. his age, health, and marketability are big reasons Lincecum will get big bucks.

cl
Guest
cl
2 years 10 months ago

and sorry for my typos!

Shane
Member
Member
Shane
2 years 10 months ago

Do people still consider Lincecum entertaining? And what fan of baseball doesn’t know who Dan Haren is?

I think you’re right about age being an issue, but I don’t think the gap in marketability is huge.

Gyre
Guest
Gyre
2 years 10 months ago

There is always the question of “will the magic come back” with The Freak. I can never remember watching a game due to Haren pitching.

Moving into the AL could do wonders for Lincecum, there are places where pitchers have been restored afterall. Once you state one gets The Offer and the other doesn’t, that sets the values. Teams will have had an entire year to think thru the draft pick cost, and I expect it to have little impact this winter.

Kraemer_51
Member
Kraemer_51
2 years 10 months ago

I don’t see how moving to any AL team could help him more than staying in SF and pitching at AT&T Park.

Pitchers leave the AL to the NL to find success, not typically the other way around.

channelclemente
Guest
channelclemente
2 years 10 months ago

..and the no hitter he threw this summer. Somehow, he (Lincecum) got that splitfinger to work chest high in the strike zone. Mike Scott in 1986 is the only one I ever saw get that particular pitch to work that way. Then, next game, sos.

Gyre
Guest
Gyre
2 years 10 months ago

Kramer: sure from a pitching point of view, AT&T is great, but I was thinking of the batting that NL pitchers must do. The Freak does it different, and bats with his pitching arm in the fore.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
2 years 10 months ago

I agree with you, Shane. If a team signs Lincecum and his 2014 results are comparable to his 2012/2013 results, the fans will not flock to the stadium to watch him pitch. They’ll be more likely to boo him.

thirteenthirteen
Guest
thirteenthirteen
2 years 10 months ago

When Lincecum is going well, he’s one of the most entertaining pitchers to watch, IMHO. The fact that he could implode at any moment just adds that little extra excitement to an outing.

Matthew
Member
Member
2 years 10 months ago

Haren is one year older than Wainwright,Shields and Iwakuma. Two years younger than Cliff Lee. Seven years younger than Colon.

He is older, but decline isn’t a death sentence to pitchers with plus control.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

What fans really find entertaining is pitching well and winning a lot of games. He’s not done either very much the past couple of years.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
2 years 10 months ago

People don’t go to games to watch famous pitchers who aren’t good anymore. They go to games to watch good teams win. And teams get there by spending their money wisely to try to field a good team. Look at the team just across the bay if you want a good example of this.

WillieMaysField
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Giants drew 3.3m. A’s drew 1.9m.

Gregory
Member
Gregory
2 years 10 months ago

Swinging strike rates? Timmy gets more whiffs and I think there’s a perception that he has better stuff.

jim S.
Guest
jim S.
2 years 10 months ago

Watching both pitch, Lincecum has considerably better stuff. Thus, more upside.

Adam C
Guest
Adam C
2 years 10 months ago

The key question is what can be reasonably expected for Lincecum in the next 3-4 years? I think we can all agree that the 2008-09 version of Lincecum is long gone, never to return. But can he rebound and be a #2-#3 type starter? Can Linceum return to the 2010-11 version of himself? He’s an enigma. He still gets lots of strikeouts but the walks are hurting him. He’s never been a control artist but in 2008-10 he did limit his walks.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
2 years 10 months ago

Lincecum and Ubaldo Jimenez seems like a more apt compare/contrast to make.

AK7007
Member
AK7007
2 years 10 months ago

This. People (GMs) can imagine a high ceiling to these types of pitchers. Scout-types see the pitches (whiffs) and start to drool. The fake world projections actually don’t think they are that far apart in value though.

Jason Lukehart
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

You don’t really have to “imagine” a high ceiling for Jimenez, as he was the best pitcher in the American League after the All-Star break this season.

If Timmy just established the market for Ubaldo, I’m sad to say Ubaldo will be leaving Cleveland.

Bip
Guest
Bip
2 years 10 months ago

Cleveland might have a shot if they give him a qualifying offer, as that could suppress his value to other teams and give Cleveland and better shot at resigning him. I would expect Ubaldo to get more however, if not in AAV then in years.

Bip
Guest
Bip
2 years 10 months ago

Not this year. Ubaldo did a lot to reestablish his value this year. But even still, Haren was chosen for a reason, and that is to illustrate how two pitchers who are not that different, both in terms of recent and long-term career trajectory, can be perceived to have totally different current value. If introducing Jimenez as an example can help explain why Haren and Lincecum are valued so differently, then that will be interesting and relevant.

Ted Nelson
Guest
Ted Nelson
2 years 10 months ago

Could definitely be a misperception, could also have something to do with Haren’s back issues.

Matthew
Member
Member
2 years 10 months ago

Haren needs to get his GB% rate back and he’ll be ok. Baseball is full of pitchers that thrive on control and GB%. They age well.
If Lincecum’s command is so bad, that he can’t keep the ball in the park at AT&T,

I think he could beyond saving. Someone like Seattle,Pittsburgh,Oakland or Tampa should sign him. At best you get a front line starter. If his HR problem continues, it could be suppressed by the ballpark.

Eminor3rd
Guest
Eminor3rd
2 years 10 months ago

I think it has to do with the fact that Haren JUST busted at being a bounceback candidate THIS year.

eddiegaedel
Member
eddiegaedel
2 years 10 months ago

The reason I value Lincecum more is that I think his downside is much higher than Haren. If both fail as starters next season, Lincecum has shown the potential to be a valuable reliever. If Haren fails as a starter, his career might be over. That being said, the gap is probably way bigger than it should be.

Bip
Guest
Bip
2 years 10 months ago

Considering a 2/20 is a fair price for a very good reliever, it doesn’t make the gap look much better.

a5ehren
Guest
a5ehren
2 years 10 months ago

So it turns out the FG community whiffed on our first chance this offseason.

2/$35M for Lincecum……..

Andrew Burnham
Guest
Andrew Burnham
2 years 10 months ago

More like Brian Sabean whiffed on that contract

a5ehren
Guest
a5ehren
2 years 10 months ago

Well yeah.

The Sweat of Chris Sabo
Guest
The Sweat of Chris Sabo
2 years 10 months ago

Strike two.

Beat the Dodgers on the field, Sabean.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

Well, on the field, the Giants have two World Championships from 2010-2013: what had the Dodgers done?

AK7007
Member
AK7007
2 years 10 months ago

It was our job to figure out which idiot would go the highest, so I guess we whiffed there. But since he didn’t even let timmy hit free agency, there isn’t even a winner’s curse in action – just plain cursing. Lincecum is might be my favorite player, but that doesn’t mean that I want to see the Giants suck through crappy contracts.

Hank G.
Guest
Hank G.
2 years 10 months ago

He had that Zito money to throw away.

Slats
Guest
Slats
2 years 10 months ago

This is a bargain…if the year is 2008.

The Sweat of Chris Sabo
Guest
The Sweat of Chris Sabo
2 years 10 months ago

Yet it is a Giant overpay in 2013.

Gyre
Guest
Gyre
2 years 10 months ago

well, it you think of it as an enhanced Qualifying Offer….

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

What’s very clear about the Lincecum contract, and that wasn’t discussed in the article, is that the fans crowdsourced Lincecum to be 2 years at $23.7M and that is very close to what is noted for Haren. It was that the voters thought that a team would outbid the other teams by offering another year.

AK7007
Member
AK7007
2 years 10 months ago

Instead, Sabean decided to pay 4.15 million a year more than that – which seems steep, even if you don’t have to pay that third year. It was about preventing free agency ever being a thing.

Thinking logically though, lets pretend that the Giants were planning on trotting out a 145 million dollar payroll for 2014. (Baer said it was increasing) They just went from 110 million committed after arbitration and bench types to 127 million committed. That means that before, there was 35 million to fill three rotation slots (or two if you are comfortable with Petit), left field/first base depending on Belt’s position, and Javier Lopez. (that’s discounting the fact that Sandoval probably needs to be replaced) Now, there are two rotation slots (probably only one, they’ll have to settle for a Petit type), LF/1B, and Javier Lopez that have 17.5 million to share.

Lopez is getting around 6 million probably. That means the Giants are getting either one mediocre outfielder and praying for rotation help, or they are getting rotation help and standing pat with the outfielders. The Lincecum contract overextended them. Maybe he would have fit in at 13/per, but 17.5/per makes it hard to fit things around him.

Blurs
Guest
Blurs
2 years 10 months ago

I guess the Mariners pitch of “we have weed!” didn’t go so well.

Matthew
Member
Member
2 years 10 months ago

Actually, the community was decently accurate. We said 3 years/$40. He got 2/$35. Higher AAV, but less years.

Terrible contract though. We are looking at 3.5 WAR expectations… He is getting paid like a top 20 pitchers for 2 years.

Gyre
Guest
Gyre
2 years 10 months ago

Actually I’m surprised that Lincecum would agree to two years when chances were good that a bigger/longer contract was only a few months away. It seem to put him in a worse position in the future, unless the magic comes back.

Jason Lukehart
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

I don’t think a better contract was out there for him, not in terms of AAV anyway.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 10 months ago

Maybe he hopes the magic comes back, and pitching in the NL, in a weak division and in a great pitchers park is probably the best place for that to happen.

Of course, he if was confident about it he takes a QO and hopes it comes back next year.

So he kind of compromised, more guaranteed money than a QO, less guaranteed money than a 3 year deal, and a chance to test free agency 1 yr earlier than a 3 yr deal, and 1 yr later than a QO, and he gets to do it in the best place to put up good numbers

Scott
Guest
Scott
2 years 10 months ago

WAR isn’t $5 million/win anymore though. It’s more like $7 million/win: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2013/10/15/4818740/how-much-does-a-win-really-cost

That still means they’re paying him like he’s a 2.5 win player, which is much more realistic than 3.5 wins.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 10 months ago

7 million a win in terms of team revenue, but teams only spend 50% of their revenue on salary (overhead, profit), so actual salary paid per win is about 3.6 million. Free agents get more than the average though since guys like Trout get underpaid. How much more depends on the team, big market vs small market, and need (if team perceives the signing as something that makes the difference between getting to the playoffs or not)

Bip
Guest
Bip
2 years 10 months ago

Remember how the Angels were criticized for declining to give Mike Trout a huge raise out of the goodness of their hearts, instead opting to pay him only a little more than compelled to by Major League Baseball? As if Pujols and Hamilton weren’t absorbing all their good-will money? Yeah, that could be what’s going on here.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 10 months ago

So….the Giants have freed up their goodwill money they were giving to Barry Zito and decided to give it to TIMMAH! instead?

Matthew
Member
Member
2 years 10 months ago

I think we are perhaps doing two thing. Underestimating the Giants payroll and how willing the front office is to overpay.

The Giants are third in attendance and have TV money flowing, yet are 6th in payroll. They have good deals on a bunch of players, but lack upside. They really have no young players and prospects. Will everyone except Cain/Lincecum probably earn what they are getting paid? Probably, but they don’t anyone getting grossly underpaid either.

WillieMaysField
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

I had Lincecum at 3 for 42M. So the Giants paid a little more for keeping it to two years.

wpDiscuz