Lincecum Versus Verducci and PAP

One of the great unknowns heading into the 2009 season is how fantasy players will treat reigning Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. On the one hand, we have the top fantasy hurler in the National League, one who led the league in strikeouts, finished second in wins and ERA and eighth in WHIP. On the other hand, Lincecum led the majors in Baseball Prospectus’ Pitcher Abuse Points and he topped Tom Verducci’s magical line of an increase of 30 IP for a starter under 25.

There is enough of a backlash against strict adherence to pitch counts from all corners of baseball that Lincecum’s value would probably not be hurt by that alone. But when combined with his innings pitched increase of 49.2 from his combined majors + minors total in 2007, there are going to be more than a handful of people wary of investing too much in the Giants’ ace.

The Bill James projection system has Lincecum with another outstanding year in 2009, nearly matching his wins and WHIP from a year ago, showing a slight increase in strikeouts but a 0.40 drop in ERA. James even predicts 13 more innings pitched from Lincecum in 2009. But James is one of the critics of the Pitcher Abuse Points system.

The Marcel projection for Lincecum does not show him coming anywhere close to his 2008 numbers. But the Marcel projections are not particularly reliable for players with his experience in the majors.

Ultimately, each fantasy player will have to decide how much to weigh Lincecum’s obvious talents versus the systems that predict bad things for him based on how comparable pitchers have fared under his work load in the past.

However, it’s always nice to get an ace starter at a reduced cost.




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16 Responses to “Lincecum Versus Verducci and PAP”

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  1. Jason Collette says:

    Seabiscuit is certainly an interesting case. There are quite a few names that will make the list this year such as Jonathan Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco who had huge spikes and Chad Billingsley not too far behind him.

    I think you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t with Lincecum. Current owners will want full value for him and likely have him cheap in keeper leagues while inquiring owners are going to be hesitant about paying full value because of the PAP concerns.

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    • Rex says:

      Is that for his small stature or for his horse face?

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      • Jason Collette says:

        :)

        The size….reminds me of Billy Wagner when he came out of Ferrum. Looks more like the kid that cuts your lawn than someone who can throw 97

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      • Kincaid says:

        According to an SI article on Lincecum, he was starting one night on the road (in Washington, I think?) and was stopped by security on his way in before the game because they thought he was some random kid trying to sneak in the players’ entrance.

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  2. Andrew says:

    Just to clarify (not that it matters much), but Lincecum’s 1.17 WHIP did not lead the league; it was 8th in the NL among those with 162 IP or more… I think maybe you meant his BAA? He did lead the NL in that category. http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/stats/bycategory?cat=Pitching&conference=NL&year=season_2008&qualified=1&sort=138

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  3. Jack says:

    Tim Lincecum is the most flexible player in the majors and a top 5 athlete. He lunges a foot and half farther on his delivery than the average pitcher. Verducci doesnt apply to him, he is physical specimen like no other. He can walk on his hands. Bill James is smarter than you all

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    • Watcher says:

      You beat me too it. The standard laws of physics and PAP don’t seem to apply to this kid. He doesn’t even ice his arm after starts. There’s something very, very different about him, and the way he’s trained his muscles.

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    • Ryan S says:

      Agreed, his mechanics compensate for the massive amounts of torque on the shoulder and elbow that most pitchers generate from their throwing motion. There was a great article written on this subject during last season, which you can find here: http://www.chrisoleary.com/projects/Baseball/Pitching/ProfessionalPitcherAnalyses/TimLincecum.html

      The author obviously feels that, in the long term, the little guy will probabbly run into to arm trouble. But for next season, all bets are on that he remains at the top of his game. He will not go the way of Mark Prior, at least not this season.

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      • Larry Yocum says:

        By the way, we should contact Chris O’leary and ask him how much his opinion has changed since last year. I remember reading his coverage of Lincecum last season and I remember it being much more positive, but I could be wrong. He updated the piece recently when he found some new film footage.

        Also, O’leary has often been a critic of the inverted L, but it doesn’t appear as bad as the inverted W or the L and W together in a windup. I’m not the mechanical guy that O’leary is and I respect his work, but Lincecum’s L is not as pronounced as others and as O’leary says himself, it is not a clear indication that he will have problems. It would appear that the inverted W is much more dangerous for the longterm health of a pitcher.

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      • Chris says:

        You shouldn’t judge a pitcher by W’s and L’s.

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  4. Larry Yocum says:

    Hey Brian,

    I prepared my response in detail to Patrick DiCaprio over at the The Generals site, but it is no more, so I can’t pull it up. : (
    So, you know where I stand on the issue. I think pitchcounts have their place, but they need to be applied to the individual based on performance. Some guys get put more strain on their arm, elbow, shoulder, etc., or don’t have the stamina to safely throw 120 pitches on a regular basis. Lincecum has always thrown high pitch counts and as somebody else said, doesn’t ice and has never missed a start due to injury. EVER.

    I too wish that Boochey didn’t ride him like a rented mule, but I also think the kid is special. He just does things differently. Last season after a 120+ outing the kid comes to the edge of the dugout and frickin does one arm pullups with his pitching arm. It was ridiculous. Most guys bundle up in their little jackets or throw the ice on and look completely gassed and this kid is doing pullups on the dugout. The coaching staff looked like they wanted to slap him, either out of jeolousy or to tell him not to do that kind of stuff.

    This is going to be a hot topic for years to come and isn’t going away anytime soon. I’m much more concerned with Justin Verlander, who has shown signs of fatigue in the second half each season, has always been on pitch counts, and something was just wrong last year. He has also been high up the PAP chart each season.

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  5. Brian Joura says:

    Hi Larry – I’m surprised it took you this long to comment! Anyway, thanks as always for reading and leaving your thoughts – it’s very much appreciated. Here is the link to your Lincecum piece at FBG:

    http://archive.fantasybaseballgenerals.com/2008/09/tim-lincecum-and-pitch-counts.html

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  6. kevinclay says:

    Can someone please tell me why pitchers were able to throw over 300 innings in the 60′s without there arms falling off. Jenkins went 9 seasons in a row with 270+ip. Drysdale 4 straight seasons with 300+ and eras of <3.00. Carlton threw 346 inns in ’72 with no injuries (though his era jumped by 2 runs). Seaver went 11 of 12 seasons with 270+ well after they lowered the pitching mound. My theory is it has a lot to do with our diets these days. Even if you try to eat healthy (meaning large quantities of raw fruits and vegetables) which most athletes do not, the vegetables don’t have the minerals they used to because of farming methods. The table salt we used is not easily used by our bodies, we don’t drink adequate amounts of just water, and oil is used only to fry food in. The connective tissue and muscles must surely suffer as well as the rest of the body.

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  7. Brian Joura says:

    kevinclay, the following pitchers were also from that same era you mentioned and had some great seasons but were unable to put in the lengthy careers as their Hall of Fame counterparts:

    Steve Barber, Dave Boswell, Jim Bouton, Ron Bryant, Wally Bunker, Steve Busby, Dean Chance, Sammy Ellis, Chuck Estrada, Wayne Garland, Gary Gentry, Don Gullett, Denny McLain, Jim Merritt, Andy Messersmith, Gary Nolan, J.R. Richard, Wayne Simpson and many, many others.

    Jim Bouton won 39 games as a 24-25 year old. He won 16 the rest of his career. Don Gullett pitched 218 innings as a 20-year old. He didn’t make it past age 27. Denny McLain hurled 661 innings over two seasons as a 24-25 year old. He was washed up at 28. Ron Bryant pitched 270 innings as a 25-year old. He was out of baseball two years later. All of these pitchers had great success early and then flamed out from overuse.

    We remember the survivors but the ones who couldn’t handle the workload are important to consider, too.

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  8. Alireza says:

    O’Leary has had mixed reviews about Lincecum’s mechanics because he does make a bit of an inverted L but doesn’t seem to have the timing problems that come along with most inverted Ls and Ws.

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