Remember when Metallica decided to collectively get sober and cut their hair? It signified a new era for the band. They began going to group therapy and getting all lovey-dovey while learning how to deal with their pent-up frustrations. They were committing themselves to something new, hoping they could recharge their careers, grasping at their legacy and all of its glorious hair-metal past to ensure it would be more than a footnote in the annals of rock music. Remember?
Metallica, meet Tim Lincecum. He too enjoyed nearly unprecedented success in the not-too-distant past. I mean this is the guy who won Cy Young Awards in each of his first two (full) seasons. This is the guy who struck out batters with authority with his long-hair-don’t-care approach on the mound. This is the guy who developed the nickname The Freak for his off-field persona as much as his unorthodox pitching mechanics on the mound. This is the guy who smoked pot and ate In-N-Out burgers and still went out and breezed through opposing lineups the way Liz Taylor breezed through spouses in her prime. This is the guy who probably knew how to ride the lightning.
Let’s also not forget that this is the same guy who had an ERA that was unsightly enough to relegate him to the bullpen for the 2012 playoffs in favor of Barry effing Zito! This is the same guy who gave up career highs in home runs and who saw his walk total rise for the 3rd straight season, even as he pitched fewer innings than the previous seasons. This is the guy who looked more like Tim Tebow on the mound than Tim Lincecum.
This is also the guy who cut his once-famous locks this week. But what does that have to do with baseball? The answer is nothing, except metaphorically it could be something.
Folks, Tim Lincecum is at precisely the same point in his career as Metallica were when they cut their hair! They both exploded out of the gates as forces to be reckoned with. They both brought unconventional approaches to the game. They both sputtered and found themselves at mid-career crossroads. And they both cut their hair. Lincecum’s new studious look could easily come to symbolize a new approach, attitude, and player this season.
So, what can we expect from The Freak going forward? Hopefully he responds to the post-haircut portion of his career better than James Hetfield & Co., who went on to create the most unintentionally hilarious movie and album of all-time immediately following their mid-career ‘epiphany.’ They’ve since become caricatures of themselves and have relegated themselves to has-beens in the pantheon of rock-stars.
I doubt Lincecum’s going to relegate himself to being a fringe starter but, realistically, gone are the Cy Young award days. That being said, with a little studying and some mechanical adjustments, Timmy can make himself relevant again. The strikeouts will always be there, so there’s that. We’ll probably see his walks continue to hover around the 90 per year range. If he commits to some changes, we can also realistically expect an ERA in the mid to upper 3s and win totals around 15 a year.
Bottom line, if I was a real-world GM and could get Lincecum at or below current market value, I’d absolutely snatch him up in hopes he’d produce the above-mentioned numbers. Sure, there’s always the risk that he’s going the way of Dontrelle Willis, but it’s a safer bet that his numbers going forward fall somewhere in between last year’s forgotten season and his career peak. He’ll never be the guy who takes the ball in Game 1 of a playoff series again, but he’ll hover between decent number two starter and an above average number three guy.
If I’m a fantasy owner, I’m not going to rely on him to be the stud he was before, but he’s well worth a mid-round pick for his strikeout totals alone.
Chris’ 2013 predictions: 165 IP, 3.70 ERA, 190 K, 95 BB, 14-10 record.