So what are Fantasy owners to make of Tim Lincecum in 2014? It seems for every season, there is a new story. The Giants right-hander and back-to-back National League Cy Young Award winner (boy, have those memories faded!) is off to another poor start.
And don't claim his last start against San Diego as a triumph. Three runs on six hits in six innings against the weakest-hitting team in the game doesn't qualify as a rebound. He owns a 6.43 ERA and is throwing an inordinate number of pitches that are once again preventing him from going deep into games. Lincecum is averaging 5.25 innings per start.
But what is strange and different this year is that Lincecum is exhibiting better control, at least so far, than he has at any point in his career. He is averaging 1.7 walks per nine innings - his previous best for a full season is 2.7. What that indicates is that he has decided to trust his stuff again. But what it also indicates is that his stuff, particularly his velocity, has so deteriorated over the years that he might be better off nibbling. And no pitcher should be better off nibbling.
Lincecum has lost at least 10 miles an hour off a fastball that several years ago earned him the endearing moniker "The Freak." Some can make the transformation from power pitcher to finesse pitcher, but Lincecum might simply be incapable of consistently keeping hitters off-balance.
The result this year - granted, it's early - is 27 hits, including six home runs, in 21 innings pitched. Opposing hitters are not sending dribblers through the infield or Texas Leaguers falling into the outfield. Lincecum is getting mashed. He throws Fantasy owners an occasional bone with a strong start and plenty of strikeouts - he has 24 this season. But even the whiffs are not much of a bonus when hitters are fanning an average of eight times a game in this day of windmills in the batter's box.
The temptation for Fantasy owners to draft Lincecum in a round no longer warranted by his numbers has dissipated, but not disappeared. The temptation to stick him in lineups remains, but the result is usually disappointment and frustration. One must keep in mind that despite a decent 2013, he is three years removed from elite status.