Give Angels general manager Billy Eppler this much: he's trying. Eppler's effort isn't likely to keep the Angels' postseason hopes alive, but his intent is admirable. On Monday, Eppler was reportedly nearing his first addition since acquiring Brendan Ryan and Jhoulys Chacin. You might've heard of him before -- goes by the name Tim Lincecum?
Lincecum exited stage left in 2015 after just 76 innings. He posted a fine ERA during that time -- one that, when park-adjusted and whatnot, was about the norm for a starter -- but his shaky control resulted in a career-worst 1.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Long haunted by hip pain, Lincecum underwent surgery last September that has ignited the ember of hope in everyone that he's ready to get back to being good.
This is where that ember has to be -- if not extinguished, at least studied with a critical eye. Lincecum is a 30-something-year-old pitcher who, in the three seasons prior to 2015, had compiled a 73 ERA+. The Angels signed Kyle Kendrick to zero fanfare in late April. Kendrick, over his last three seasons, has a 78 ERA+. Analyzing pitchers is hardly that cut and dry -- and health is the most important attribute for any and everyone -- but Lincecum would be doing well to be a league-average starter.
Besides, let's not pretend all of Lincecum's flaws were due to his hip. One of his biggest problems was pitching from the stretch. In addition to being slow to the plate -- allowing basestealers to run without hesitation -- Lincecum was less successful in retiring hitters. Check out the gaps on his 2014-15 marks:
With all that established, it still make sense for the Angels to take a chance on Lincecum, who is likely to require a few spins in Triple-A before he's ready for the Show. The Angels are without Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, and C.J. Wilson, and have other issues brewing in their rotation: Matt Shoemaker has allowed six runs or more in half his six tries, while Jered Weaver has a 6.10 ERA and is throwing in a velocity band that qualifies him to pitch in the Pacific Association.
In other words, so what if there's no guarantee that Lincecum is an upgrade -- what do the Angels have to lose? If he stinks, he stinks; if he's good, then the Angels can reap the benefits -- be it by allowing him to start for them for the rest of the season, or by trading him for something young and interesting at the deadline. In all likelihood, Lincecum won't move the needle. That's okay, though, because there's no risk here for a team that needs all the upside it can get if it wants to stay in the playoff race deep into the summer.