Hall of Fame Case: Tim Lincecumby Jordan Leandre January 5, 2022 1 comment
It was a tale of two careers for longtime Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum. The first half saw Cy Young Awards and All-Star Games; the second saw injuries and a loss of velocity. Overall, the former Giants great posted a 3.74 ERA, a 3.60 SIERA, struck out 1,756 batters and accumulated 27.5 fWAR in 10 seasons. He won two Cy Young Awards, went to four All-Star Games, led the league in strikeouts and won the World Series thrice. He added two no-hitters in 2013 and 2014––both against the San Diego Padres.
Although the numbers look impressive, it’s carried by just four seasons of excellence. What about his case for Cooperstown? Does being great for 40% of your career make you a Hall of Famer?
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As short-lived as Lincecum’s prime was, he was twice regarded as the best pitcher in the National League. On top of that, he made four All-Star Games. During that four-year peak, Lincecum posted a 2.81 ERA, a 2.81 FIP, a 3.18 SIERA, a 26.9 strikeout rate and made the All-Star team every single season.
Though 2012 and 2013 were far from the elite caliber “The Freak” once was, a 3.85 FIP, 3.86 SIERA and a 23.0 strikeout rate over 383.2 innings is still effective. He remained productive, even though his fastball dropped from 93 mph on average in 2011, down to 91.3 in 2012 and 2013. While his peak wasn’t long, it’s an enticing one to consider for Hall of Fame induction.
Ultimately, longevity matters to an extent when voting for the Hall of Fame. Lincecum was lethal in 2008 and 2009, but those two seasons accounted for 53.5% of his career fWAR. He tallied 14.7 fWAR from 2007 to 2008, just 12.8 fWAR the other eight seasons. His 27.5 fWAR would be 66th among Hall of Fame starting pitchers, dead-last among starters with at least 1,500 innings. His 3.74 ERA would be 65th, and his 3.48 FIP would be 56th.
Also, while Lincecum’s three World Series rings are impressive, he only won one as a starter, and in another, he made one postseason appearance (1.2 innings). His postseason numbers are impressive––2.40 ERA, 2.27 FIP, 2.30 SIERA and 30.0 strikeout rate––but seven of his 13 outings came in relief. Not to take anything away from relievers, but there’s a reason they aren’t popular Hall of Fame candidates.
Lastly, as far as counting stats go, Lincecum finished with just 110 wins, and had fewer than 2,000 strikeouts and innings.
Tim Lincecum had a career worth recognizing in the Giants Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, his resume lacks the substance to make a convincing Cooperstown argument. Giants fans from the late-2000s grew their fandom with Lincecum toeing the slab every fifth day, and nothing will change that. However, the Baseball Hall of Fame likely isn’t in the cards for No. 55.
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