There's no sense doing this projection later in the spring, when we're drunk on fermented Cactus League stats, or when it's clear that Tim Lincecum is pretty much the same pitcher he's been for the last few years. You do this now when you're straddling the border between irrational optimism and cynicism.
Over the last nine days, I spent approximately 75 minutes on the computer. It was glorious, and I recommend it. One of the few things I did read, though, was this headline from Henry Schulman:
Giants’ Lincecum gets good early reviews at spring training
I had a friend whose brother was working on a documentary about the making of The Phantom Menace and watched a mostly final cut months before it was released. I asked this friend what his brother thought of the movie, and his eyes widened. The look reinforced everything I was hoping for. It was going to be amazing.
It was not amazing. Well, it was, but for the wrong reasons. If you think it's inappropriate to compare Lincecum's last three seasons to Episodes 1 through 3, well, you're mostly right. No one deserves that. It's not that wacky of a comparison, though. There were expectations, and there was disappointment. Even after the three substantial disappointments, though, there's still hope that there are more good things coming. Does that make Chris Lincecum the J.J. Abrams of this story? Discuss.
Still, I'm falling for it. Oh, this happens every year, and I'm so stupid, so sorry, so ashamed. We have almost 100 starts telling us that Lincecum isn't a very good pitcher anymore, and we have a paragraph from February telling us that things might be different.
"His fastball was deceptive," Belt said. "It was getting on you quicker than you expected."
Oh, yes. Yes yes yes.
"It looked like he was spotting on his command pretty well," Belt said. "He was able to throw the ball where he wanted to. Even though we’re in Arizona, where breaking balls aren’t supposed to break much, his curveball looked pretty good, too."
Yes, dammit, yes. You heard the Giants' first baseman. Lincecum is back and he's gonna start the All-Star Game.
Counterpoint: Maybe Brandon Belt is going to strike out 200 times this year, and we'll look back at this article as an ominous portent of doom.
It's March, though. Baseball is about to baseball. The dad angle already had its hooks in me a bit. This early review is helping cloud my brain further. I'm in, I'm swayed, I'm hopeful. Those three seasons were all the way back there, and we're all the way up here. You watched Travis Ishikawa win the pennant, and you're about to stand there on a March day and tell me that Lincecum can't be effective again? Please.
Of course, the only way Lincecum is going to be effective is if he either increases his velocity or improves his command, neither of which is especially likely, but that's nitpicking. It's a waterslide of optimism, and I'm not wearing any pants. Come, have fun with us.
Unless we've done this before. Like with our 2013 projection.
/takes shot of water drained from parade snow globe
/starts seeing 50-foot-tall Matt Hollidays
/stands on roof in underwear, waving Darren Lewis-model bat at winged Latoses
Or the 2014 projection.
Nah. I'm optimistic. Because it's February. And because I'm a fool. And because I have faith in those fancy statistics, at least when they whisper nice things in my ear. ZiPS doesn't hate Lincecum's chances; neither does PECOTA, Oliver, or Steamer. The ability to miss bats should still have some relevance, dang it.
The overly optimistic projections keep getting more pessimistic as the wolves of reality keep biting us on the ass, but that's still two straight years that I've predicted success for Lincecum in a year following a notable lack of success. Pretty sure I should have learned by now. Pretty sure. As much as I want to keep going back to the "It's spring! Be optimistic! You don't get bonus points for being right!" well that make the Tim Lincecum projections every danged time now, the third straight season is my tipping point. I can't do it anymore.
Madison Bumgarner threw more innings from October 26 through October 29 than Lincecum did over the last two months of the season. Lincecum lost his rotation slot on August 23 and then threw 12 more innings for the rest of the season, even though he was completely healthy and the Giants played 50 more games. That's the last bit of empirical evidence we have to assist us in this prediction. The last time we saw Tim Lincecum, he wasn't pitching very well. I hate to do it, but this time I'm not going to get burned by another Lincecum projection.
Just kidding. It's spring! Be optimistic! You don't get bonus points for being right! Tim Lincecum gonna shock the world, everyone. He'll shock them by being pretty okay.
Tim Lincecum 2015 projection
I'll just reuse last year's projection because it never got a chance, dang it. It never got a chance. It's 2015, and there's no earthly reason not to think that Giants fans aren't completely spoiled and get everything they ask for. Why not this?