It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Angels’ rotation went into the season with a bunch of question marks. We already covered that. We talked about the return of C.J Wilson, who pitched a 40-pitch simulated game earlier this week, but there’s no return timeline yet. We talked about Tyler Skaggs, who made three starts of less than four innings in AAA but hasn’t pitched in three weeks. We talked about Jered Weaver, who is performing more or less as expected (5.76 ERA/5.68 FIP) but at least his velocity has recovered, I guess.
Andrew Heaney didn’t get a chance to show whether he was going to be more 2014 (3.04 ERA/3.26 FIP) than 2015 (4.46 ERA/4.59 FIP), as he got in only one start before he hit the DL with a UCL injury and there’s no timetable on his return. Garrett Richards (2.34 ERA/3.28 FIP) was by far the brightest spot in the rotation, but he too suffered a UCL injury and underwent a stem cell procedure in order to avoid Tommy John surgery and also has no return timeline.
The rest of the cast has had mixed results, with Hector Santiago (3.42 ERA/4.45 FIP) and Nick Tropeano (3.68 ERA/5.18 FIP) getting better results than their underlying numbers suggest they should. Matt Shoemaker (8.49 ERA/6.01 FIP) has been an unmitigated disaster, “mitigated” only by the fact that his teammates managed to come up with wins for him in a couple of his starts. The Angels already had to make a trade with the Braves for Jhoulys Chacin (4.81 ERA/3.89 FIP), so you can see just how decimated the pitching ranks are for the Halos. They made their next move this week when they reportedly signed Tim Lincecum.
It’s been a long, long time since Lincecum won his back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009. In his prime, Lincecum topped the leaderboards for K/9, FIP, strikeouts and the like. Since 2011, his claims to fame have been less impressive, leading in earned runs allowed (2012) and wild pitches (2012 and 2014). Lincecum’s mechanics have always been unique, to say the least, earning him his “The Freak” nickname in college and inspiring articles such as this one at Popular Mechanics in 2010. As he aged, however, his velocity dropped and, as his ability to hit the mid-90s left him, so did his ability to get hitters out. From 2012 to 2014, Lincecum averaged a 4.76 ERA and a 73 ERA+.
In 2015, his final year with San Francisco, Lincecum’s velocity hit an all-time low and he underwent a season-ending hip surgery in September in the hopes that he would be ready to try and land a job come spring. Well, he wasn’t ready in time for Spring Training and then later the rumors started to fly about a showcase. Then the showcase got delayed and delayed again. All of this sounds like something anything other than a rebuilding team would want to slowly back away from. When the showcase did happen, Lincecum was apparently back in the 90s and teams were apparently impressed.
We’re still waiting for the signing to be made official, so there aren’t any details yet, but there’s really nothing not to like here in terms of the Angels’ signing of Lincecum since it certainly isn’t going to be a back-breaking amount. While they currently sit in fourth place, the Angels aren’t out of it yet, at 4.5 games back from the division leading Mariners, thanks no doubt to the relative weakness of their division. If the Angels are going to have any chance to make it to the postseason this year with all of the pitchers that have hit the shelf, they’re going to have to take chances. Lincecum will still need to get warmed up in the minors, so it’s not like we’re going to know how this plays out just yet. We’ll have to wait a bit to see whether Lincecum’s hip was a big part of what was ailing his game, as he has claimed. But with an epically bad farm system preventing the possibility of trading for decent starting pitching and the current state of the staff, there’s not much Anaheim can do other than take some chances, cross their fingers and hope for the best.
While it would be foolish to expect Lincecum to succeed given the struggles that he’s had in recent seasons, there’s still more upside to a two-time Cy Young winner than is available elsewhere this time of year. Here’s to hoping that the hip surgery does help Lincecum remaster the mechanics that made him so successful in the first place, both because baseball would better off with The Freak back on the mound and because the Angels could sure use some help right about now.