San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum threw the second no-hitter in the big leagues this season on Saturday night, throwing 148 pitches while striking out 13 and walking four against the San Diego Padres.
Lincecum has not looked much like a two-time Cy Young Award winner once again this season, and he is now 5-9 with a 4.26 ERA even after Saturday night’s effort. There had been some talk the Giants should consider moving him to the bullpen, where he was effective during the team’s postseason run last year, but Lincecum has pitched solidly over his last eight starts (3.16 ERA, 57 strikeouts and 17 walks over 51.1 innings) to keep his spot in the starting rotation.
With some signs of a turnaround coming even before throwing a no-hitter, can Lincecum become a key contributor for fantasy baseball owners over the rest of the season?
Lincecum had a dismal season in 2012, going 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA in 33 starts (186 innings). His velocity has clearly dropped from his peak seasons, and his peripheral numbers last season (9.2 K/9, 4.4 BB/9) were not at the top level they had been. Lincecum’s K/9 (9.7) and BB/9 (3.7) rates have improved some so far this season, but he has 32 strikeouts and seven walks in three July starts to help boost both numbers.
A cautionary tale in terms of how a pitcher performs after a no-hitter is Johan Santana of the New York Mets. The left-hander pitched his no-hitter on June 1, 2012 against the St. Louis Cardinals, throwing 134 pitches along the way, then posted a 8.27 ERA over his next 10 starts. He was shut down for the season in August due to a lower back injury, and has not pitched since after undergoing another major surgery on his left shoulder in April. This clearly represents a worst-case scenario, and Lincecum has been durable to this point in his career along with being a younger pitcher than Santana, but it is something to keep in mind going forward.
The All-Star break should benefit Lincecum, if only to help quell any concerns about his elevated pitch count against the Padres. There is risk of a correction back to his early season form (5.12 ERA in April and May), so fantasy owners that have had Lincecum through this better recent stretch need to consider trading him now at the peak of his value.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.