When Hunter Pence made that diving catch on Alex Amarista’s liner to close out the eighth inning, you knew that the baseball gods were looking down on Tim Lincecum, smiling, and declaring this night for him. The 1-2-3 ninth inning was just a mere formality; a dot on the ‘I’ and a cross on the ‘t’. Not only did he wage a war to no-hit the Padres, but he also made a declaration to the baseball community, both real and fantasy, that he wasn’t quite finished. Though the latter part of his six-plus year career has been laden with lows, he still had plenty of highs left in him and we’re not just talking about his smoking habits in the offseason.
The course that Lincecum’s career has taken in such a small amount of time has really been quite amazing. He went from highly-touted prized prospect to two-time Cy Young award winner to first-time World Series champion to disappointing pitcher in decline to two-time World Series champion/bullpen warrior, back to disappointment and then again back to golden boy status. He’s seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But while Giants fans, with their blind loyalty, will continue to see him through the eyes of a father who still looks at his grown-up daughter as the wide-eyed, precocious little girl she was when she was five, those of us who can look on with objectivity can still see the forest through the trees. While this was indeed a fine moment and, ultimately, the final feather needed to complete the decoration of his big-league cap, we as fantasy owners need to understand that, despite the greatness a no-hitter brings, Lincecum’s career trajectory is still on a downward path. In other words, trade him right now as his value this season will never be higher.
I certainly don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade or take too much away from such an outstanding juncture of one’s career, but we also need to keep our wits about us and not be blinded by the moment. We’re still looking at the same guy whose numbers have been in steady decline over the last few years and wasn’t exactly dominating from the hill through his first 18 starts this year. In fact, this game was only his eighth quality start of the season. You can sit and drool over these last two starts in which he’s produced a 1.69 ERA with a 24:5 K:BB over 16 innings, but you can’t forget the multitude of games in which he’s given up four or more runs and failed to make it past the fifth or sixth inning. He still has an ERA north of 4.50 and he still has a HR/FB in double digits.
So while every savvy owner should see you coming from a mile away, it’s important to start your trade negotiations now. Not only is he coming off his best start of the season but you have his previous start to help pad his recent totals and a few days over the All-Star break to instill the hope of a dominant second half. Focus on his playoff performance from last year. Make mention that his FIP and SIERA are a full run better than his ERA. Focus on the improved K/9 over the first half even though you know that it’s temporarily bloated by an unsustainably high July split. Someone will bite. Someone will pay. They may not be conned into some astronomical overpay, but they’ll give you more than they should. And your fantasy team will be better off for it.
Now let’s hit the other highlights…
It should go without saying that Tim Lincecum is Saturday’s Fantasy Beast of the Day, but for those you need to have it for their scrapbook, here you go…
Fantasy Beast of the Day
|Tim Lincecum, SF||9.0||1||0||0||0||4||13||0.00||0.44|
And now for the rest…
|Hunter Pence, OF SF||2-4, 2 R, 3B, HR, 5 RBI|
|Justin Smoak, 1B SEA||2-3, R, HR, 4 RBI|
|Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B CLE||2-4, R, 2B, HR, 4 RBI|
|Zack Greinke, SP LAD||W, CG, 0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP, 9 K|
|Felix Hernandez, SP SEA||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 4 K|
While the night in San Diego belonged to Lincecum, the eighth inning belonged to Hunter Pence. The Giants were already up 8-0, but Pence capped off his offensive performance with a solo home run to lead off the inning and then made that amazing catch to finish off the bottom half. While I like to wait until the season is over before assessing some of my picks and pans from the pre-season, I will happily note Pence’s first half success. The .265 batting average isn’t the greatest, but 14 home runs and 14 stolen bases is a tremendous first half for both real-life and fantasy purposes. But just keep in mind that he’s faded in the second half the last couple of years and his home/road splits are growing more indicative of his mediocre numbers at AT&T Park. Could be a killer sell-high right now.
Given the fact that Justin Smoak’s numbers have gradually improved monthly this season and he’s finishing off the first half with a .366-2-9 11-game run in July, I’m actually surprised that there haven’t been more “this is finally his year” articles and updates out there. Maybe that’s because we’ve been inundated with that propaganda and been burned often enough over the last three years that we’re just assuming overall failure. But might we note that Smoak is still just 26-years old and just entering his physical prime? Maybe it’s noteworthy. But so is his .191 average against left-handed pitching.
Don’t look now but since his recall from the minors in June, Lonnie Chisenhall is batting .292 with three home runs and 14 RBI over 20 games (72 at-bats). While certainly not the be-all, end-all of third basemen out there, he’s definitely become more serviceable lately. He’s the type of guy you want to grab for the short-run but don’t be afraid to cut him loose again when he starts to show signs of faltering.
It looks like Zack Greinke wants everyone to forget about his injury-plagued, mediocre first half and focus on his last two starts and potential for a big second half. After all the ups and downs, Greinke has thrown back-to-back shutouts – 16 consecutive shutout innings – and done so with 16 strikeouts to just three walks. While his FIP and SIERA are a bit higher than his current ERA, the numbers are close enough to not worry that he’s going to actually be worse. Be confident in Greinke and if you have an owner looking to deal him, be interested.
What’s not to love about the first half Felix Hernandez has had this year? He’s already notched 10 wins, the strikeout rate is up, the walks are down and the ERA and its peripherals are all looking stellar. It’s the type of season you’d expect him to have when drafting him and the fact that he’s not disappointing you should only maintain his elite status both on the field and in your mind. When someone comes to you with an offer, listen, but don’t be too quick to deal him. What he does for the balance of the rest of your starters is huge.
|Gregor Blanco, OF SF||0-5, 4 K|
|Alex Rios, OF CHW||0-6, BB, 3 K|
|Freddie Freeman, 1B ATL||0-4, 3 K|
|Lance Lynn, SP STL||L, 10.39 ERA, 2.77 WHIP, 2 K|
|Edinson Volquez, SP SD||L, 14.40 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 6 K|
You know the drill here. You know where we’re at. Everybody has a bad day. Some more than others if you’re Edinson Volquez. But here’s a little factoid for this section that you may want to consider when thinking about setting up your team for the second half…
Through his first 16 starts of the season, Lance Lynn went 8-1 with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. He also notched 82 strikeouts over 81 innings. Over his last six starts, Lynn is 3-3 with a 6.00 ERA, a 1.56 WHIP and 33 strikeouts over 36 innings. Doesn’t exactly instill confidence as a fantasy owner, does it?
Eric Chavez, 3B ARI – hip (day to day)
Jason Heyward, OF ATL – hamstring (day to day)
B.J. Upton, OF ATL – groin (day to day)
Justin Upton, OF ATL – calf (day to day)
Chris Dickerson, OF BAL – shoulder (day to day)
Gordon Beckham, 2B CHW – quadriceps (day to day)
Ronny Cedeno, SS HOU – toe (day to day)
Carl Crawford, OF LAD – back (day to day)
Yasiel Puig, OF LAD – hip (day to day)
Mark Ellis, 2B LAD – leg (day to day)
Matt Harvey, SP NYM – finger (out for July 14 start)
Travis Hafner, DH NYY – foot (day to day)
Jeff Locke, SP PIT – back (out for July 14 start)
Matt Holliday, OF STL – hamstring (day to day)
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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