Thinking about Tim Lincecum.
Some random thoughts about the Giants fireballer.
Obviously his career is off to a good start: 6-3, 3.88 in 18 starts with a 121/51 K/BB ratio in 111 innings. He's allowed just 86 hits, holding major league hitters to a .214 average. He's been particularly effective since the All-Star Break, with a 2.52 ERA although his walk rate is still rather high. Indeed, too many walks is the only real negative in his profile. He's been a bit vulnerable to the gopher ball with 11 dingers given up, eight of them to left-handed hitters, but I don't think it's going to be a huge problem for him in the long run.
His ERA+ right now is 112, which is good (especially for a rookie) although not Cy Young Caliber. Lincecum is certainly a lot of fun to watch, and if he makes further progress with his command he does have it in him to win Cy Young Awards. But there's no guarantee of that. There are lots of ways this could pan out.
At age 23, Nolan Ryan posted an ERA+ of 117 and posted a 125/97 K/BB in 132 innings for the Mets, so the parallel with Ryan that a lot of people like to put up does make a certain amount of sense. Indeed, Lincecum's command is better than Ryan's was at the same stage. Of course, for every Ryan who put his fireball stuff together and has a brilliant career, there are dozens who are effective for much shorter stretches, or mediocre, who get hurt, or who lose their command and never develop. Lincecum's pre-season PECOTAs include guys like Kerry Wood, Pedro Martinez, Juan Pizarro, Curt Simmons, Dennis Eckersley, Tom Gordon, and Sandy Koufax, but also Ken Brett, Baylor Moore, Jose De Leon and Dave Boswell, guys with great stuff and flashes of success but who never put it together consistently. Any parallel of those outcomes remains entirely possible. Declaring Lincecum as the next Bob Feller based on very good (though not unbeatable) performance in 18 major league starts shows lack of historical perspective.
This may sound like I'm trying to bash Lincecum, but nothing could be further from the truth. He is an extremely impressive young pitcher who could become a superstar, and we should enjoy the ride. He's a great investment, and I suspect that several teams wish they had drafted him. But he is still a 23-year-old pitcher with balky command, and rubber arm or not, he is not Bob Gibson just yet. Let's have some patience and see what happens.