Is Tim Lincecum on his way to an all-time season?

To make a point, I’m going to start off by listing the last MLB FIP leaders over the last 25 years:

  • 2009: Zack Greinke (2.33)
  • 2008: Tim Lincecum (2.62)
  • 2007: Jake Peavy (2.84)
  • 2006: Johan Santana (3.04)
  • 2005: Johan Santana (2.84)
  • 2004: Randy Johnson (2.30)
  • 2003: Pedro Martinez (2.21)
  • 2002: Pedro Martinez (2.24)
  • 2001: Randy Johnson (2.13)
  • 2000: Pedro Martinez (2.17)
  • 1999: Pedro Martinez (1.39)
  • 1998: Kevin Brown (2.23)
  • 1997: Roger Clemens (2.25)
  • 1996: John Smoltz (2.64)
  • 1995: Randy Johnson (2.08)
  • 1994: Greg Maddux (2.39)
  • 1993: Greg Maddux (2.85)
  • 1992: Roger Clemens (2.54)
  • 1991: David Cone (2.52)
  • 1990: Roger Clemens (2.18)
  • 1989: Bret Saberhagen (2.45)
  • 1988: Roger Clemens (2.17)
  • 1987: Nolan Ryan (2.47)
  • 1986: Mike Scott (2.16)
  • 1985: Dwight Gooden (2.15)
  • 1984: Dwight Gooden (1.69)

So, over the last 25 years, only two pitchers have had a FIP below 2.00. In fact, going back through the FanGraphs era (1974-present), Doc and Pedro are the only two starters to have a FIP below 2.00.

Tim Lincecum could join them this year.

I know, I know, he’s only made six starts in 2010 going into Sunday. And, I know, his FIP coming into Sunday was just below 2.00 at 1.93.

But his xFIP—which normalizes for home runs and usually is a sobering stat for quick starters—sits at 1.97.

Lincecum has an 11.91 K/9 and 1.70 BB/9, coming out to a 7.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s compensated for a drop in fastball velocity by throwing an absurdly good changeup—which is 6.23 runs above average.

ZiPS doesn’t see Lincecum continuing his ridiculous dominance for the rest of the season, projecting a 2.49 FIP for the rest of the season. The main factors behind that are a rise in Lincecum’s BABIP from its current .275 to .310 and a rise in BB/9 to 2.98.

It’s tough to argue with those ZiPS projections, but it’s still cool to think about Lincecum having a shot at posting a FIP below 2.00 this year. At the least, he looks well on his way to winning his third consecutive NL Cy Young.

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