Detroit Tigers: Could Tim Lincecum be a bullpen option?

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 29: Tim Lincecum
ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 29: Tim Lincecum /

The Detroit Tigers were one of at least fifteen teams at Tim Lincecum‘s showcase on Thursday. Could he be considered for a bullpen role?

The Detroit Tigers, like many rebuilding teams, are prone to taking chances on guys who they think could bounce back. That is why it is no surprise that they were known to be in attendance at a showcase for two time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, who last pitched in the majors in 2016.

The Tigers seemingly have their rotation all set. Returners Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd will be joined by Mike Fiers to make up the rotation. Additionally, minor league signees Ryan Carpenter and Travis Wood will both compete for a spot, and veteran relief pitcher Alex Wilson is competing for a starting role as well.

On the outside, that makes Lincecum a tough fit for the Tigers. However, there is one way that he could likely make his way into the Old English D:

The bullpen.

Lincecum as a reliever

Tim Lincecum has pitched in 278 games in his big league career, starting 270 of them. He made one relief appearance in 2008 and seven in 2014. Needless to say, his preference is to return to the big leagues as a starter.

Lincecum posted a 9.16 ERA across nine starts in 2016. That, combined with the fact that he did not play organized baseball in 2017, will leave him looking at nothing more than a minor league deal this offseason. While plenty of teams will offer him that, his odds of cracking a rotation are slim.

If Lincecum were willing to entertain the idea of coming out of a bullpen, the Tigers should jump all over that.

Lincecum’s value as a pitcher has come primarily from his split-finger and his slider, two pitches that he struggled with in 2016. However, he has posted a career 21.6% swinging strike rate on his split-finger, and 16.7% on his slider. Those are both well above average, and would likely see a bump if he moved to the bullpen.

His four-seam fastball, curveball and sinker have all had success in the major leagues. However, he has not been as successful with them in his later years. Perhaps a move to the bullpen, where Lincecum would only need to rely on 2-3 pitches, would help him. He could focus primarily on his split-finger and slider, occasionally mixing in his fastball. That would help him post the high strikeout numbers and low ERA’s of his younger days. A move to the bullpen would come with the added bonus of increased velocity, as Lincecum would not have to save his arm for multiple innings.

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Lincecum has made it clear his preference is to remain on the west coast. There’s no guarantee he will consider signing with Detroit, let alone take on a role in the bullpen.

However, Lincecum’s pitch data suggests that he could find a ton of success as a split/slider reliever. The Tigers have plenty of competition for their remaining bullpen spots, but Lincecum would certainly be welcomed in the Motor City.