On Jan. 25, the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2022 class will be announced. It could include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, David Ortiz, or no one at all — as it did last cycle.
Players need at least 75% of eligible Baseball Writers Association of America votes for induction. They also need at least 5% of votes to remain on the ballot going forward.
That second piece is where former Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum fits in.
Lincecum certainly won’t be elected in his first year of eligibility, and is flirting with the 5% threshold. The three-time World Series champion pitched for 10 seasons — the minimum for Cooperstown eligibility — and amassed a 19.9 career WAR, historically low for inductees.
Still, “The Freak” joins Sandy Koufax as the only two pitchers ever with multiple Cy Young awards, World Series and no-hitters. Lincecum’s peak was short, but dominant.
“From 2008 to 2011, he was the freakin’ man,” Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow said Thursday on the Murph and Mac Show.
Krukow narrated Lincecum’s entire career in San Francisco. His son also played against the University of Washington pitcher in college, he said.
Lincecum gained cult hero status in the Bay for his short stature (he was listed at 5-foot-11, 170-pounds), his unconventional delivery and his laid-back personality. He was an All-Star every year from 2008 to 2011, a stretch that included two Cy Youngs and two more top-10 Cy Young finishes.
“The whole idea of seeing this little guy going out there with this huge arm, it caught everybody’s imagination,” Krukow said.
But for the same reason fans loved him, Lincecum’s career was cut short. His slight frame led to him breaking down, with a degenerative condition in his hip hampering his range of motion.
Lincecum was much less effective due to his hip in the second half of his career, posting five straight seasons with over a 4.00 ERA (though he did toss his second career no-no in 2014). The Giants used him out of the bullpen in the playoffs during the 2012 World Series run, and he made a minimal impact in the 2014 playoffs — SF’s third title in five years.
But Krukow said Lincecum’s intangibles should make up for his lack of longevity.
“What he did for the Giants organization is my whole argument for why he should be in the Hall of Fame. For that period of time, those four years, he was the guy…the fact that he is 5’11 and weighs 170 pounds, that should not be held against him. What he did for the Giants organization was bring a superstar, an absolute Win Day pitcher. Every time he trotted out there, we thought it was over. He gave the team some attitude. A team that would go on to win three world championships. When you have that type of impact on a team, an organization, on a fan base, when you are the catalyst, the guy, the energy. When you are the atomic bomb of that whole movement, that has to be considered. There’s no stat for that. He made everybody better just by his presence. I say the same thing about Will Clark.”
Lincecum has earned at least six votes so far, based on public ballot tracking from Ryan Thibodaux. Most recently, NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Alex Pavlovic checked his box.
Voters who choose Lincecum will be rewarding a powerful peak and ignoring a short career. Lincecum threw fewer innings than four of the eight Hall of Fame relievers, according to Fangraphs’ Jay Jaffe. But if he goes unelected, he’d be a rare exception: a starter with multiple Cy Youngs not enshrined.
“Those four years, he was as pure as pure could be,” Krukow said. “He was the best for four years. And because of that, I think he has a good argument to get in.”
To listen to the full conversation with Mike Krukow, check out the Murph and Mac Podcast at this link or wherever you may get your podcasts.
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