Two Cy Young Awards and pair of World Series titles would be enough to get just about anybody into the Hall of Fame. The list of pitchers with multiple Cy Young honors is an exclusive one—and one littered with the best pitchers in the history of baseball. Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, and Randy Johnson are some of the best known and most dominating pitchers of all time. It’s quite impressive to be named the best pitcher in MLB more than once.
But like fellow two-time Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum does not have the extended impressive body of work that the other legends have. He has four seasons of dominance (200+ IP, 200+ strikeouts) where he led the league in strikeouts three consecutive years and also took home league leading records in CGs, SHOs, and winning percentage each once during various years in that span. His quirky windup and his loose personality quickly made him a fan favorite.
Yet even during his peak, the question was always there: can this 5’11” 170-pound “freak” really keep up this pace? His body just did not look like it should regularly hurl fastballs at 94-plus. 2012 marked that point where his previously unhittable fastball barely hit 90. It was a sad sight to see a guy who was so thoroughly dominating become hopeless on the mound. His ERA skyrocketed to 5.18 and that $40.5 million that San Francisco sent his way started to look a lot like the Barry Zito contract. Although Lincecum had history in his favor with Giants fans, the future was not (and is not) quite so bright.
He recently threw his first no-hitter, which was commendable, but was a blip from subpar performance rather than the standard. The very next game, Lincecum gave up eight earned runs and didn’t make it through the fourth inning.
The real question is: are four seasons of brilliance enough to get you into the Hall of Fame even if every subsequent season can be reasonably considered at or below average? At his peak, Lincecum was as dominant as anybody. Ever.
For the moment, I don’t think Lincecum is HOF-worthy. As great as he was from 2007-2011, his non-existence in 2012 was a problem. Until a miraculous turnaround at the end of the World Series run as a starter/reliever, he was thrown at the back-end of the rotation and given a continual opportunity because Bochy had
unreasonable faith in his guy. Lincecum’s
body physically looked less capable than it was only a few years prior. And his
winning percentage has continued this precipitous drop. In 2013, Lincecum’s
chances at remaining a solid starter in MLB are dwindling.
Maybe he needs a change of scenery because right now, he is hanging onto a major league career for dear life. Seasons with ERAs north of 4.50 do not call Cooperstown.
Is it impossible for him to make it? Hardly. I would argue he only needs to be slightly above average for maybe 5-7 more seasons in order to have a chance at being enshrined in the Hall. 150-plus wins and/or 3000 strikeouts would make him a shoo-in but 125 wins and maybe even 2500 strikeouts would make him a reasonable candidate with the accolades that he has already earned.
If you were a writer, what would it take to make you vote Lincecum into the Hall of Fame?