What Are Tim Lincecum’s Hall of Fame Chances?

Last year, a friend asked me what I thought about Tim Lincecum‘s Hall of Fame chances and how many games Lincecum would need to win to have a legitimate shot at future Hall of Fame election.  Here are my thoughts on the subject.

Clearly, Big Time Timmy Jim’s current Hall of Fame credentials are two Cy Young Awards, two World Series championships and the no-hitter he threw last year.  Those are some pretty major accomplishments for any pitcher hoping to one day make the Hall of Fame.

However, Lincecum hasn’t done much else to boost a future Hall of Fame candidacy.  He’s never won 20 games in a season, and he’s led his league (the NL) in only four major statistical categories through his first seven seasons, winning percentage in 2008 and strikeouts in 2008 through 2010.

As for how many career wins Timmy needs to have a real shot at election, I think the magic number is at least 190.  There are already a number of Hall of Fame pitchers with fewer than 200 career wins, and with more wins being transferred from starters to relief pitchers in today’s game (and little likelihood that this trend will change), 190 wins would probably be enough for a pitcher with Lincecum’s highs listed above.  For example, there’s no doubt in my mind that both Roy Halladay and Pedro Martinez will eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame even though neither finished with much more than 200 career wins.

The problem for Lincecum right now is that he doesn’t look like a pitcher who will reach 190 wins.  He currently has a career record of 90-71, less than half of the total I think he needs, and he hasn’t been a good starter since 2011.  He’s going to need a return at least to the pitcher he was in 2010 and 2011 and maintain that level of performance for at least five seasons if he’s going to have any chance of getting enough career wins.

Right now, there’s a pervading sense of Timmy being a disappointment, insofar as his career got off to this incredible start but he’s gotten steadily worse in two year increments.  He’s going to need a sustained resurgence to make future Hall of Fame voters forget that sense that he hasn’t lived up to his enormous potential.

Explore posts in the same categories: Baseball History, San Francisco Giants

7 Comments on “What Are Tim Lincecum’s Hall of Fame Chances?”

  1. kabeiser Says:

    0% unless he becomes dominant again (<1% chance). Right now Timmy and his 90mph fastball would probably be happy to be better than average for another 5 years.

    I think you have taken some liberties with your 190 win number. Pedro and likely Halladay (lesser extent) will make the HOF because their careers were cut short by injuries while still near the top of their game.

    For example Schilling (83 WAR) has 216 wins and had 4 seasons that were arguably as dominant as Lincecum and he isn't going to make the HOF unless he gets some unexpected support.

    Some interesting cases that could present themselves in a few years around the 200 win mark would be Cliff Lee (became dominant late) and Justin Verlander (perhaps starting to fade).

    • Burly Says:

      Schilling is a good comp to Lincecum, assuming Lincecum wins his 190+ games, but doesn’t win 200+. The main difference, though, would be the fact that Lincecum has two Cy Young Awards and Schilling has none. Cy Young and MVP Awards are incredibly important to a future HOF candidacy for the obvious reason that they mean at the time the award was won the player was generally considered the single best pitcher or player in his league that season.

      Also, Schilling has the misfortune of being compared to Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine, all 300 game winners who were Schilling’s contemporaries. There aren’t going to be four 300+ game winners in Lincecum’s generation, and there may not be any. As post-2000 starters win fewer games over the course of their careers than starters in previous generations did, HOF voters will either reduce the number of must-have career wins or the number of pitchers in the HOF will drop dramatically. I tend to think that we’re likely to see more of the former than the latter in response to starters winning fewer games over the course of their careers.

  2. kabeiser Says:

    Schilling is a terrible comp for Lincecum. There are a lot of players that had 2-3 great seasons that aren’t anywhere near the HOF. Jake Peavy is a better comp to Lincecum and nobody will be making a HOF case for him if he hangs on for another 50-60 wins. Schilling’s postseason heroics and 3 CY runner ups at least match Lincecum’s 2 Cy’s.

    Obviously 300 wins isn’t going to happen anymore but that doesn’t automatically mean that the number will drop to <200 because Pedro will get in with that number.

    Pitchers currently with potential HOF resumes that need several more seasons to get to the HOF.

    Kershaw – basically started his career out as good or better than Timmy and is still elite.

    There are also a few guys like Hamels, Price, Scherzer, Wainwright and a few others that could put together a HOF resume if they can stay at this level for 5 or so years with a few more good seasons at the end.

    • Burly Says:

      I certainly agree with your list of the current pitchers most likely to be future Hall of Fame candidates. However, I don’t agree with your apparent argument that Lincecum would have no chance of being elected even if he makes it to 190+ career wins.

      Eight starting pitchers are currently in the HOF with fewer than 200 career wins (Jack Chesbro, Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez, Addie Joss, Sandy Koufax, Dazzy Vance, Rube Waddell and Ed Walsh). Yes, most of these pitchers got hurt or died young, but not all of them.

      Further, I’m not saying that between 190 and 200 career wins would guarantee Timmy’s election. I’m only saying that it would give him a reasonable shot, given his two Cy Young awards, his two World Series rings, the fact that numerous pitchers have been elected to the HOF with fewer than 200 career wins, and the fact that Timmy’s generation is going to see fewer 200 game winners than past generations.

      Finally, even assuming that Jake Peavy is a better comp to Lincecum than Curt Schilling, if Peavy wins another 60 career games, another Cy Young award and another World Series ring, he’ll get serious HOF consideration when his time comes. Actual HOF voters, very few of whom are sabermetricians, value Cy Young and MVP Awards won very highly.

  3. Burly Says:

    Lincecum appears to be at the end of his Giants career — he has not responded well to the cortisone shots in his hips and is now considering off-season surgery. We will see whether surgery helps him regain some of his old form in 2016.

  4. Burly Says:

    Tim Lincecum pitched a second no-hitter in 2014 and won a third World Series ring, although his statistical contribution to the latter was minimal. Meanwhile, we enter the 2016 season with no idea when Lincecum might pitch in MLB again. Stuck at 108 career wins, we can be certain that this is a total that will not by any stetch of the imagination get him into the HOF.

  5. Burly Says:

    With Tim Lincecum’s failure as a starter for the Angels in 2016 now pretty much a certainty — he’s got an ERA over 9.00 after nine starts — it will take one of the great comebacks in baseball history for Tim to reach the career totals that would give him a legitimate shot at HOF election. At age 32, and with little apparently left in his pitching arm, his best possible future looks to be roughly that of Joe Blanton since Blanton’s awful 2013 season as an Angels’ starter at age 32.

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