For a period of several years over the last decade, Tim Lincecum was one of the best starting pitchers in the majors, striking out more than 200 batters in four straight seasons from 2008-2011 and winning the NL Cy Young in 2008 and 2009. He began to regress, though, in 2012 and since then has not had an ERA lower than 4.13, which he achieved in 15 starts last season. He was a free agent this offseason but didn’t sign with a team. He recently held a pitching showcase for teams to show them what he has left in him, and on Thursday the 31-year-old right-hander signed with the Angels. The nine-year veteran will have to pitch in the minors for a while before being called up to the big leagues, which could be in about a month. The $2 million deal covers the rest of the season and has incentives valued at $1.7 million depending on how he pitches. The Angels were in need of starting pitching, with three of their starters on the DL, and are willing to take a chance on Lincecum to see if he can improve his performance from the past several seasons.
We had the season’s first managerial firing of the season this week, with Fredi Gonzalez becoming the fall guy for the Braves’ 9-28 start at the time of his firing on Tuesday. Overall, Gonzalez was 434-413 over six seasons with the Braves, his second managerial stint in the majors after leading the Marlins from 2007-2010. The team named Triple-A Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker, who has been with the Braves organization for 40 years, as the team’s interim manager. Entering Sunday’s game against the Phillies, the Braves were 3-1 so far under Snitker.
Also this week, the league’s competition committee agreed to changes to the strike zone and intentional walks that would take effect for next season if they receive the needed approvals from the playing rules committee. Both rules are intended to help speed up the game, a key interest of commissioner Rob Manfred since he replaced Bud Selig last year. One rule would raise the bottom of the strike zone from the bottom of the knee to the top of the knee. The other would do away with actually throwing the ball during an intentional walk; after a team indicating its intention to issue an intentional wall, the batter would go straight to first base without the pitcher needing to throw the customary pitches out of the strike zone. Neither of these changes is likely to make a big impact on the game. For one, most umpires have their own strike zones and don’t stick to the zone as defined in the rulebook. And intentional walks are so infrequent — there were just 951 in 2,429 MLB games in 2015 — that it won’t have much of an effect on the league overall.
Elsewhere in MLB, not much has changed at the top of the standings over the last week with the same teams still leading their divisions. The Cubs still have the best record in the majors, but the Orioles have passed the White Sox to take over the best record in the American League entering Sunday’s action. As for individual performances, with a hit today Red Sox OF Jackie Bradley Jr. has extended his hitting streak to 27 games, nearly halfway to Joe DiMaggio‘s record 56-game hit streak.
The Week Ahead
First place in the AL Central is on the line early in the week with the White Sox hosting the Indians for four games, including a doubleheader on Monday. The top two teams in the NL East are also playing each other Monday through Wednesday as the Nationals host the Mets. Later in the week, it’s a battle of second-place teams as the Rangers host the Pirates in an interleague series and the White Sox travel to Kansas City to take on the defending World Series champion Royals, who will look to gain ground in the division. The Rockies, currently second in the NL West, also take on the division-leading Giants.
Some scheduled pitching performances and matchups to keep an eye on this week include Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg looking to go 8-0 on Tuesday when he faces struggling Mets SP Matt Harvey. White Sox SP Chris Sale also looks to keep his undefeated record intact on Tuesday as he duels with Indians SP Josh Tomlin. Rockies SP Tyler Chatwood, who has been solid on the road this season, with a 0.53 ERA, looks to duplicate that success at home when he is slated to take to the Coors Field mound on Thursday against Giants SP Matt Cain.