I am backing the Los Angeles Angels as Thursday’s free pick. Major League teams were curious to see how right-hander Tim Lincecum responded to off-season hip surgery, and the Angels ultimately signed the 32-year-old on May 20. Reports from his minor league rehabilitation starts were positive as Lincecum’s off-speed repertoire looked solid and his velocity ranged from 87-91 mph.
Let’s not forget that Lincecum’s fastball averaged 91.3 mph in 2010 when he went 15-10 with a 3.53 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 3.19 FIP, 3.10 xFIP and a 3.20 SIERA. Despite the small sample size this season, I am confident that there is value in backing Lincecum as today’s free pick.
Moreover, the crafty veteran has always induced a high rate of swing and misses despite a declining set of pitches. In three Triple-A starts this season, Lincecum posted a 2.65 ERA and 2.70 FIP, together with a 28.8% K% and 19.7% K-BB%. Some scouts suggest that his left hip surgery was restorative and has allowed Lincecum to become more consistent, both mechanically and with his command.
In his first Major League outing in 2016, Lincecum limited the Athletics to one run on four hits in 6 innings of work. His fastball registered between 88 and 90 mph and he looked more and more comfortable as the game progressed. “I feel like I get better as the game goes on because I get a knack for my mechanics and the game speed,” Lincecum said.
Los Angeles also possesses a serviceable bullpen that owns a 3.10 ERA and 1.11 WHIP at home this season. In contrast, Oakland relievers enter tonight’s game with a 4.41 ERA and 1.23 WHIP on the road, a 4.63 ERA and 1.36 WHIP versus division foes, a 4.42 ERA and 1.24 WHIP at night and a 5.56 ERA and 1.58 WHIP over the last seven games.
The Athletics’ anemic lineup has only been able to garner 3.9 runs per game on the road (.258 AVG.; .298 OBP; .677 OPS), 3.3 runs per game versus right-handed starters (.236 AVG.; .287 OBP; .646 OPS) and 2.4 runs over the last seven contests (.201 AVG.; .251 OBP; .564 OPS).
Oakland starter Kendall Graveman induces a lot of groundballs (50.9% GB%), but lacks strikeout stuff (6.72 K/9). The 25-year-old has also been susceptible to the long ball (1.58 HR/9) and has struggled with his command in 2016 (3.42 BB/9).
Graveman is 2-6 with a 4.87 ERA and 1.53 WHIP this season, including 1-3 with a 7.03 ERA and 1.87 WHIP on the road and 1-4 with a 4.11 ERA and 1.45 WHIP at night. The right-hander’s peripherals also provide little optimism: 5.19 FIP, 4.43 xFIP, 4.55 SIERA, 19.0% HR/FB and an 8.2% K-BB%.
Graveman also owns a 7.28 FIP on the road, together with 4.22 BB/9 and 2.91 HR/9 rates. Oakland is averaging just 3.16 runs of support for Graveman this season, which is fourth lowest in the American League among pitchers with at least 60 innings of work.
From a technical standpoint, Oakland is a money-burning 8-27 in its last 35 games versus right-handed starters, 6-20 in its last 26 road games, 22-50 in its last 72 games off a loss, 2-10 in its last 12 games versus division foes and 4-13 in its last 17 games overall.
The Athletics are also a woeful 5-16 in Graveman’s last 21 starts, including 1-5 in his last six road outings and 2-6 in his last 8 starts in game 1 of a series. With Los Angeles standing at 13-5 at home in this series and 5-1 in the last six meetings with Oakland overall, take the Angels as Oskeim Sports’ free pick and invest with confidence.
Oskeim Sports’ Free Pick: Los Angeles Angels (-133)