Tim Lincecum unlikely to provide big rotation lift for Angels

Tim Lincecum has agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels, one of the teams initially pegged as a front-runner to sign him. It makes sense for several reasons:

1. The Angels' rotation has had issues all season, starting with the struggles of Matt Shoemaker (9.12 ERA in six starts) and Jered Weaver (6.10 ERA in seven starts) and the recent season-ending injury to Garrett Richards. The team just acquired Jhoulys Chacin from the Braves to help fill out the rotation. C.J. Wilson and Tyler Skaggs, both on the disabled list, are potential contributors down the road but aren't ready yet, and big ifs even then, with Wilson returning from offseason elbow surgery plus shoulder soreness in spring training, and Skaggs returning from Tommy John surgery.

2. The Giants seemed to indicate they wanted Lincecum back only as a reliever, and since Jake Peavy just had his best start of the season and Matt Cain has allowed three runs in 15 innings over his past two outings, they're a little less desperate for rotation help than they appeared 10 days ago.

3. Lincecum gets to go to a pitcher's park on the West Coast. The White Sox were apparently one of the teams interested, but Lincecum would have been a bad fit in a park where home runs are more plentiful.

The Angels are coming off a crucial three-game sweep of the Mariners on the road, winning twice with rallies in the ninth inning. That pushed their record to 16-21, which looks a lot better than 13-21. Lincecum, who threw in the upper 80s to low 90s (topping out at 92) in his showcase on May 6, will have to stretch out his pitch counts for a few outings in the minors before joining the Angels.

Can he actually help the Angels much? His ERA over the past four seasons with the Giants was 4.68 -- 5.61 on the road. The odd thing about some of the in-depth sabermetric numbers is that they didn't change much even as he became less effective:

Swing rate

2009-2011: 45.0 percent

2012-2015: 44.5 percent

Swing-and-miss rate

2009-2011: 26.1 percent

2012-2015: 26.3 percent

Chase rate

2009-2011: 30.0 percent

2012-2015: 27.9 percent

Strike percentage

2009-2011: 63.3 percent

2012-2015: 61.5 percent

But the results changed: From 2009 to 2011, he had a 26.4 percent strikeout rate; that fell to 21.6 percent. His walk rate went up a bit and his batting average against increased from .223 to .254. So while he could still generate swing-and-misses, he was giving up more balls in play in general and with harder contact. The stuff simply had diminished, even more with runners on base, which explains why his FIP from 2012 to 2015 was lower than his ERA (4.08 to 4.68).

That said, Lincecum still could be an upgrade over the likes of Shoemaker or Weaver, although not a big enough upgrade to improve their playoff chances much, which FanGraphs currently estimates at 4.3 percent. Lincecum is a guy to root for and he's certainly gotten the most out of his abilities through the years. It would be a great story if he has something left in the tank, but any positive he provides at this point in his career should simply be viewed as a bonus.