Lincecum back on rails at the moment for San Francisco Giants
By Matthew Lottice
Lincecum has gotten it together of late, and hopes to keep the positive momentum going.
Tim Lincecum missed his first All Star nomination in 2008 with flu-like symptoms. It got so bad he was hospitalized in New York. Tim Hudson was selected to replace Madison Bumgarner for this year’s Midsummer Classic due to Mad Bum throwing on Sunday. The way Lincecum has thrown recently, he was eligible to be at Target Field as well to represent the San Francisco Giants. He’s probably feeling much better than 2008 not just physically, but mentally too.
He’s enjoying his best stretch in almost four seasons and on a personal four game winning streak. The 97-98 MPH is gone, walks rates are up, and he’s not getting as many swing and misses. Yet, he’s still doing Lincecum-esque things and on a positive roll. Good enough to be dubbed “The Freak” legitimately once more.
Dating back to his no-hitter on June 25, Lincecum’s ERA has dipped from 4.42 to 3.66. Only San Diego was able to scratch across one earned run off him in these past four games. That’s one run in 30 1/3 innings pitched. And he didn’t accomplish it solely against San Diego. He also defeated St. Louis and Arizona this past Friday.
Talk about superstitions and coincidences in a sport filled with them, Lincecum has whiffed exactly six batters in each of these past four games too. The little guy with the rubber arm is throwing all his pitches with confidence. No longer blowing fastballs up and away past hitters, he’s using his curveball and changeup/split to finish guys off.
Padres third baseman Chase Headley called it the best off-speed pitch in the game after he was dominated by it.
Once the regular season picks up again, Lincecum is going to be challenged as July wraps up. He’ll make one road start in Miami and miss the Philadelphia series. Then he gets two home starts to end the month versus Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. July has been good for Timmy and hopefully it remains benevolent to him throughout.
He’s recorded a 0.42 ERA this month and helped a pitching staff correct itself after a few rough weeks. Keep in mind, San Francisco’s pitching ranks top 10 in all major statistical categories (ERA, WHIP, opponent batting average) except for total strikeouts where they sit 19th.
If you want to include quality starts as a reputable barometer, fair enough. The Giants are tied for 14th in that regard. Three sub .500 squads (Mets, Red Sox, and White Sox) are ranked top 10 for this stat. The Pirates are Orioles, two above .500 teams, are 20th and 27th.
It has validity, but quality starts don’t hold much weight in my opinion. The sportswriter who developed it considered a pitcher who lasted six innings and coughed up no more than three earned runs a high-water mark. And Tim has notched 11 quality starts in 19 appearances, so it can’t be entirely dismissed.
Everyone crafts their own ideas of a starting pitcher’s outing. Bill James’ pitcher game score metric is another way to quantify a performance. I’d take a Randy Johnson start of eight innings, at least 10 strikeouts, and four earned runs over a defined quality start. But that’s just how I evaluate it.
Regardless of how you want to calculate, perceive, determine, and grade Lincecum’s run, the eye test can be just as telling.
Tim’s body language and composure on the mound have reverted back to four years ago. He’s not accomplishing it in the same fashion, but results are the bottom line, not aesthetics.
Maybe he’d never confess to losing faith in himself entirely when he stepped in between the lines. It was apparent Lincecum’s past three seasons did involve a self conflict and struggle to adapt as a pitcher. That’s included a mixture of high and lows, with lows arriving more frequently.
A befuddled Lincecum does not exist right now. He’s utilizing all his pitches and not simply rearing back and trying to blow it by hitters. Opponents are kept more off balance with off speed pitches, yet he can still reach 93-94 MPH with a rising fastball.
Mike Krukow reinforces first inning fastball command dictates how Tim’s night may go. If he’s not locating it, he’s vulnerable plain and simple. The good news is his curveball, and split-change are devastating enough to carry him, as was the case in his no-hitter.
Perhaps this re-invented version of Tim has turned a corner to eradicate all future questions regarding his role for the Giants. If he indeed has climbed the mountain and more consistency looms ahead, theories concerning a flip to reliever and max effort guy can be laid to rest once and for all.
This also means Brian Sabean and the Giants front office can be more aggressive in looking for a position player before the July deadline. A big splash would surprise everyone from media to Giants backers alike. Lincecum and the rest of the pitching have been doing their part. It’s mandatory the offense receive an upgrade or a serious turnaround from within down the home stretch.