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San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum: It’s baseball-anything can happen

By Mark ONeill
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Timmy, Timmy, wherefore art thou?

Tim Lincecum, two-time Cy Young Award winner for the San Francisco Giants, with a pair of World Series rings, has not pitched to a batter in the 2014 postseason, thus far. Moreover, unless calamity befalls, the likelihood of him doing so, fades even as we speak. How can this be?

Lincecum’s postseason experience is extensive. He is 5-2 (.714) with a 2.47 ERA in twelve games, six of them starts. He has pitched 54.2 innings, allowing 34 hits, and 15 earned runs, with 63 K’s, 14 walks, and a WHIP of .878. His ratio of strikeouts per nine innings is, 9-10.4.

Those are impressive numbers, particular the win/loss percentage and the WHIP, for Timmy to be languishing on the bench.

How can Bochy put Timmy in, when he hasn’t got a clue what will happen? Not Bochy’s style.

The truth of the matter is simple:

Bruce Bochy

doesn’t know what to expect from Timmy. Just as a lawyer hates to ask a question in a courtroom, to which he does not know the answer, so Bochy goes, unwilling to insert a player into his lineup, unless he has a pretty clear idea of what’s going to happen. He has built up Hall of Fame credentials following his instincts.

So what is there to do? Lincecum can throw bullpen sessions until his arm falls off, for all of the information that will convey. He can throw live batting practice also for all the good it will do. It’s awkward because on the one hand, his track record is superior; on the other hand, there is zero wriggle space in the postseason for inconsistency.

Jun 25, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (right) celebrates with catcher Hector Sanchez (29) after throwing a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park. The San Francisco Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The setting is magnified by the spotlight of the big stage. Events that can escape perusal during the regular season, take on additional significance when the pressure expands, creating fissures that reveal weaknesses in the Giants’ armor.

For Bochy to take a chance on Lincecum, matters would have to be going either extremely well, such as a sizable lead, or just the opposite, with a pitcher going down to injury or not being able to get out of the first inning, with Yusmeiro Petit not being available because he had already worked the previous day.

That being said, never sell Lincecum short. Yes, his mechanics have been wobbly, and yes, for a spell there, he had control issues. However, also mixed in there this season, was the no-hitter against the San Diego Padres, and a string of starts that included a 4-0 record over 30.1 innings pitched, during which he allowed ten hits, one earned run, 24 strikeouts, nine walks, with a 0.30 ERA.

Timmy is an enigma, but one that begs solving. He has taken the mound in the past with dazzling success during the postseason, and that is a commodity that can’t be ignored, in light of others’ inability to perform on the big stage.

Whether in the capacity of a starter, or coming in from the bullpen, Lincecum has demonstrated that he can rise to the occasion when it is demanded. He has taken his demotion gracefully, refusing to allow selfishness to get the better of him. Like Barry Zito, who sat out the 2010 playoffs, but worked hard to stay in shape in case he was needed, Lincecum remains ready for any role to which he is assigned.

Maybe Lincecum will never face one batter, and maybe he will be called in to save the seventh game of the World Series. This being baseball, anything is possible. The more illogical and absurd something appears, the more likely it is that it will happen.

If you had suggested that Travis Ishikawa would become the first batter in National League history, to clinch an NLCS series with a home run, you may have gotten the same blank stares, as the notion that Lincecum would play such a pivotal part in the seventh game of the World Series.

Don’t hold your breath waiting, but don’t rule it out, either. Baseball and Tim Lincecum-two of a kind, and neither one any more predictable than Joe West calling balls and strikes.

But if his track record is any indication, and I fervently believe it is, then if called upon, like the post office, Lincecum will deliver, even the kitchen sink, if necessary.

Tim Lincecum has just enough of that quality of nonchalance , to be able to keep those around him cool and calm.

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