May 25, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) waits for umpires to decide Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Khris Davis (not pictured) touched home plate after hitting a home run in the first inning at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
The trio of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Tim Hudson are some of the greatest arms to ever set foot on the mound while wearing a San Francisco Giants jersey. To put this in perspective, within the San Francisco era, Cain is 2nd all-time for most games started as a pitcher (290), Lincecum is 3rd all-time in strikeouts (1,704), and Hudson helped lead the team to their 3rd World Series title in five years.
These veteran pitchers will be remembered among the San Francisco fans for as long as they live. However, the time has come to put the past behind us and focus on the present. The time has come to do what is best for the team. Most importantly, the time has come to say farewell to The Horse, The Freak, and Huddy.
For the second time this season and third consecutive season, the San Francisco Giants announced earlier on Friday that Matt Cain has been placed back on the DL, this time with irritation in his elbow. Cain received a cortisone shot in an attempt to aid the elbow, but, unfortunately, elbow and shoulder problems have constantly hindered Cain throughout the past few seasons.
As for “The Freaky Franchise” and Huddy, these two have been on the DL since late June and July, respectively. According to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News, Bochy expects to have Lincecum and Hudson back when the rosters expand in September.
Bochy said, “I think that’s the plan… but who knows. It could be sooner.”
This may sound like good news for Giants fans, but I beg to differ. It is not the time to be bringing back the guys who have not performed well this season. Before I begin my rant on why the Giants are a better team without them, I would like to acknowledge their accomplishments and appreciate everything that they have done for the franchise and this city.
On the other hand, the trio of arms have a combined record of 15-16 with a 4.89 ERA and 84 base-on-balls this season. That is what we baseball guys like to call “not executing.” When comparing them to the rest of the league, their 4.89 ERA would be tied for 7th worst in the MLB among qualified starting pitchers. To add, their average base-on-balls per 9 innings (BB/9) is 3.23, which would rank 75th of the 88 qualified starting pitchers in the MLB.
Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Lets take things a bit further, their combined wins above replacement (WAR) is an abysmal -1.0. Essentially, this means that their replacements, players that would be added for minimal cost and effort, would win an average of one more game per year. This stat is plenty enough to prove that when Lincecum, Hudson, and Cain pitch, they hurt the team more than help.
In their combined average amount of run support, the Giants offense have provided the trio with 4 runs of support per game. Although that is not an enormous amount of run support, it is pretty average and their combined ERA of 4.89 show how the Giants could have difficulty winning games when their pitchers consistently allow almost five runs per nine innings. Makes sense, right? In order to win you have to score more than the other team, duh!
Nevertheless, I will say this about the trio, their veteran presence and postseason experience is extremely influential in the development of their young pitchers, such as Chris Heston. However, we have enough big game and October baseball experience from guys like Ryan Vogelsong, Jake Peavy, and, of course, Madison Bumgarner. Each one of these guys have pitched for San Francisco in their three World Series championship runs, except for Peavy who has still started three World Series games in his career. The point is that the Giants already have the leadership and credibility from guys that are able to perform better day in and day out without Lincecum, Cain, and Hudson.
Earlier this season after the Trade Deadline, the acquisition of RHP Mike Leake sent Hudson to the DL and was the first hint that his days in the league are numbered. During the past off-season in November, Hudson announced that this 2015 season would most likely be his last.
May 7, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Hudson (17) reacts to a home run by Miami Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna (not pictured) during the seventh inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
“I have one more year left on my contract,” said the 40-year old Hudson. “So I’m pretty sure that’s going to be it after this season.”
The “Freak” is in his 2 year/$35 million contract end after this season, and his days as a San Francisco Giant could and should be done. Lincecum jump started as one of the Giants best pitchers this season, but poor location and dwindling velocity caught up with the 2-time Cy Young award winner. Although a hard linedrive up the box that smacked Lincecum in the elbow was his reason for hitting the DL, his starting pitcher role was going downhill fast and it was inevitable that the Giants had to either send him to the already full bullpen or make up an injury.
“The San Francisco organization needs to get their priorities straight and find a way to keep the trio off the field during their playoff push”
As for the 3-time All Star Cain, he has struggled ever since his return from the DL in July and is just not the same pitcher as he used to be. He is older, injury-prone, and cannot seem to hit is spots. The stuff is their with consistently low to mid-90s fastballs, but velocity means nothing in the Big Leagues if not executed in the right location. Although Cain most likely will not be traded or released due to his large 8 year/$139.75 million contract through 2017, having Cain during the most important part of the season would not be in the best interest of the team. Cain used to be an artist on the mound, but now he seems to be more of a runaway puppy in that the coaching staff is hoping to see the old Matt Cain again, yet never comes back.
The constant injuries and inconsistencies of the three pitchers have caused the Giants to have to improvise, and maybe it was for the better. Just look at the numbers, Cain’s replacement Chris Heston is 11-7 with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.9 WAR. Lincecum’s replacement, Ryan Vogelsong, was expected to be the long-relief man in the bullpen, instead in 8 starts and 11 appearances he is 3-2 with an opposing batting average of just .210 and an ERA of 2.88 at AT&T Park this season. Finally, Hudson’s replacement Mike Leake has started three games for the Giants and has two quality starts and posted a 3.53 ERA. Both Hudson and Leake are sinker-ball pitchers, and Leake simply is a younger and better Hudson.
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The San Francisco front-office is going to have to swallow their pride, take some heat from the press and fans, and decide that they are better off without Cain, Lincecum, and Hudson on the field. They need to understand that the fans are going to understand this decision because:
1. The trio have clearly not performed in their opportunities this season.
2. The current arms in the bullpen and rotation are unarguably more consistent.
3. The front-office has built three World Series teams in the past five seasons, so the fans don’t really have a whole lot to complain about.
Jun 9, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Chris Heston (53) celebrates with catcher Buster Posey (28) after throwing a no-hitter against the New York Mets at Citi Field. The Giants won 5 – 0. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
The San Francisco organization needs to get their priorities straight and find a way to keep the trio off the field during their playoff push. By no means do I mean keep them away from the team because allowing them to communicate and assist the young guys on the pitching staff could be essential. However, the numbers and results show how detrimental their inability to pitch deep into games can be.
Besides, it isn’t about pleasing the fans, it isn’t about owing anything to anybody, and it isn’t even about staying loyal to your players. The explanation is simple: the team performs better and has a better chance to win ballgames when they are not on the mound. The team can use their superb defense and timely hitting to score enough runs to win ball games. Win ballgames, win ballgames, and win ballgames. Simply put, winning is the explanation and reason for everything in the game of baseball.
So a little advice for the San Francisco coaching staff and organization, “Go with your gut, do not be afraid of others’ opinions, and do what is best for the team.” Ultimately, I strongly believe the San Francisco Giants are a better team without Lincecum, Cain, and Hudson during the postseason push, and it is time to say farewell.