I’m still in Southern California, scheduled to fly back tomorrow afternoon. While this trip started in San Diego, we drove to my wife’s aunt’s house in Newport before heading to E3 later today, where my wife will attend a swanky business dinner and I’ll mess around in L.A. with my buddy Carp, who recently moved down here and switched from rooting for the Giants to flying a Dodgers flag from his car (juuuuust kidding).
It’s nice here, being that the sun shines most of the day and the wind actually feels nice — instead of icy and horrible like it can in San Francisco (I love The City, but the 25-mph wind gusts that we’ve been getting on a daily basis have grown a little tiresome). However, I wish the timing of this trip was better; I’d love to attend a game at AT&T Park south or at least be able to watch the Giants play the Padres on TV. Alas, I have to settle for following the action on my phone and/or laptop (and I refuse to pay $200 or whatever it is for MLB TV).
So when Tim Lincecum pitched 6 innings last night — allowing 4 earned runs, striking out 8 and walking 1 — all I really got from that was a boxscore and a Twitter timeline full of complaints about Steve Edlefsen and Bruce Bochy. So to get a sense of how well Lincecum did (his long journey back to the land of the dominant is the team’s biggest story right now, at least in my opinion), I perused the writers I follow and respect to get a full report. Here’s what I found:
First, one of my favorite sites for many reasons — the hilarious and informative Bay City Ball:
Pop quiz. Tonight’s start by Tim Lincecum was …
A. Maddeningly inconsistent
B. Brilliant at times
C. [crackpot Tim Lincecum is struggling theory]
D. All of the above
D. It’s probably D. However, there are some positives to take away from Lincecum’s start. His final line (6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO) is, as usual, a mixed bag. The good stuff: one walk! Lincecum hasn’t walked one batter or less in a start since April — he did twice in the month, none since — and for a pitcher that’s really had problems with his control this year, it was a welcome sight. And, walks aside, despite all of his struggles, Lincecum has never stopped striking out batters, so that’s also good to see.
The bad stuff is largely centered on the four runs that Lincecum gave up in the 2nd inning. It was your typical 2012 Tim Lincecum inning: homer, double, fly out, walk, single (run scored), fielder’s choice, double (two runs scored), and a fly out. The double was the worst part of the inning — a fat curveball that Cameron Maybin ripped into LF.
From innings three-to-six, Lincecum struck out eight batters and really showed some nice command of his breaking stuff. More of that, please.
Ultimately it seems that your opinion on Lincecum’s problems has turned into some weird form of a personality test. If you think Lincecum is struggling because his fastball velocity is down a little, you’re an extrovert; if you think he’s struggling because of mechanical issues, you’re an introvert; and if you think he’s struggling because the Giants won’t let him smoke marijuana, you’re an idiot. It’s science.
I like to think of myself as “not an idiot,” regardless of the feedback I get in the comments section or on social media. So I’m glad that based on Chris Quick’s last paragraph, my personality is devoid of idiot-like tendencies. At least when it comes to Lincecum, anyway.
Next up, the Sergio Romo to Grant Brisbee’s Matt Cain: Every6thDay (McCovey Chronicles):
In a game that saw four innings of perfection from Tim Lincecum after a second inning that saw more hard hit balls than an episode of America’s Funniest Home Video, it’s easy to say that his ship appears to have been righted and the Giants have their ace back and everything’s going to turn out peachy keen. But Lincecum continues to have these bouts of inconsistency where he just looks bad. Now, he’s not *that* bad, but he’s leaving fat pitches in the zone to be hit and they are being hit.
Velocity: check. Command: check. Location: check. Stuff: check. Confused spectators and evaluators: check. So, I’m just going to dial up my old ring tone: “Pitchers, man. Pitchers.” The more we try to figure them out, the less we know. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the confusion.
Even though the imagery made me cross my legs and wince in imagined pain, I have a better idea what it was like to watch Lincecum pitch last night: extremely frustrating, with a touch of nausea at the end.
Now we transition to the beat writers, starting with Alex Pavlovic:
Tim Lincecum got the no-decision, but the Giants took the loss for the seventh straight Lincecum start. They’re 2-10 with him on the mound.
“Everybody comes here with one purpose, and that’s to win,” he said. “It’s just another thing to add to things that are going through my mind. Your job is to put the team in a position to win. I haven’t been doing that.”
I’ve said this all along — Lincecum’s season is just weird. He gave up four runs in the second inning and then retired 12 of the next 13 and struck out eight. He walked just one tonight. Seemingly every time he takes the mound there are dominant stretches and then stretches where he looks completely lost.
“It’s really the one inning. I just felt he had trouble getting the ball down early, but he settled down and pitched great,” Bochy said. “You hate to see it, but those innings count. He’s having trouble repeating his delivery in an inning like that.”
Over the last few games Bruce Bochy’s frustration with Lincecum has been palpable. While Lincecum almost seems like he tries to talk through his problems on the mound during his postgame interviews, Bochy generally follows a little bit of praise with a message of “get your s— together, Cy.”
Baggs, you’re up:
But even Lincecum couldn’t feel too terrible about it as he dissected the inning. Cameron Maybin’s two-run double was the damaging hit, and it had all the elements of a fluke: A broken bat, a slider nearly in the dirt, a perfect spot in the outfield to fall.
So Lincecum was not dour or morose after his winless streak reached a career-high seven starts. It was easier for him to focus on what happened after the second inning, when he began using his change-up more often while retiring 12 of 13 batters – eight by strikeout.
Before he did that, though, he had himself a good steam session in the dugout.
“Well yeah, I was definitely (ticked) off because you can see signs of stuff that happened before and you’re trying your hardest to keep things from unraveling,” Lincecum said. “I was just trying to collect myself, give myself a moment to vent and then get back, get focused and that’s what happened.”
“I’ve put myself in a big hole and I feel I’m finally crawling out of it,” he said. “There’s still the crooked numbers but the innings outside of those, I feel better.”
And that crooked number against the Padres nearly wasn’t so crooked.
“Nine times out of 10 if I throw that same pitch (to Maybin), maybe it’s a double play,” Lincecum said.
There was no shame in his 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, either. It was his lowest walks total since his third start of the season.
“Nice,” he said, eagerly. “Thank you for bringing that to my attention.”
CSN Bay Area can’t include the word “pissed”? Huh. From Andrew Baggarly’s account it appears Lincecum suffered another bad luck inning, something we’ll laugh about in a couple months. Right? Right????
John Shea’s in San Diego, subbing for Henry Schulman:
“It was the best I’ve seen him throw this year,” Theriot said. “I’m not worried about him at all.”
Other than the second inning, Lincecum was splendid. That’s his problem. One bad inning per game. Quentin opened with a home run. Chase Headley doubled, Forsythe walked, Everth Cabrera hit an RBI single, and Cameron Maybin hit a two-run, bat-shattering double.
“It’s not a huge adjustment I’ve got to make,” Lincecum said. “Tonight, I can’t control Headley’s going to hit a good fastball away or the broken-bat hit that scores two. I’ve got to maybe execute the pitch a little better, but hindsight is tough to deal with.”
Judging from Shea’s inclusion of the word “splendid,” there were some definite positives last night, all things considered.
Lincecum seems close, that’s clear. However, that’s been the case for a while now. Plus he was facing the Padres, a team that, besides Quentin, have a decidedly minor league-esque offense* (Lincecum’s last win was an 8-inning, 0 ER performance against the Padres back on April 28). Lincecum’s next start comes on Sunday vs. the Texas Rangers … pretty sure we all remember what happened the last time he faced that team.
*No homers in the Giants’ last eight games? Perhaps I should be less critical of the Padres’ offense and wonder how the Giants are going to get a much-needed power infusion. Maybe that’s an even bigger story than the difficulties Lincecum has experienced this season…