Chris Heston

Giants starters answered some rotation questions this week

Tim Lincecum sweaty vs Marlins

Just for fun, I’m going to write something that’ll piss off the Small Sample Size Police Dept. Because if you can’t piss off the uber-correctors, the people who get joy from being better at staring at numbers than everyone else and letting the world know, then what is the point in maintaining a regional sports website for 7.5 years? (Wow, it’s been that long?!?!)

I was looking forward to watching the Giants and Dodgers on Sunday Night Baseball, but first I needed to run some errands — to be specific, I ran to Papalote to pick up dinner. By the time my burrito walk ended, Tim Lincecum was already out of the game. Just four measly outs recorded, the shortest start of his career. Wait, what about the 17-0 loss to the Dodgers last year? Silly discombobulated memory, Lincecum didn’t even start that game. Tim Hudson was knocked out after allowing six runs in an inning, then Lincecum came in from the bullpen and performed better than the other Tim, allowing just five earned over three innings.

Either way, Lincecum dropping a turd on national television shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.

1. His home (2.14 ERA, two HR, 2.1 SO/BB ratio, .217 avg against) and road (6.06 ERA, five HR, 1.3 SO/BB ratio, .297 avg against) splits are almost comical.

2. For all the talk about a new-and-improved Timmy, his FIP and xFIP numbers told us that he was the same, only possibly a bit worse than before. In other words, Lincecum had gotten some nice run support and defensive help on his way to that 7-3 record (heading into Sunday’s game in L.A.), and pitching to contact while still walking a few too many was going to bite him at some point.

3. The gametime temperature at Chavez Ravine was a balmy 79 degrees. Lincecum hasn’t been a good warm weather pitcher for quite some time, and this season is no exception.

  • Lincecum at 65 degrees or below (eight starts): 6.13 innings per start, 1.84 ERA
  • Lincecum with temperature over 65 degrees (five starts): 4.13 innings per start, 7.84 ERA

* I left out Lincecum’s five-inning, 4-ER outing in Milwaukee since it took place indoors.

I cheated with the photo above, since that was from his start last year in Miami. But we’ve all seen it play out — sweaty Lincecum rarely pitches all that well or very deep into games.

More fun with small sample sizes

We saw some pretty outstanding starts in the series win over the Padres. Madison Bumgarner was dominant in the game the Giants lost, then Ryan Vogelsong and Chris Heston acquitted themselves quite well on Wednesday and Thursday. I attended the latter two games as a fan (I’ll be back in the press box relatively soon, but with the Warriors and a baby it’s been hard to find time in recent weeks). I had a front row seat for Vogelsong’s start, as one can see from that Buster Posey grand slam video I posted afterward, part of which I used for a seven-second Vine that led to me landing a new job with the San Francisco Giants. They may have been facetious with that “offer,” as they haven’t followed up since.

We went as a family to yesterday’s game, sort of a last hurrah before my wife goes back to working full-time. It’s more difficult to pay attention with an infant around, but Heston looked strong until the bullpen turned a would-be rout into a more exciting game than any of us expected heading into the eighth inning.

It’s clear that the Giants are holding open tryouts for four spots in the rotation. They’re dragging their feet a bit with Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, so counting on either of those veteran pitchers to provide much this season is probably overly optimistic, but if/when either of those pitchers comes back, the Giants will have some options.

The other Timmy

It sounds like Hudson is going to be placed on the disabled list at some point. That would allow the team to keep Lincecum, Vogelsong and Heston in the rotation if Cain OR Peavy return.

But what if Cain AND Peavy come back?

I guess anything’s possible. If both Cain and Peavy return from the minors and are capable of accumulating 18+ outs every five days, it’s time to see what Lincecum can do as a reliever.

I know, I know. HE’S A BRAND NEW TIMMY! HE’S A PITCHER, NOT A THROWER NOW!

Eh, not exactly. We’ve all wondered (well, I’ve wondered, anyway) what Lincecum would be like as a super-sub reliever ever since the 2012 postseason. And despite the occasional brilliant start when everything is going his way (cool weather, good defense, big park, etc.), he’s harming the bullpen in his current role as a starter. He’s gone six innings once in his last six starts (six innings exactly while allowing four earned runs in Philadelphia). Vogelsong has reached six innings in five of his last six starts and eight out of his last ten. Heston has only gone six innings in three of his last six starts, but he went over seven innings in each of those and one of those starts was the most badass no-hitter anyone’s hurled in recent memory.

In short, Heston and Vogelsong have looked better and stronger than Lincecum in recent weeks.

The Giants only have a few more months left to see what they can get out of Lincecum, and out of the non-Bumgarner starters, he’s the only one who’s shown any sort of proficiency as a reliever. And this way, Bruce Bochy could pick and choose when to use Lincecum in situations that would increase his chances for success. In other words, Lincecum would mostly be used at home or in San Diego, and almost never when they play games two or more time zones away as the summer gets hotter and more humid.

Which reliever would Lincecum replace? That’s a question for another post. But if there’s any point in which the Giants have more than five capable starters, Lincecum should be the first one asked to change roles.

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