What’s the correct reaction to Tim Lincecum’s first three outings? Logic would tell us it’s super early and making a judgment on his effectiveness and/or health would be extremely foolish. Lincecum himself even referenced the “small sample size” we’re working with in regards to his season thus far: 13.2 IP, 10.54 ERA, 22 H, 4 BB, 16 K.
Lower fastball velocity has set off alarms. He’s hurt! He’s done! However, tonight in the San Francisco Giants’ 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies and Roy Halladay, that wasn’t necessarily an issue. Lincecum was consistently in the low-90s with his fastball, same as Halladay. Another cause for concern: Lincecum deciding during Spring Training to scrap the slider, a pitch that causes undue stress on his elbow.
Does Dr. James Andrews do 2-for-1 deals on Tommy John surgery? Maybe we can slide Lincecum in there after Brian Wilson’s. Good lord, that sky is getting awfully close!
Maybe, just maybe … we’re all overanalyzing things a bit.
After the game, I asked Lincecum the following question.
Is the slider still a pitch you’re staying away from?
Lincecum: “No, I threw that about … 20 times tonight. Felt good, other than a couple in the first inning that were up. It was fine.”
Then Andy Baggarly asked him a follow-up question that I couldn’t exactly decipher, and here was Lincecum’s response.
Lincecum: “It was just a pitch that I felt comfortable with last year. I’m just trying to get back to comfort, you know, things that feel right and having four pitches that I can go to instead of eliminating one right off the bat makes it easier for me.”
Lincecum also said several times about how good he felt during the 5 innings after his disastrous 1st (which, to be fair, was marred by a lazy Placido Polanco fly ball that fell for a double that probably should’ve been tracked down by Angel Pagan). In those 5 innings, Lincecum gave up 1 run (on a Roy Halladay opposite field single that knocked in Freddy Galvis), 4 hits and no walks while striking out 5.
Here’s video of my question to Lincecum:
Here is a good portion of the rest of the postgame interview, which kicks off with Lincecum mentioning that “small sample size” he’s working with. His response to whether going against Halladay meant anything extra is priceless (hint: it wasn’t exactly a question he thought held any merit).
It also includes this quote:
“I try not to waste too many pitches because I’m aware of the fact that I walked a shitload of batters last year,” Lincecum said. “It’s that fine line of knowing when you can throw a bad pitch or when you can throw a waste pitch. I’m still learning that.”
“Without question, this was a much improved outing,” said Bruce Bochy. “I think you have to give him a lot of credit. He settled down and pitched a pretty good ballgame … overall stuff, command, much improved. He’s close.”
My take on Lincecum: results aside, I feel much better about Lincecum’s chances for future Timmyness. His velocity wasn’t the issue, it was a mixture of mediocre defense and a couple bad pitches in the first inning, along with some bad luck in terms of BABIP. He’s throwing sliders again, which says either that he’s desperate to regain his former dominance or he isn’t worried about the stress on his elbow. For now, I’m going with the latter because Lincecum deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Remember, Wilson knew throughout 2011 and beyond that his elbow was shot. If Lincecum had those same worries about his arm, he would’ve gone the safe route and been the star of the Giants’ first Contract Extension Press Conference of the spring, before Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner. Until further notice, I’m considering these first couple weeks a repeat of August 2010. And by “further notice,” I mean the 1st inning of his next start.