Aubrey Huff

Tim Lincecum: still not a quality starter in 2012

People were just about ready to start believing in Tim Lincecum again, after he stuck out Jose Reyes with a high fastball and just before the broadcast went to commercial Mike Krukow snuck in, “That’s 94.” 94 mph for Lincecum as he blows away one of the best players in baseball to get out of a 5th inning jam? Maybe the optimists (like Krukow) are right. Lincecum figured it out.

Then the 6th inning happened. After striking out Hanley Ramirez bought Lincecum more time than he may have deserved, he was able to keep Giancarlo Stanton in the park (at this point a single is a victory when pitching to Stanton) and Lincecum started doing Lincecum things. Stanton stole second, Logan Morrison walked, Bryan Petersen drilled a single to right. Then Lincecum looked like he avoided major trouble when John Buck’s blast was caught at the was caught in front of the warning track by Angel Pagan in deep centerfield.

Then Chris Coghlan, who was hitting .104 at the time came up.

“Decision time as to who Bruce Bochy wants to face,” Krukow said. “Coghlan’s been in an awful slump. However, he’s had two pretty good at-bats tonight against Lincecum.”

Home run, and what once looked like an inspiring effort from the Giants’ former ace became yet another reason for worry. Try as Bochy might, Lincecum couldn’t notch his second quality start of the year.

We’re at the point now where fans have gotten extremely protective of Lincecum in a “quick hook” sense, but that has more to do with Lincecum’s dwindling arsenal than Bochy’s ability to manage a pitching staff. Lincecum hadn’t thrown 100 pitches yet, he battled through a difficult 5th inning and looked great doing so, and he’s won two Cy Young Awards. That still counts for something, even though Lincecum’s been pretty bad this year.

Removing Lincecum was clearly the best course of action with Coghlan coming up, but this is Lincecum’s fault more than Bochy’s. Sure, Lincecum was sweating like Shaq in the 4th quarter with a hangover, but as I said on Twitter (recycled analysis alert), “If sweatiness is a gauge for when to remove Tim Lincecum, he’d average 3 innings per start on the road for his career.”

Every win is important, and leaving pitchers in a batter too long is always painful. But this is a delicate situation for a manager, especially the manager of a headstrong superstar. It’s only May, and Lincecum was defensive after Sunday’s loss to Oakland when a reporter brought up how Bochy thought Lincecum was struggling with concentration while in the stretch. We’re probably getting close to Bochy needing to have a quick hook every time Lincecum starts, but I can see why Bochy would want to hide the fact that his confidence in Lincecum is waning.

Lincecum’s stamina has been almost nonexistent this year, but this idea that the Giants should turn him into a closer is beyond ludicrous (“and Lincecum has walked the bases loaded in the ninth” keeps echoing in my brain). If anything the more likely solution is to wait until Brad Penny’s ready to contribute, send Lincecum to the DL with a phantom back injury and hope he can figure things out. Err, not that the Giants would ever utilize the DL in such fashion. And the most likely option is to let him pitch his way through this. But if he’s still pitching like this at the end of June the Giants might consider drastic measures.

Melky and Tony

Agreeing with the manager is never the “in” thing to do, especially when the manager’s been around forever. That being said, I’m going to agree with Bochy again and risk the street cred I’ve been meticulously building for several years — even though the word “meticulously” probably cancels out any kind of street cred I could pretend to possess.

Anyway, early this morning I compared Melky Cabrera — who hit a blistering liner into the right field foul pole (which with an unfortunate bounce might have been a single at AT&T park) and a triple — with Tony Gwynn. Then Buster Olney tweeted this during tonight’s game:

If Cabrera keeps doing that “[stuff]” the Giants might be forced to give him the contract they might have planned on giving Lincecum before this season.

All-innings weirdness

— What made Aubrey Huff stare at his fly ball to the right field wall for so long? He knows what home runs feel like and Marlins Park is a new venue for him, but one would think he’d be on his best behavior right now. Oh, who am I kidding…

— Brandon Crawford made the last out at third base in the 3rd, a play that could best be described as “the opposite of Melky-type [stuff].”

— Ryan Theriot’s tapdance around second base on the would-be double play didn’t hurt the Giants, but it sure looked ridiculous. The play before where he was called for an error … that’s almost expected from Theriot, especially in his first game back from the DL.

— Brandon Belt drilled a single to center in the 9th, but he also let a pretty good pickoff throw get by him in the 7th. Duane Kuiper also threw out this barb after Belt hit a lazy fly ball to left in the top of that inning: “That’s a ‘I don’t want to strike out’ swing.”

All hail Arias

The first time I saw Joaquin Arias during Spring Training, he looked electric in the field (at second base, the first time I saw him) and he didn’t do much at the plate. The second time I went down to Spring Training, with my dad, we talked about Arias on our way from the airport to Surprise. My dad was excited to see Arias for himself, and I warned him that he can’t hit … “at all.”

Then Arias hit two home runs in three days and my dad made fun of me the rest of weekend. This is just a really roundabout way of saying that Arias looks like he’s going to stick around a while.

Last Lincecum laments

Lincecum’s the opposite of Matt Cain now. Cain is the pitching equivalent of Xanax; Lincecum is two shots of 5-Hour Energy (a quick boost, followed by trembling, sweating, heart murmurs and other terrible sensations). The Giants are now 2-8 during Lincecum starts. He appeared to challenge Marlins hitters a little more often on Friday, which led to the first game in which he allowed 2 HR since Opening Day in Phoenix.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Lincecum as a great pitcher (okay, a very good pitch). But as I wrote on Sunday, I see 2012 as a transition year for him. A painful transition year, one in which Bochy will have no choice but to start removing him at the earliest sign of trouble … perhaps starting with Lincecum’s next turn in the rotation.

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