When I wrote that the “Giants might need Tim Lincecum after all” on Friday, I ended by joking that Jake Peavy and Matt Cain would probably combine to throw 15 scoreless innings in New York. Since I dared to question the team’s fourth and fifth starters, they would prove me wrong within less than 30 hours. Right?
Well, Peavy jumpstarted a 12-run inning for the Mets on Friday night, and Cain got the ball soaring in a 13-run fifth inning bludgeoning last night against Colorado. But hey, in their other two starts each pitcher went six innings … while giving up a combined total of 13 earned runs and six homers allowed (six runs and two homers for Cain, seven runs and four homers for Peavy).
Peavy is almost certainly done. His fastball and sinker are two mph below what they’ve been over the last couple years, and as Mike Krukow described earlier today on KNBR’s morning show, his breaking stuff has been “lazy” in four of his six starts (and that’s probably being kind).
Cain is under contract for another year and $28.5 million (including a $7.5 million buyout for 2018, unless they feel like handing him another $21 million to pitch that season as well. His “stuff” isn’t all that bad, as far as velocity and the ability to throw a decent breaking pitch every now and then, but how long have the Giants been waiting for him to figure out how to locate his pitches? The answer is well over a year, but the more pressing concern is this: how much longer can the Giants tread water with two anchors at the end of their rotation before they get boat-raced in the NL West?
The Tim Lincecum Dilemma
Lincecum holds his “showcase” this afternoon, around 2:30, and the Giants are stuck.
It probably wouldn’t be as tough to sell the investors on a budget increase to bring back a pitcher as beloved as Lincecum as it would to spend on someone else (say, if Cliff Lee was holding a similar showcase today, for instance). But what if they can’t, or shouldn’t, acquire him?
If he looks better than expected (it’s been reported that he’s throwing 90-91 and his breaking pitches are acting as they should), the Giants are going to face competition from at least four West Coast teams and probably several others across both leagues. If he’s throwing 87 mph fastballs and missing his spots, he can’t really help the team because he would be a wilder version of Peavy.
If he slots somewhere in the middle — say, a close approximation to the 2012-13 Lincecum, which would represent a significant upgrade over Peavy and Cain — they absolutely have to sign him. What other choice would they have?
No use crying over lost pitchers
Ryan Vogelsong has a 3.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in seven appearances for the Pirates, including one start in which he went five innings and gave up one run. Yusmeiro Petit has been even better, with a 2.40 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in six appearances (no starts as of yet). The Giants would love to have both pitchers now, but they’re paying Cain and Peavy $36 million combined this season and … well, you know.
“I don’t think there’s an option that’ll make this staff better.”
That’s what Bruce Bochy told reporters after Cain’s start on Saturday.
The Giants are desperate for Chris Heston to show them something since he faded at the end of what was otherwise a very strong 2015 campaign. They’ve set it up so Peavy and Heston start on the same day. But Heston’s numbers so far in Triple-A haven’t been stellar: a 5.54 ERA for the River Cats after going five innings while giving up six earned on Wednesday. Heston allowed 15 baserunners and six earned runs in five innings as a reliever for the Giants to start the season.
Clayton Blackburn (4.88 ERA) doesn’t look ready — over his last two starts he pitched nine innings and gave up nine earned runs. Ty Blach has a slightly lower ERA, but he isn’t blowing hitters away. Tyler Beede is still two years away, and that’s only if he improves. Adalberto Mejia is probably in the same category as Beede.
What’s left, John Danks? He was just released by the White Sox, the only team he has ever known since becoming a big leaguer in 2007. Sound familiar? It should, except he’s always been a poor man’s version of Lincecum (in terms of stuff and statistics) and couldn’t get anyone out this year. At least with Lincecum there’s a shred of hope.
Even if they sign the Freaky Franchise (Big Time Timmy Jim), the Giants would have to hope for a couple of things.
- Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija stay injury-free.
- They get two serviceable starters out of Lincecum, Cain, Peavy, Heston, Blackburn or someone else.
We’ve seen what Cain and Peavy can do, so it’s clear that the Giants will need to seriously consider (over)paying Lincecum again, unless they want to wait until July and deal away prospects for another team’s starter. And by then, the cumulative effects of all these Cain and Peavy starts will have done real damage to the team’s already taxed bullpen. Of course, teams like the Dodgers know this, and would love to put the screws to their rivals, knowing they don’t have pitching prospects like Julio Urias in Triple-A.
It’s a difficult situation for the Giants, but at least it’s one they can slap a bandaid on this weekend with money. They’ve got plenty of that.