With a six-run lead and Madison Bumgarner’s day done, many fans cried for Tim Lincecum to pitch in either the eighth or the ninth inning of Game 1. Of the World Series. Against a team that came back from a 7-3 deficit to beat the Oakland A’s in these very same playoffs.
I understand the sentiment, and the logic behind it fuels daydreams and tugs at the heartstrings. Lincecum’s celebrity and likability are well known, he’s a force when his mechanics are consistent and correct, and his postseason record is fantastic. Not pitching in this postseason has probably helped that record stay pristine, of course.
Lincecum was moved to that supersub role in 2012 because he hadn’t done enough throughout the season to prove he could start, but he was a serviceable pitcher in the second half. That story flip-flopped in 2014.
- First half of 2012: 6.42 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, .268/.352/.456
- Second half of 2012: 3.83 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .243/.328/.392
- First half of 2014: 3.66 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .230/.304/.378
- Second half of 2014: 7.59 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, .324/.397/.591
Lincecum faced the Royals twice in 2014. I saw him get knocked around on March 23 in Scottsdale (4.2 innings, seven ER, three HR, 11 hits), but that’s only Spring Training. His mustache was still growing back then. Bruce Bochy probably paid slightly more attention to his outing at Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 10, when he was knocked out of the game after allowing six runs and a homer in 3.1 innings.
Which brings us to Lincecum’s role now, and why he’s on this team. This is an 11-man staff on the road and a 12-man staff at home, with Lincecum available to mop up in a game that’s out of reach, or rally the crowd in a game where nothing else is working. On the road, Lincecum has been a rally starter and cheer generator for opposing teams and crowds.
- 2014 at home: 9-3 record, 3.91 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .238/.315/.416
- 2014 on the road: 3-6 record, 6.02 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, .287/.357/.475
The only people who’ve seen Lincecum pitch over the last three weeks are the ones making these decisions: Bochy (MLB’s top postseason manager, as well as a man who’s known to be OK at handling bullpens), Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner. If they thought Lincecum was a better option than Hunter Strickland, either in Game 1 or in future games during this World Series, they would’ve used Lincecum in the ninth inning on Tuesday night. But this isn’t a time for a feel-good story or to see if Lincecum can find himself. The Giants are paying one of the least effective pitchers in baseball, a man who in a dead ball era can’t be trusted to pitch effectively against any team besides the Padres, $35 million over the 2014-15 seasons. Leaving him off the postseason roster would’ve been a bit of a diss after all he’s accomplished, but the Giants are 9-2 in the playoffs and have a 1-0 lead in the World Series. They’re doing just fine without him, and they don’t owe him innings for what he did in the past when he’s shown nothing over the last several weeks to indicate he’d get outs.
Plus, Lincecum may be over the whole thing anyway. He caused a stir by missing player introductions before Game 1 of the World Series, his most famous absence since the dehydration episode before the 2008 All-Star Game. Apparently his health was fine on Tuesday night — he simply got dressed too late. Bochy said after the game that he didn’t notice Lincecum’s absence before the game started, but I find that hard to believe. Bochy notices EVERYTHING.
Lincecum may find himself on the mound again in 2014. But I’m guessing he won’t, and not because Bochy’s against fun. Rather, it’s because Bochy wants another parade down Market Street.