Prior to this season San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum was about as close to a sure bet as you could find in Major League Baseball. Over the last four seasons he averaged 244 strikeouts with a 2.82 ERA and 15 wins. He was named to the All-Star team each year, led the National League in strikeouts from 2008-2010, and won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009.
This year has been another story for the 28-year old presumed ace of the Giants starting rotation. Lincecum took a 2-8 record and 6.19 ERA through 14 games into yesterday’s start versus the Oakland A’s.
Trying to nail down what exactly the problem has been has left manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti searching for answers, unsuccessfully to this point. Skipping Lincecum’s turn in the rotation for a start was an option, but not one the team felt was necessary. It appears the idea of moving the struggling right-hander to the bullpen came up, atleast once. The Giants seem willing to try just about anything to help Lincecum regain the form he’s dazzled MLB with in recent years, it’s just a matter of what to do first.
At this point you might think Lincecum would have a longer leash to get things figured out considering his track record right? I would say yes and so would his father, who wasn’t shy about hiding his feelings on the matter when he recently spoke with Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY.
“Here’s a two-time Cy Young winner, a four-time All-Star, a World Series champion, and send him to the minors?” Chris Lincecum said, his voice rising. “You do that, and what you’re basically telling the player is, ‘We don’t need you or respect you.’ And this is the kid who helped bring a championship to the city of San Francisco for the first time in over 50 years?
“It’s like people forget what he’s done. It’s like, ‘What the (expletive) do I have to do. What more do you want? I gave you two Cy Youngs. I was a major contributor to the World Series. And you crucify me now?’ “
“You keep saying (expletive) like this, and he’ll want to go away. This is the face of the franchise … and now that he’s struggling, as all players do at some point, this is the (bleep) respect he gets? You’re crucifying him.
“It’s like the media is hoping he fails so they’ll have something to write about. If they’re trying to get him to leave that city, they’re (bleeping) on their way.”
As we saw earlier this year when the father of former Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore came to his son’s defense when questions arose over Kellen’s potential draft position because of his height Chris Lincecum is simply sticking up for son Tim, and makes a few valid points in between the expletives.
What Tim Lincecum did from 2008-2011 was pretty remarkable and surely spoiled Giants fans, the organization, and the media to a certain degree. Even the best struggle from time to time and while Tim’s stretch of poor performances this season might sound a few alarms I’m not quite sure it’s time to shovel dirt on #55 just yet.
Lincecum took the mound last night and came away with a no-decision, but there were a few signs of encouragement after a rough start. In the first inning he allowed three hits, two walks, and three runs before settling down to strikeout Brandon Moss, Kurt Suzuki, and Cliff Pennington to leave the bases loaded. At one point Lincecum struck out 6 of 10 batters and the three hits he gave up in the first inning were the only ones he surrendered in six innings pitched as San Francisco would eventually beat Oakland 5-4.
Sometimes all it takes is one outing to get a pitcher going and last night could have been just that for Tim Lincecum. It looks as though his next start will come on Wednesday against the Dodgers where he will look to continue the success he had over the last five innings yesterday. If he can get rolling again and match what Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, and Madison Bumgarner are doing the Giants could make up the three games they’re currently behind the Dodgers in the NL West in a hurry.