Tim Lincecum has had a wonderful season and last nights blip doesn’t change that. His W/L and ERA record might look a little different after his loss to the Rockies, but Lincecum has thrown better this year than anyone could have ever dreamed . Mixing a unique delivery with an arsenal of power pitches that we’ve rarely seen displayed in a Giants uniform, Lincecum is the only reason to watch this team right now. I consider myself a big fan of the Giants. I write a blog (something I never thought I would do) about this team and a good portion of my day is spent thinking about different baseball questions. I love baseball. But, I’m sure as heck not tuning into these last few games to watch Eugenio Velez or Barry Zito. That’s the appeal of Tim Lincecum and unfortunately, the Giants also understand this. They wouldn’t be good businessmen if they didn’t.
Why is it unfortunate? Because I think at some point the Giants shifted their focus with Lincecum. They moved from a long term focus — keeping him healthy, sensible workload management — to a short term rewards mode — CY Young Awards, 138-pitch starts, extra-starts to finish the season — all in an effort to sell tickets, jerseys, and to entice season ticket purchases. When you want to squeeze in an extra start for your star 24-year-old pitcher because it might sell some more season tickets, you’ve jumped the shark and should no longer be allowed to make big boy decisions.
It’s almost laughable and the Giants’ handling of Lincecum is truly bipolar. Bruce Bochy says: “He’s not a toy” on September 8th and then follows up that comment with Lincecum’s 138-pitch game against the Padres. You can’t have it both ways, Bruce.
He’s not a toy! No, wait, he is! He’s different! Huh, he looks tired. Maybe we should skip his last start? Where did I put my car keys? I can never find them. I wonder what Sabes is up to. Maybe starting Tim isn’t a good idea. Hmmm, but we could sell some more $5 churros and $194.99 Lincecum jerseys. This-is-a-toughie!
Bochy said that he and the club’s brain trust would “huddle up” to discuss starting Lincecum on Sunday.
“If he wants to and feels fine, then he can have it,” Bochy said.
Oh, boy. The brain trust is going to “huddle up”. I think the meeting (this is where I shamelessly rip-off The Dugout) might look like this:
In a Waffle House, late into the night…
Sabes: OK, brain trust, huddle up!
Sabes: Now, that we’re altogether for this very important meeting, I’d like to open the floor for..
BOCHY: BRIAN, MY HEAD WON’T FIT IN MY AVATAR
Sabes: Bruce, calm down, you’ll be OK. What the hell is an avatar? Is that…
BOCHY: BRIAN, IT’S A GRAPHICAL REPRESENTATION OF WHO I AM AS A PERSON. IT’S REALLY CRAMPED IN HERE
Brain_Trust: Is he going to be alright?
Sabes: I think so. Bruce, use your indoor voice and stop struggling so much. You’ll be fine.
BOCHY: BRIAN, IS THIS BETTER?
Sabes: OK, anyways, we’ve got some concerns about Tim Lincecum’s workload. He’s thrown a ton of pitches this year.
BOCHY: BRIAN, WHO IS LINCECUM. IS HE THAT SPRY YOUNG LAD THAT BOUNCES AROUND THE DUGOUT AND GRANTS ME MAGICAL WISHES? THAT SPRITE OWES ME A WISH.
Brain_Trust: Bochy, please stop shouting. We can all hear you. Lincecum is not an elf, he’s our best pitcher.
BOCHY: NO WAY, JOSE.
Jose: Did somebody say my name?
Jose: /drops ball
Brain_Trust: This is useless, we’re outta here.
Sabes: Forget it. We’ll go ahead and pitch Lincecum on short rest, potentially endangering his tiny golden arm for a meaningless game in late September.
Felipe: I’ll allow it.
BOCHY: WAIT, WHAT.
Didn’t we all learn the moral of this story when we were young kids? The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs? Except our goose fires 95mph fastballs and changeups that fall off the table. Yeah, he’s a pretty sweet goose. The point is this: the Giants should focus less on marketing and more on constructing a team that can compete for the playoffs. People will come out and pay good money to watch winning baseball. The way you can keep the team on the track back to winning baseball and the playoffs is by keeping Lincecum healthy.
I was going to post some PITCHf/x numbers but I got side-tracked by my Dugout rip-off. I’ll give you the cliff notes: Lincecum is still down about 1-2mph on his fastball velocity and his fastball had decreased horizontal movement to the left side of the plate — from the viewpoint of sitting behind the dish, think of the catcher or umpire’s position. On average, Lincecum’s fastball moves in on RHB’s anywhere from 3-4 inches this year. Last night, it wasn’t moving in on RHB’s at all, it’s break was neutral horizontally. Meaning that instead of the fastball running in on RHB’s, it’s movement kept it centered.
Again, something to think about. Decreased velocity and loss of movement look like indicators of fatigue to me — I’m not a mechanics expert, so remember that. Lincecum pitched a high stress game last night and it showed, by the 5th inning he looked cooked. If he’s fatigued it’ll be unknown whether or not it’s doing damage to his arm, but I can’t say I like the direction that things are heading.