Tim Lincecum is now 2-6 with a 5.82 ERA. His walk rate has spiked to over five per nine innings. Thus, despite his strong strikeout rate, his strikeout to walk ratio has crashed below two.
The Giants are now 2-9 in his starts, having given up 63 runs while scoring just 41, and his poor performance certainly isn’t going unnoticed.
The Giants are ever so slightly beating their Pythagorean record of 26-25 at 27-24, thus far scoring 204 runs while giving up 202. Outside of Lincecum’s mostly-terrible, sometimes-okay-ish starts, though, they are — as also pointed out by Buster Olney — 25-15 with a run differential of plus-24 (+24). In other words, had Lincecum been just average in his 11 starts, going something like 5-6 with an even run differential, the Giants would be just 20 runs behind the Dodgers in run differential and a couple of games back. They’d be behind just the Cardinals, Dodgers and Nationals. (I’ll have to get used to typing that out in the context of a team doing well.)
I think that helps illustrate a couple of things. The first would be: Wow has Lincecum been bad this year. He, almost personally, has cost the Giants at least a few games in the standings. It’s gotten to the point that, when he whiffs six batters, walks five, goes seven innings and leaves a ballgame with a deficit of just one — such as he did tonight — you almost feel like that was a well-pitched game.
That’s not a very good game. In 2009 we’d have called that a stinker for the right-hander.
There are lots of ways to go with that in terms of your outlook for the remainder of the Orange and Black’s season. Which way you go largely depends on whether or not you believe Lincecum will bounce back soon (or ever), I expect. I’ve been in denial about it myself. Trying not to really think about how bad he’s been. In a lot of ways it’s painful to even explicitly point out how bad he’s been, the apparent signs of a rapidly-declining, once-great pitcher. He was (and always will be) a San Francisco gem. Hell, he’s a gem for all of baseball. A freak. The Freak.
From that good to this bad so fast, though, and without an injury? Unfair. Alarming. Especially when you consider the missing velocity that’s coinciding with the jump in walks and evident ineffectiveness. In 2011 he re-found the velocity (92.3 average velocity) he had in 2009 (92.4), when he earned his second and last Cy Young award (which was also the most dominant season in his career). In 2012 what he re-gained has simply disappeared again, and to levels lower than ever before (now just 90.1). The zip is gone, and it hasn’t been a slow burn.
Do I want to think of Lincecum as a serviceable starter? Do I have to hope for that? Do I really have to? For now I think I do. And, if you’re being honest with yourself, you do too. If he can do just that and a healthy Pablo Sandoval returns in a couple of weeks to bolster the lineup that’s already performing in middle-of-the-pack fashion, the Giants will actually be in pretty good shape.
Here’s to hoping for at least that and dreaming on something more, a Lincecum return to greatness. Because as frustrating as it is for Giants fans, I think the struggles have probably been completely crushing for Tim.