Losing a series to the Mariners is downright distasteful. Especially when you’ve been tantalizingly good recently. Like, sneaky good. Four of your five pitchers look like aces. Your hitters are healthy and not mired in Velezian slumps. These are the series to win. But they didn’t. So I rant. Thoughts from the weekend series at SafeCo. Safeco? Fine.
Lincecum: The Giants are 2-12 in games started by their beleaguered star. At our last meet, my partner Danny berated me for using team wins and losses to evaluate a pitcher’s performance. He made the sensible point that many variables affect whether or not a team wins a particular game. The pitcher’s actual performance is key, but a lack of run support and poor defense can marginalize even the best outing. While stroking his imaginary beard, Danny informed me that the way he evaluates starting pitchers is “quality starts versus games started”. Quality. What a concept. So I cracked my knuckles, bore down and hit the ole interwebs. And when we compare Lincecum’s quality starts to games in which his starts weren’t quality, the end result is….2-12. Eff you Danny. Eff you in the A.
Lincecum’s vaunted homecoming to Seattle had the potential to become a tipping point for his season. A good start would do wonders for his confidence; confidence that he could carry into the All-Star Break and potentially wipe the slate clean on a horrendous first half. A bad start would further unsilence the cacophony of pundits calling for a skipped start or a bullpen stint. On to the actual start. Home run, home run, shit. Mr. Hyde showed up early this time. But then-wait- one baserunner over the next three innings? The Doctor is in! Lincecum then cruised to a- shit, not again. Three earned runs in an inning-plus of work in the 5th and 6th and once again a sullen Lincecum exits with the Giants down.
The part that just kills me is all the hits. The walks were and always will be part of Timmy’s arsenal. Strikeout numbers haven’t fallen of a cliff. But his hit rate is up a full two from his previous career average. What makes Lincecum’s pitches more hittable? The diminished velocity sure doesn’t help. The lack of a powerful fastball, conceptually, should reduce the effectiveness of a change-up. Which, for Lincecum, is the pitch that launched a thousand Cy Young votes. Without those extra MPHs, hitters can feel more comfortable in the box knowing that the range of speed in the pitches they see will be less extreme. More balance, more hits.
In addition, the early season reporting on Lincecum was his desire to hold off on throwing sliders to save his arm from fatigue. This seems to have been lost in the shuffle of poor outings and the accusations of bad mechanics. After an outing and a half, It turns out he decided sliders were ok, but the fact that it was even a concern keeps it on my radar. I have a feeling that little things like this are going to be part of the off-season narrative if Lincecum doesn’t recapture at least a little of the old magic.
Going forward, the Giants have four options. Here they are, listed in order of extremitude:
- Do nothing. No thanks, that’s not fun.
- Skip his next start. This seems reasonable, considering the Giants can do this without having to pitch anyone on short rest. With the All-Star Break looming, he could essentially have two whole weeks off to get right.
- Send him to the bullpen. Worked for Jonathan Sanchez, right?
- Send him to AAA. Because he’s essentially Brett Tomko.
I like option 2 the best. Let Timmy take time to take physical and mental inventory. Visit his father. Sleep at the foot of Dave Righetti’s bed. Pound some animal-style double-doubles with his buddies. Feel normal. Confident, even.
The DH: When the Giants played the Rangers in the World Series in 2010, the series started at home for the Giants. It became apparent quite early that Rangers’ manager Ron Washington had no idea what to do with his team if he wasn’t allowed a designated hitter. Vlad Guerrero will make the Hall of Fame, but not for his ability to play outfield while simultaneously old. It is a far, far easier task for Bruce Bochy to adapt to life with the DH than Ron Washington had to without it. Simply fill out a lineup card as per usual, then find your best remaining hitter and put “DH” next to his name. Nope, baseball managers insist on making things harder than they are. Justifying the inflated salary and getting to have their name and number on the back of their shirt, methinks.
Friday: Justin Christian. Tearing it up in Fresno. Play the hot hand, says Bochy. Still weird.
Saturday: Pablo Sandoval. So that…Joaquin…Arias…can…start? Does Bochy think Sandoval’s defense is that bad? Does he think Arias’ bat is that good. I would have thrown a red-hot (just give it to me) Nate Schierholtz in right and let Blanco DH. On defense, Schierholtz is better than Blanco. On offense, Blanco and Schierholtz are both better than Arias. Man, this is easy.
Sunday: Buster Posey. Day game after a night game. Nuff said.
Tonight: Pablo Sandoval. I feel like Charlie Brown and good hitters are the football.
Romo: Faces two batters in Sunday’s game. Gives up two hits. Apocalypse. Romo has been redonkulous this season. Before Sunday, just 13 batters reached base in 18 innings. WHIPing boy, if you will. The fact that Romo’s “meltdown” occurred on the road in the 9th inning of a tie game is just unfortunate. It’s not your fault, Romo. You’re still my superhero. And my fireman. And my single guy who uses finger guns to let ladies know he’s packin’.