These days, it’s almost more confusing when Tim Lincecum succeeds than when he screws up. If there’s one thing we’ve learned by watching Barry Zito’s ascent to mediocrity these past couple of years it’s that when Zito’s breaking pitches are working, even a lineup of the best and brightest can’t catch up to an 84 mph. If Zito can establish the ridiculous curveball and surprisingly deceptive cutter, even his modest “fast”ball can work be incredibly effective as Zito pitches “backwards,” leading with breaking balls and following up with heat.
The problem with Lincecum seems to be that he’s still trying to pitch forward, starting with heat in the zone and finishing with sliders and changeups in the dirt. This means that he has to lead off at-bats by throwing fastballs over the plate. When he was doing that in 2008 and winning Cy Youngs, he was averaging 94 mph. Tonight, averaging 90 mph, those pitches are way too hittable.
But velocity isn’t the whole story, because we’ve seen him equally terrible when throwing hard. It’s just that a slower fastball with terrible location is much easier to hit than a faster fastball with terrible location.
For example, Michael Cuddyer’s double in the first inning:
There are very few things in the world more pleasant than sitting at beautiful AT&T Park on a gorgeous summer day, shivering in the shade while your favorite baseball team tries to close out a sweep of the visiting team. Spectacular pitching, handsome defense, shiny plate discipline: this game had it all. Today was, all in all, a really good day in the grand scheme of things.
I’m trying to get all of that out of the way so I can start to complain a lot, because that game was really annoying. For a game in which so many things went right, today was a game of surprises. The Giants have had poor pitching and great offense, so today they pitched beautifully and couldn’t get it done at the plate. The Nationals lead the league in errors. Here’s some great defense. Bryce Harper looked awful yesterday and now apparently has a wall phobia. How ’bout a home run and some stellar defense?
Alas, we can’t win every game. Be weÂ can complain after every game.
It’s a little too soon to crown Madison Bumgarner the Ace of the staff, especially with Cain getting back into Cain-like form, but he’s making a pretty good case for 1A status. Bumgarner was absolutely dealing tonight, striking out the side in the first (all swinging), and then scattering just four hits and two walks across seven strong innings, and had 17 first-pitch strikes.
Unfortunately, one of those hits was a blast from Bryce Harper, wunderkind and super-hyped prospect who unfortunately deserves every bit of the hype he’s receiving. He’s an amazing athlete and while none of usÂ want our players to run into a wall at full speed, I think we all want to have a player on our team whoÂ would run into a wall at full speed if that’s what it took to win. Plus he’s 20! I don’t know if that particular point has been mentioned by the national media, but what he’s doing right now isn’t just really good from a 20-year-old player, but from any player. He also made a nice catch in the 8th inning to rob Hunter Pence of an RBI hit, and later doubled to right field while losing his helmet in a manner reminiscent of his first major league hit, a time when people everywhere were introduced to Harper’s, uh, unconventional haircut. Anyway, I’m moving Harper over from my “overhyped” column to my “appropriately hyped” column. Now please go away and leave us in peace.
Everybody predicted that Game One of the 2010 World Series would be one for the record books. Two-time Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum was going up against Cliff Lee, a man eight feet tall with flaming red hair, with an arm made mostly of titanium who had yet to give up a run in his entire playing career. Â Lincecum, a man of slight build and a back just four pitches away from flying into the stands mid-pitch, would have to be perfect to keep the game within reach of the mighty Clifton. If one this was certain, it was that this would be a pitchers duel for the ages.
And yet, that didn’t quite happen. Timmy was only decent and Clifton was flat-out bad, and the Pitchers Duel For the Ages ended 11-7. In fact, it seems like every time we have a PDFtA it ends up crappy, like when Yu Darvish and Justin Verlander faced off last week and Verlander walked in two runs. PDFtAs are so often disappointments.
Not tonight, though. Matt Cain recovered from his shaky first inning and an inconsistent strike zone to pitch seven strong innings. He gave up just one hit and two walks after the first inning, including striking out four of the last six batters he faced. Strasburg was equally brilliant, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and sitting down the last 10 Giants he faced. Both stars lived up to expectations.