Call me crazy, but I truly believe that Lincecum deserves to start Game 1 of the NLCS.
He wasn’t in the NLDS rotation for the Giants, but he made an impact as a reliever, making appearances in two games while compiling six and one-thirds innings and allowing just one run. He boosted his incredible postseason stats and earned the win in Game 4, when he pitched four and one-thirds solid innings.
Because of that, you have to believe that he will be in the NLCS rotation. And he is coming in as the hottest of San Francisco’s five pitchers.
Ace Matt Cain would’ve earned the start, but he would be pitching on two days rest, meaning that he can’t start Sunday’s Game 1. Madison Bumgarner may get the nod, but his rough September and terrible Game 2 start isn’t a good sign. Ryan Vogelsong labored through five innings in Game 3, and he received lots of help from his defense, unlike Lincecum.
And Barry Zito? He needed 76 pitches to get eight outs in Game 4, allowing two runs and endangering San Francisco’s season. In other words, it’s unlikely that Bruce Bochy will put a playoff game in the hands of the inconsistent Zito. Lincecum has been terrible this year, but he sports a 5-1 record and 2.28 ERA in five postseason starts and eight postseason appearances.
Lincecum was doing well in September until one horrible and one poor start derailed what would’ve been a great month for the two-time Cy Young award winner. He was left out of the NLDS rotation, despite being told that he would be included in it by Bruce Bochy. Barry Zito, who had guided the Giants to wins in his last 11 starts, took Lincecum’s place.
And he didn’t do well. Luckily, Lincecum swooped in to propel the Giants to Game 5. Then, he said he would be available if needed for Game 5, after throwing 55 pitches the previous day.
Lincecum swallowed his pride and accepted his role, then he succeeded in that role. If he could do that, why can’t Zito (or maybe even Ryan Vogelsong) do the same? Lincecum is the face of the franchise, and Giants fans know that they wouldn’t have a World Series title without him. He is riding the hot hand and has some good stuff, so why not let him start Game 1?
Madison Bumgarner isn’t riding the hot hand at all, which is bad news for the Giants, especially if they face the Cardinals, owners of a prolific offense. He has been prone to the home run ball lately, allowing 23 this season and four in his last three starts. Pitching at AT&T Park helps, but he was terrible in his last start. Bochy won’t want to see someone who is pitching horribly as of late starting Game 1, especially someone who has allowed at least four earned runs in six of his last eight starts.
Vogelsong has done well lately, but he hasn’t gone deep into innings and has benefited from some slick fielding and luck. Lincecum is pitching like Lincecum, and he is a big-game pitching riding the wave of success. The fans support him, and he will benefit from pitching in a big ballpark (if the Giants face the Cardinals). If not, he should start anyways, because Lincecum has done well on the road lately.
The decision is up to Bochy, and he will think long and hard about it. However, for me, this is an easy decision. Hand the ball to the two-time Cy Young award winner and let him work his magic.