Should the San Francisco Giants Be Worried About Tim Lincecum?


Apr 3, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starter Tim Lincecum (55) delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Lincecum’s declining fastball and atrocious 5.18 2012 ERA dropped his status from San Francisco Giants ace to worrisome third starter. Did the “Freak” loose his stuff, or will he return to an acceptable form this year? Should Giants management be concerned about Timmy going into this year?

In his first pitch of the 2013 season, Lincecum kept his fastball knee-high, hitting 93 mph at the knees of Carl Crawford. After a soft single to left field, and a walk of Skip Shumaker, Lincecum stood on the mound facing the formidable Mate Kemp; not the best start to the season for Lincecum, but then again, Kemp was, and still is, looking for his first hit of the season.

Kemp blasted the ball into deep center field, where it was caught by Angel Pagan; Crawford advanced to third. Lincecum erratically walked Adrian Gonzalez with a wild final pitch that allowed Crawford to score–an unearned run.

It was a torturous start to the season.

Maybe Lincecum enjoys it.

Torture defined the 2010 world series run, and became the exciting style of Giants play; the World Series Champions dangle opportunities in front of opponents, just to keep them out of reach. Ask the Cincinnati Reds or the St. Louis Cardinals about it…

In the second inning of his first 2013 appearance, Lincecum again faced Matt Kemp, this time with the bases loaded and two outs. After Kemp’s fly out to center field for the second time in as many innings, it was difficult to believe the Dodgers only scored a single run this far into the game. Lincecum allowed base-runner after base-runner to reach, and his pitch count climbed in the process.

The familiar voices of Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow noted that the ball wasn’t carrying too well with the marine air that rolled in. While the conditions helped keep the Dodgers hits in the park, it couldn’t stop Pablo Sandoval, who blasted one just over the center field wall to give the Giants a three-run lead in the top of the third.

Gaining a commanding lead is a great confidence boost, especially for Lincecum, who needed just nine pitches to retire the Dodgers in the third inning. However, in the fourth and fifth he wasn’t too efficient, using 19-plus pitches in both innings to ultimately force Bruce Bochy’s hand–Lincecum was done after five innings.

June 27, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) celebrates after scoring a run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the third inning at AT

Lincecum was credited with the win. He struck out four batters, but posted a 2.00 WHIP and allowed two unearned runs in the 5-3 win over the Dodgers.

It’s that glaring WHIP that causes all the torture. Giants’ management should be concerned if Lincecum doesn’t lower as the season progresses, or just as importantly, if he routinely lasts just five innings. The bullpen handled four innings of work, but it’s an unsustainable practice if it lasts the course of the season.

However, management shouldn’t be concerned with the situation they find themselves in.

The Giants are in the second of a two-year, $40 million dollar contract with Lincecum, which he more than earned during his 2008 and 2009 Cy Young years (he earned $405k and $650k, respectively, during those fantastic seasons).  Furthermore, this year will define the rest of Lincecum’s career, so it’s expected that he will step his game up.

If Lincecum pitches as poorly as he did last year, the Giants can move on to other options in free agency, or look at internal options. For argument sake, let’s say he does pitch as poorly as in 2012. The Giants still made it to the playoffs even with his dreadful campaign.

Sure, Lincecum tortures us, but that’s a reason to make a t-shirt or meme, not a reason for concern. Giant’s fans hope to see him healthy all year, and face the best lineups at critical times. He can handle them on decent outings like his first start, and when he finds his rhythm he’s dominant.