A Tribute to Tim Lincecum


I never thought the day would come where I would be sitting here having to write about the end of a man who became a legend for the San Francisco Giants franchise. Well, everyone has to come to an end at some point, but this is just far too soon.

On Thursday, Giants’ General Manager Bobby Evans confirmed that Tim Lincecum‘s 2015 would indeed be coming to an end, leaving many questions about the rest of his career.

His playing future in the Bay Area looks slim to none, as he will be recovering from potential hip surgery and entering free agency.

This is probably one of the most difficult articles I have had to write, despite naturally having the ability to come up with material to write about Lincecum.

Being a fan of the pitcher since the day he was drafted into the Giants’ organization, he quickly and ever-so solidly established a place in my fandom heart. And writing this article feels like my heart is slowly being pried apart. But what to look upon is the many great moments and the reason why I am writing this tribute to a small-bodied pitcher who carried a franchise and a large city to where no other Giant has gone before.

I am an Oregonian, and have had the chance be a Northwest-native all my life. But I inherited being a Giants’ fan from relatives, as opposed to going with the closer team, three and half hours north of Portland, the Seattle Mariners. That was probably one of my greatest inheritances.

Growing up, Barry Bonds was my guy and the person I looked up to. Take note, this was all before the BALCO investigation and the Mitchell Report which plucked away at players and changed the game and the perception of it. Every year before baseball season started, I would race to receive my jersey and pray that number 25 was available and in my size to wear. Placing that jersey on, I would feel like a new person and felt that I had the power of Bonds in me as I would imitate his swing from the right-side of the plate.

Amid all the scandals and Bonds’ potential involvement in performance-enhancing drug use, it caused distractions and hurt baseball and my fandom. Sticking with my guy, over the years I would face criticism from friends as to how I could support such an arrogant figure and a cheater, despite no test ever coming up positive. As Bonds grew, so did the negativity around me as a Bonds’ fan, and I still stand true to him to this very day.

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Bonds last season was in 2007, and the Giants’ franchise was losing one of its greatest icons since Willie Mays. Not to disregard the play of Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, and Will Clark, but Bonds was on the greatest of all-time watch, as he held the single-season home run record and all-time home runs record.

As Bonds left the game, he also left a void for a face of the franchise and a player for me to follow.

Since 2003, there has been a mess in baseball regarding performance-enhancing drugs, as it is still being addressed today. Bonds was potentially linked to PED’s, but his press coverage and the investigation took a toll as it sort of rubbed onto the Giants’ franchise and their identity was violated.

Dark days loomed for the franchise after the Mitchell report, but 2007 was a magical year to make fans and myself forget about those dreadful seasons, as Bruce Bochy and Tim Lincecum arrived.

Once Felipe Alou was fired after the 2006 season, Bochy was brought over from the San Diego Padres to manage the ball club. After flirting with World Series titles and playoff appearances in San Diego, Bochy brought a new culture to San Francisco. And the call-up of Lincecum was a catalyst to an unbelievable future statistically. He became a franchise-moving player bringing the first of three World Series titles to the Giants.

The Giants needed hope and someone to believe in again, and the Renton, Washington native did just that. Being unable to chart what height and weight Linecum truly was, it didn’t matter as he played bigger than what he was.

Living in the Northwest, Lincecum stayed close to home as he went to the University of Washington to play college baseball. The games were televised in my area. With an uncanny delivery and flexibility unlike any other, using a motion coached by his dad, it certainly has done wonders and took baseball by storm.

In 2006, Lincecum pitched his way into becoming the best player in college baseball that season, winning the Golden Spikes award. In reward, he was drafted that June by the Giants with the 10th overall pick, just three spots back from that one guy, Clayton Kershaw.

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Quickly moving up in the farm system, Giants had no choice but to call-up the former Washington Husky, and from that point on, never turned back.

For a small frame and delivery that required such strength and flexibility, there may not be one player who could replicate it successfully and healthfully. Essentially, Lincecum’s game is a piece of rare art.

While 2010 was a franchise-changing moment, that would not have occurred if it weren’t for 2008 and 2009, Lincecum’s Cy Young years.

With a fastball that was deceptive reaching 93-94 miles per hour and change-up that got away from hitters, Linecum’s game would draw crowds just like home run hitters. When you think of a power pitcher, you envision a big body with high walk counts, but a boat-load of strikeouts. Lincecum certainly did not fit the bill for a big body, but his motion brought the punch and relied on those strike outs.

Over Lincecum’s first two full-seasons, it was a flashback to Dwight Gooden and got the league watching. Between both Cy Young award seasons, here is a break down of what he produced to earn those awards:

2008: 18-5, 2.62 ERA, 227 IP, 265 K’s, 1.172 WHIP, 7.9 WAR

2009: 15-7, 2.48 ERA, 225.1 IP, 261 K’s, 1.047 WHIP, 7.5 WAR

While it was not Pedro Martinez-esque, it certainly had a vibe and showed the dominance he would bring to the mound every five days.

The Cy Young Awards were just the muffin, but they lacked the frosting. The frosting would be created in 2010 by a magical moment for a franchise that had not won a title with the storied players that took the field for the orange and black.

There was a drought in San Francisco, as the Giants had not won since arriving in 1958. They had the opportunities, most notably after a 2002 game seven loss to the Los Angeles Angels, but never could seem to finish it.

That all changed in 2010, as the “Band of Misfits” (coined by CSN Bay Area’s own, Andrew Baggarly) won their first title in franchise history for a team that was not supposed to make it that far. And Lincecum was a big reason why.

Apr 21, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) throws to the los Angeles Dodgers in the second inning of their MLB baseball game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Lincecum kicked off the 2010 NLDS in incredible fashion, and a moment I got to catch live at AT&T Park. Throwing a complete game, he struck out 14 Atlanta Braves’ players and gave up a mere two hits, issued one walk, and shut them out. It was one of the best postseason performances I have seen in my lifetime, other than Madison Bumgarner‘s 2014 World Series performances.

Literally untouchable, it appeared to set the tone for the Giants the rest of the series against Atlanta, which then led them to the NL favorite Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS, where they defeated a three-headed monster of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. Despite being a starter, Linecum came in a crucial bullpen appearance, much like Bumgarner, to help finish off the Phillies in game six of the NLCS.

Even with the lights out performance against the Braves, it is Lincecum’s game five performance in the World Series that may be one of his greatest accomplishments. Controlling that game, Lincecum pitched eight innings of one run baseball and struck out 10 Texas Rangers’ hitters, in a 4-1 win that raised the first trophy in San Francisco.

2010 postseason numbers for Lincecum:

Six Games, five Starts, 36 IP, 43 K’s, 0.944 WHIP, 2.43 ERA

The couple seasons after the 2010 World Series became troubling years for Lincecum, as his stuff started to lose its mojo. No longer deceptive, hitters were taking advantage of pitches and knocking Lincecum out of games early. Those troubles soon created chatter of whether his delivery was becoming a problem or he was just burned out, causing a good portion of fans to call for his removal from the rotation.

Being a class-act, Lincecum accepted the demotion as the Giants made the playoffs once again in 2012. Lincecum soon returned to the guy we saw from 2008-2010, but out of the bullpen. When down, Lincecum fought to get back in there and showed he belonged with the limited innings he was allowed to pitch by Bochy. After producing, Bochy took a gamble and gave Lincecum the start against the St. Louis Cardinals. Losing his lone postseason start, Lincecum returned back to the bullpen and returned back to his dominating role. The bullpen appeared to be more suiting for the face of the franchise. Winning the World Series once again, the second in three years, Lincecum was an integral part, despite Pablo Sandoval‘s postseason heroics.

2012 postseason numbers for Lincecum:

Six Games, one start, 17.2 IP, 21 K’s, 0.813 WHIP, 2.55 ERA

Once again, a brilliant postseason. After the 2012 season, I felt it was time to invest money into buying one of those expensive jerseys. Selecting form the shelves at the AT&T Dugout Store, I got Lincecum’s jersey. I was the happiest person on the planet, probably even more happy than Disneyland at the time.

Two Cy Young Awards, two World Series rings, what else could Lincecum earn?

In 2013 and 2014, Lincecum would go on to throw two no-hitters against the San Diego Padres to add to his resume. Lincecum’s first no hitter came in a overly-high pitch count effort to get the no-hitter he deserved. The following season, it was deja vu all over again, as Lincecum did to the Padres in San Francisco what he did a year ago on the road.

While once again facing pitching woes, the no-hitters were perfect for curing or at least patching the pain.

Keeping a smile and being a class-act, inside, you knew Lincecum was frustrated with himself, searching for command of his fastball again, and hoping to recreate something of what he once had earlier in his career.

In 2014, the Giants brought a World Series back to the Bay Area for an astonishing third time in five years, but this time, Lincecum was not a factor. Wondering if he would play at all, as Bochy left Sandoval and Barry Zito off the rosters in years past, Lincecum was kept on and was given a lone moment to showcase what he still had, and in 1.2 innings pitched, allowed no baserunners, and struck out two batters.

It was almost a feel good moment, as Lincecum has been such a large part of the Giants in the past and Bochy gave him that opportunity to contribute early on in game 2 of the 2014 World Series.

2015 rolled around, and Lincecum put in major work in the offseason to polish his game and rekindle a relationship with his father. Coming out the gate and in the final year of a two-year contract, Lincecum was a surprise and found consistency. As the season rolled along, that consistency started fading and the outings started becoming shorter. Talks of being removed from the rotation surfaced once again.

That didn’t stop Lincecum, as he continued to fight, and then took a liner off the arm in Colorado, where he hit the disabled list for the first time in his career. Later on, we went on to learn that the DL stint was now more than just a forearm, and that Lincecum’s hip was an issue.

Diagnosed with a hip injury, we arrive here to Thursday with the news of Lincecum’s season officially being over, and potentially being placed on the 60-day DL.

Being in the final year of his contract and entering free agency in the offseason, there remains a lot of doubt as to whether we will see number 55 throwing in a Giants’ uniform again.

Amid another run at the postseason and a disappointing three-game sweep against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the news of Lincecum surpasses the worries of not making the postseason. It is a clear indication of how important Lincecum is to this franchise.

Earning the nicknames “The Freak” and “Big Time Timmy Jim”, the play of Lincecum brings joy and fun to the Giants’ fan base, as they come together and watch each start. I know I am one of those followers, as I would make the pilgrimage down to San Francisco or travel on the road to a series where I know Lincecum would be pitching, on multiple occasions.

Who would’ve thought a small-framed pitcher, with long flowing hair and a hipster look, could carry an unorthodox delivery to where he is now, being a part of three World Series titles, and multiple Cy Young awards and no-hitters?

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After Alex Cobb's near no-no, here are the last 4 SF Giants no-hitters
After Alex Cobb's near no-no, here are the last 4 SF Giants no-hitters /

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  • For a fan-base that was lost and laid in gloom, the Giants needed a figure to look to after Bonds walked away from the game. Lincecum provided that crutch and carried a team and changed the culture of the Giants’ franchise. Since Lincecum, we have seen the likes of Buster Posey, Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, Matt Duffy, and Kelby Tomlinson being molded through the farm system.

    Cain was up a year before Lincecum came on to the scene, and those two sparked a change for a franchise who almost once was moved to Tampa Bay.

    Rather than reflect on the inconsistency and the touch Lincecum lost from his better days, it is time to commemorate what he has accomplished for self and for team. It is a team atmosphere in the San Francisco clubhouse, but for once, it is time to be selfish, focusing on Lincecum.

    The 2006 MLB Draft changed everything, and was the start to Brian Sabean and Bochy’s creation of this past decade.

    Lincecum returning to the Giants after recovery is yet to be seen, but the Giants have always been open about players being allowed to return. Travis Ishikawa and Ryan Vogelsong are two prime examples. The pay Lincecum will receive will never be on par on what he used to make, but getting back on to the field and returning to full health is more important at this stage.

    With familiarity of a franchise that has courted his services for nine years, Lincecum has more than earned a chance to return whenever he feels ready.

    This offseason, Lincecum is left with one decision that will ultimately dictate the path he chooses for the rest of his career. Being my favorite player, I support Lincecum wherever he goes whether that is going to be on another club or returning back to the Giants. I still will proudly wear my Lincecum jersey. But one thing I do ask — is that he leaves his heart in San Francisco.

    Next: San Francisco Giants: Injuries News & Updates