LOS ANGELES, July 15, 2013 — Tim Lincecum was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game from 2008 through 2011. Over the last two years, however, Lincecum has been awful. There is no other word that better describes his performance. Lincecum’s last two starts show that there is still an ace in that body.
Lincecum’s hard times started in 2012 when he finished the regular season with a 5.18 ERA and 1.468 WHIP. Eventually, the two-time Cy Young award winner was so bad the Giants felt it was best to move him into the bullpen for the post season. He pitched well out of the bullpen in the World Series, compiling eight strike outs in 4 2/3 innings over two appearances without surrendering a run.
While the Giants were celebrating their second World Series title in three years, some questioned whether he would go the way of John Smoltz and move to the bullpen in 2013. The Giants would hear none of it and charged forward with Lincecum as their third starter to open the season.
Unfortunately for Giants fans, the 2013 Tim Lincecum looked an awful lot like the 2012 Tim Lincecum. Again, people were wondering out loud and to anyone who would listen if Lincecum was a better fit out of the bullpen.
On Saturday, Lincecum finally looked like a guy that has won two Cy Young Awards. He struck out 13 batters while throwing a no hitter in San Diego. This marked the first time this year that he has strung together two solid starts in a row. Lincecum went seven innings on July 8 against the Mets, striking out 11 and giving up three runs.
Does this mean that Lincecum is out of the woods? Is he back to being The Freak? Is Big Time Timmy Jim back and ready for the big time? Not so fast, Giants fans. More data is needed on this new reboot of the good Tim Lincecum. These last two starts did come against the not so offensively gifted Padres and Mets.
Everyone agrees that Lincecum was horrible in 2012, but he did have a couple of really good outings. Coincidentally, those two starts came around this same time last year on July 14 and July 20. On July 14, Lincecum struck out 11 in eight innings of shutout ball against Houston. Then on July 20, he struck out seven in seven innings while giving up one run to the Mets. Again, these were two teams that were not very good on offense.
He followed those two starts by giving up five runs to San Diego in his next time out.
In his no hitter on Saturday, Lincecum threw a career high 148 pitches. It should also be noted that he walked three batters and hit two as well. Lincecum will benefit from extra rest during the all-star break to allow his body to recover.
While Lincecum’s 148 pitches were a bit prettier than the nine walk no-hitter Edwin Jackson threw in 2007, 148 pitches is 148 pitches. Jackson did not fare so well after his 149 pitch effort. This was the first time Lincecum has thrown more than 114 pitches this season, but he is no stranger to high pitch counts in his career.
He has thrown 120 or more pitches 18 times in his career with no noticeable drop in effectiveness in the subsequent starts. In his next start after throwing 120 pitches or more from 2008 through 2011, Lincecum averaged 106 pitches over about 7 innings with seven strikeouts and a 3.25 ERA.
The Giants need Lincecum to shake out of the funk he has been in for the last two years. Lincecum can be the guy the Giants need to climb back into an NL pennant race that is still up for grabs for whichever team that can get hot at the right time down the stretch. No team is out of it at this point.
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