Tim Lincecum: Mildly Great

 

So, just to be clear, this is who some of us are freaking out about:

Year W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2010 11 5 3.15 23 23 1 1 151.2 136 55 53 12 58 5 159 4 136 1.279 8.1 0.7 3.4 9.4 2.74
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/10/2010.

 

Yeah, that’s someone we need to be worried about. That’s someone we need to dissect and scrutinize. It’s still a hot topic on talk radio and at the ballpark. What’s wrong with Tim Lincecum? Why is he only one of the best pitchers in baseball now? Two part answer:

  1. We’re a little spoiled.
  2. Shut up, you spoiled brat.

But I’ll admit, I’m guilty too. When I watch a Lincecum start, and he gives up a four-pitch walk, I get nervous. Uh oh, I think. Meltdown approaching. But his walk rate is the same as it was in his first Cy Young season, when he also lead the league in wild pitches. I don’t remember feeling too nervous in 2008 or 2009. Then he’ll toss an 89-mph fastball, and I’ll think, gulp, here’s the beginning of the end.

He isn’t exactly the same pitcher as last year, though. He’s striking out fewer batters (one fewer per nine innings compared to last year) and his velocity is down by .9 MPH. Maybe that .9 is some sort of tipping point, which means we’re stuck with a pitcher who can only strike out an average of a batter per inning. It’s sad to say, but…

Wait, what in the hell am I writing about? This is what we’re worried about. A pitcher who has won two straight Cy Youngs, who is 13th in the NL in ERA, and who is getting swing throughs at the same rate he was last year.

And yet I still do worry. It’s crazy. I mean, this is the kind of thing you worry about:

Year Age Tm W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2008 25 DET 11 17 4.84 33 33 1 0 201.0 195 119 108 18 87 163 14 93 1.403 8.7 0.8 3.9 7.3 1.87
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/10/2010.

Yet Justin Verlander finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting the following year. Sometimes young pitchers have down years. Like this guy:

 

Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
1970 25 STL NL 10 19 .345 3.73 34 33 13 2 253.2 239 123 105 25 109 16 193 111 1.372 8.5 0.9 3.9 6.8 1.77
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/10/2010.

See? Steve Carlton turned out okay. So I’m not worried about Tim Lincecum, partially because he’s actually having a very fine season, and partially because I’m content to cherry-pick the historical hiccups that make me feel better while ignoring the long, long, long list of pitchers who started out like Hall-of-Famers but ended up rapidly declining or getting hurt. That list just isn’t relevant to me and I refuse to look at it. You can’t make me.

Maybe Lincecum’s just jealous of Buster Posey. Maybe they have kind of a Woody/Buzz Lightyear thing going on. All I know is that it’s kind of tiring to have two pitchers (Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner) whose velocity is a constant obsession among Giants nerds. I’ve seen young Giants pitchers struggle after promising debuts. I knew Giants pitchers who struggled after promising debuts. Giants pitchers who struggled after promising debuts were friends of mine. Tim Lincecum, you’re not a Giants pitcher struggling after a promising debut. Get over it, you spoiled brats.

And let me know how hard he’s throwing tonight, okay?
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