There isn't a Players' Manager Manifesto that details exactly how to be a players' manager. It's not as simple as "if x, then y." I'd wager that every player has a different personality that needs to be massaged in a unique way. Which means that for a struggling pitcher, there are a lot of different ways a manager thinks he can help. The two main strategies:
- Protect the pitcher. Don't let him get in over his head. When he has modest success, let him take that to the clubhouse and build on it. Pull him earlier than you normally would, even when he's doing well.
- Trust the pitcher. Show him how much trust you have in him. Let him work through his problems.
You know what the right answer was for tonight because you watched it. You saw the collapse. You saw the meltdown, the unfortunateness, the puddle of stringy black hair and sweaty goo. But that doesn't mean there wasn't thought behind Bochy's decision to leave Lincecum in for the sixth inning. Because what's Lincecum's problem this year? Other than being a bad pitcher, I mean. When he gets in trouble, gets in the stretch, the walls crumble around him. Tony Gwynn, Jr. hits an 0-2 pitch down the line; Chris Coghlan turns on a pitch for the first time in his life.
Is that how you spell Coghlan? Screw it, I'm never typing his name again. I'm not looking it up, and if it's wrong, it stays.
And in the first five innings, Lincecum had a couple of furry situations. He pitched out of them. His only blemish was a home run to Giancarlo Stanton, but I think at this point, pitchers give those up for shits and giggles because we all want to see them. A solo home run through five innings. A little trouble, but nothing that Lincecum couldn't handle. So you can almost see the logic. Some players need a cortisone shot to the knee; Lincecum needed a confidence shot to the melon. One more inning, and he was golden. Even after things starting going south, all Lincecum needed was one more out for a quality start.
Then there was a home run, and the universe collapsed upon itself.
Now you'll get factions. We were legion! when it came to Lincecum just a few months ago. Now you'll get the Timmy is Broken crowd breaking beer bottles and going after the Timmy is Fine He Just Needs to Figure Some Things Out crowd. This will escalate quickly.
It's unfortunate that we're here. Brother against brother. But I'm going to have to come down on the side of the homers and fanboys here. I still believe. Anyone mentioning the name "Brad Penny" gets pepper spray in the mouth.
That isn't to say that I'm not concerned. Good god, of course I am. We're ten starts in. From Mark Gardner to Todd Wellemeyer, when a pitcher goes a third of the season and is this awful, usually the torchforks are out. Lincecum has a pedigree, so he gets some leeway. As he should. But it's not like I'm going to smoke a cigarette on the deck with FIP and relax, knowing that things are going to get better. This is weird.
If there's a positive from this game, it's that Lincecum can still get the crap knocked out of him even when he has his best fastball. That's actually a positive. It's one less conspiracy theory to deal with. Lincecum's fastball was jumping, and it was moving. Hitters couldn't just sit on his offspeed stuff. But he still didn't get away with anything. When he hung an 0-1 curve to one of the slumpiest hitters in the game, it was hit out of one of the toughest home-run parks in the majors. Worst pitch at the worst time. Of course it's going to mess up Tim Lincecum.
With the velocity goblin knocked down a rung in the Worry Rankings, the remaining contenders are "health", "control/mechanics", and "head." Not worried about the health after the 93/94 he was flashing tonight. So it's control/mechanics or head. Maybe both! Maybe neither. It's like I know enough to pick. But I'm going control/mechanics. I didn't hear the snap between August 27, 2010 and September 1, 2010 -- the mechanical sproing of the gears sliding into place. But it happened. This is the same thing, just twice as long. This is the same thing, just twice as long. This is the same thing, just twice as long.
You might be in the Timmy is Broken faction, shaking your head at those words. To which, I say good day. I SAID GOOD DAY.
But, yeah, you might be right.