In which we discuss what was different with Tim Lincecum this start compared to his last three or four.
I'll start: nothing. The results were different. The pitcher wasn't. He allowed one earned run, which is better than allowing six. He pitched seven innings, which is better than four or five. So it seems like a positive step in the sudden reclamation project that is Tim Lincecum.
But the control is still broken. Five walks tonight, which followed a four walk game, which followed a pair of three-walk games. Pitches that didn't go where the catcher was set up. The theories I've heard or read about Lincecum's struggles this year:
His arm is hurt, his brain is hurt, his fastball is down and hitters can lay off the off-speed, his off-speed stuff isn't as crisp and hitters can sit fastball, he's depressed because he stopped smoking pot, he's depressed because he's smoking too much pot, he doesn't care anymore, he cares so much that he tenses up, Pat Burrell shook his hand and now he has gonorrhea of the confidence, his mechanics are too complicated, his motion is hard on his back, he's unlucky, he's fine, he's …
Thanks, Twitter and Facebook. We'll take it from here.
The simpler way to look at things: Something's screwed up. It's probably his mechanics. Could be his head! Probably his mechanics.
You're reading this and saying, jeez, what a buzzkill. Lincecum gets a quality start, allows just one earned run, and you open with this? No, no. You're misreading me. No, this start didn't make me think that Lincecum was fixed. But it sure as heck made me feel better about the three starts before this. Because it was the same pitcher. And that pitcher should get through a few of these high-walk games relatively unscathed.
When dinks like me were mentioning iffy luck -- citing strand rates and batting averages on balls put in play -- it wasn't because we were certain there wasn't anything wrong. It's because whatever was wrong couldn't have been making him that bad. Pitchers with high strikeout rates shouldn't get bludgeoned every time they make a mistake. Baseball doesn't work like that. It just seemed like it did for every Lincecum start.
So this was an encouraging start because it made the previous starts less discouraging. Something's still wrong. But it was never that wrong. It seems like the kind of wrong that can snap back in place like a shoulder out of its socket. That's a horrible analogy when explaining something to do with a pitcher, but it's late, and I'm not changing it. You know what I mean.
Paul Goldschmidt's career slugging percentage is now .453. If you remove his at-bats against Tim Lincecum, it's .404.
I can understand the organizational hopes for Steve Edlefsen. He throws a sinker. It sinks. That can be a good thing.
But there's a Venn diagram out there that shows the common areas for "Times it's a good idea to put Steve Edlefsen when you're down by a run" and "Times it's a good idea to put Steve Edlefsen when you're up by a run." It's just a glowing circle, and if you stare at it long enough, you're in the kingdom of Lost-Hope dancing with the Raven King. Don't stare at the circle. Don't seek out the Venn diagram. Don't put Steve Edlefsen in one-run games.
You don't miss Brian Wilson in the ninth inning with a two-run lead. You miss him in the eighth inning when the Giants are down by one, apparently. With Wilson out, everyone moves up a slot, and suddenly it's surprise Edlefsen! when you least expect it.
With runners on first and second and no outs, Ryan Theriot bunted. The lead runner was Lincecum, and he was thrown out easily. It's easy to blame the bunt. It was an annoying bunt.
But after that, both Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey struck out swinging on what would have been ball four. It happens. Sometimes their pitcher gets your best hitters out. After a successful stretch of 20 consecutive games, during which the Giants didn't have Pablo Sandoval, it's probably not a good idea to make too much of this game.
I probably would have bunted there too, but only because Theriot's more like another pitcher in the lineup. I had a bigger problem with the execution of the bunt, but whatever.
Tonight's game: whatever. It's always disproportionately discouraging to lose the last game of a series win. But the series win is still nice.