The Stock Crash of '12

The Giants have never had a pitcher with an ERA over 6.00 who qualified for the ERA title. If I had to guess -- and see if you can follow me, here -- I think that's because when pitchers have ERAs over 6.00, they get pulled from the rotation before they can qualify for the ERA title. The last two Giants with an ERA over 6.00 with more than 10 decisions: Mark Gardner (1999) and Kevin Correia (2008).

Mark Gardner, Kevin Correia, and Tim Lincecum. Before this season, they were answers to a very different trivia question. They were all Giants. They had never been in my kitchen. That was about all they had in common. Say the names out loud. Linger over the Mark Gardner part before you get to Lincecum. It's hard to fathom.

If the Giants had announced a Lincecum extension at the same time as the Cain extension, it would have been a party. Not that anyone was going to be ecstatic to see a pitcher locked up for seven years and hundreds of millions, but because it would have meant that those wacky Yankees -- or Marlins, or Red Sox, or whatever team is your free-spending bogeyman -- weren't going to get their soiled mitts on him. And if it was a below-market deal, well, this site would have melted with mirth. You don't have to be a chemist to know just how hot mirth is.

But imagine watching Lincecum if this were the first season of a huge new extension. It's depressing right now. But it would have added an element of … heck, I don't know, doom. Encroaching and all-consuming doom.

So here's the comment starter of the year: If Lincecum's agent came to you right now and wanted to do an extension, how much would you sign him for?

Well, you'd sign him for a few hundred dollars because that's all you have in the bank right now, and you'd probably just use him to drive you around and pick up groceries. So let's include the qualifier that in this hypothetical, you're Brian Sabean. Or Larry Baer. Great, now you're pretending to rifle through their desk drawers because you're nosy. Focus. How much would you extend Lincecum for?

He's already signed through 2013. So how much on top of that? A couple of philosophies:

The Godfather
Senator? You can have my answer now if you'd like.

This would be for the person who thinks that Lincecum is damaged goods. It might be an arm thing, it might be a head thing. But it's something. Something's happening to make Lincecum one of the very worst pitchers in baseball right now, and it's the kind of something that will come up again.

Folks took issue with my claim that Pablo was the one who muffed the Alexi Ogando bunt from yesterday, saying that it was a brain lock on Lincecum's part. And after watching it a few times, I think they're right. And this sort of thing has been happening a lot lately, where it seems like Lincecum's in a bit of a fog.

And that's the worst part about this whole thing, other than the everything else. We have to play amateur body-language experts, amateur biomechanics expects, amateur psychologist, and amateur sports doctor, and I know that I'm wholly unqualified for all of those job descriptions. Doesn't mean that I'll stop pretending I can make sense of anything related to Lincecum right now, just know that whatever I can offer up is nonsense. I'll assume the same about you, so we're clear.

The Optimist
This would be the person convinced that because Lincecum is going to be fine, now is exactly when you sign him to a deal. He was talking seven or eight years over the offseason? Pshaw. He might go for five years. He might be scared enough to go four years, which would be ideal for a pitcher. This could be the Giants' chance.

If you're a believer in FIP, then Lincecum will be just fine. Lower FIP than Yovani Gallardo, Felix Hernandez, and James Shields, to name three. A tenth of a point higher than Madison Bumgarner. These stats exist because people aren't supposed to be trusted when it comes to discerning ability from luck. So maybe this is all a big misunderstanding, and we'll all laugh about this in a few years, like an episode of Who's The Boss?. "Remember when we were worried about Lincecum?, boy were we nervous nellies."

Dang, this is depressing.

So which way do you lean? This is all hypothetical because if Lincecum's agent wanted to do a deal when his value was rock-bottom, the Giants would be right to assume that there were small, angry badgers living in Lincecum's shoulder and/or head, gnawing on everything in sight. It's really more of a roundabout way to ask how confident you are that Lincecum will snap out of this and get back to the pitcher the universe left on our doorstep in 2006.

I'd go four years, $80 million. Still close to premium-pitcher levels. Still a huge risk. But far less than we were expecting. And in the six seconds since typing that, I've changed my mind seven times. But I'm erring on the side of the optimist, which is what fans tend to do. Never forget that I'm still just a giggling fanboy, hoping like hell that Lincecum figures out what's wrong.

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