His hands clenched and unclenched in a predictable 4/4 rhythm. Calm. Controlled. Completely panicked. Completely out of control. He picked up the receiver. The ringing started automatically. It sounded like a European ring -- a double-pulsed chirp -- which was odd, considering. But there wasn't time to perseverate on that.
A click at the other end. The voice cracked -- the grinding gears of a larynx that hadn't been used for a few hours. There was a groggy greeting. A clock radio was dragged closer for confirmation.
"Sir. Lincecum is giving up home runs to Mariners."
Endorphins. The fog cleared. He dropped the receiver and went straight for the red phone in the corner of the room.
Another red phone rang. There were three people in the Oval Office. They all shut the hell up and looked at each other.
Say, here I am, after another dismal Tim Lincecum start! Boy golly howdy, this is fun. His FIP tonight was Walter Johnson riding a hippogriff and wielding a flaming scimitar made of testosterone and diamonds. His actual game was a shitstorm. Again.
There were four phases to tonight's game:
Phase 1: The Fanboyening
I didn't give a damn about the home runs. Seriously. I didn't have a here-we-go-again moment. I didn't start throwing things and swearing. Lincecum's problems this year haven't been because of dingers. He missed a pitch to Casper Wells, and he paid for it, and I'm thinking that the Jesus Montero homer came on a not-great/not-egregious slider on the inner-half of the plate. But I'm so convinced that Lincecum's problems are entirely due to problems with runners on -- mechanical or mental -- that I didn't get into a funk.
When a pitcher is in a wretched stretch, how do you tell the garden-variety bad luck from the awful pitching? It's impossible. And because I was so sure Lincecum's problems had to do with stretch-related issues, I chalked up the homers to the it-happens gods.
Phase 2: Winston Wolf's Sound Advice
Then Lincecum started mowing Mariners down. The change was crisp. The fastball was hopping. Say, said the jerkwad who hasn't been paying attention for the last eight games, this looks like the old Lincecum. Wurp derp herp. I wasn't buying it.
I was so convinced of the part up there in Phase 1, that I didn't buy into Phase 2. Lincecum looked great. But he was so good that the Mariners weren't getting him into the stretch. Three up, three down. Three up, three down. He looked good, but he wasn't being tested in the stretch, so I couldn't buy in completely.
Phase 3: Tim Lincecum Gets in the Stretch and Screws Everything Up
This happened when Tim Lincecum got into the stretch and screwed everything up. It was so, so predictable. The fifth inning started with a leadoff single. This happens to the best pitchers, like Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, and Not-In-The-Stretch Tim Lincecum. And once that happened, cripes, everything went into the sewer. So predictable. So awful.
Hell, I don't know. I refuse to play amateur psychologist or pitching coach from 800 miles away, so I'm not going to pretend that I know if the problem is mechanics or gray matter. But when Tim Lincecum has a runner on, he's the worst pitcher in baseball. When the bases are empty, he's Tim Lincecum. I don't have the aptitude to run the numbers and found out how many extra runs a pitcher would give up if he just went from the windup with every pitch, allowing runners to steal willy-nilly, as if they were moving an AT&T U-verse receiver into the garage.
But it's already at the point where I'm wondering about it. Tim Lincecum in the windup, regardless of the runners on base, is a much better option than this. At least that would give us an idea whether it was mental or mechanical. Let the single turn into a triple with two stolen bases. Don't care anymore. At least give us some answers. What in the absolute hell is up with Lincecum when runners get on base? I've never seen anything like it.
I've never seen anything like it with Jamie Brewington, William VanLandingham, or Todd Wellemeyer. And I sure as heck didn't expect to see it from the guy with two Cy Youngs and a World Series win.
Phase 4: In Which I Forget About That Crap and Change the Subject:
My new thing is library book sales. I used to tithe to the CD and DVD gods, but I don't do either anymore for obvious reasons. But library book sales are so damned cheap, and they fulfill my weird accumulation fetish at a low price. I stumbled upon a book sale today, and came away with the following books:
T.C. Boyle - Drop City
Salman Rushdie - The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Michael Chabon - The Yiddish Policeman's Union
A.S. Byatt - Possession
George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia
Does anyone have any recommendations as to which one I should start? We could just have an open book thread, if you'd like.
Or we could just keep talking about Tim Lincecum. Wurp derp herp.