When Tim Lincecum has one of those rare good games this year, when he pitches like the guy you remember, you get lost in your own head. What if … what if ...?
When Brandon Crawford has one of those rare good games this year, when he hits like the guy you'd give your little toe for, when he fields like the wizard he's supposed to be, you get lost in your own head. What if … what if ...?
When they both happen in the same game? It's magic. Pure, undistilled magic. If you think that description is hyperbole, please note that the outcome of said occurrences also made Shane Victorino unhappy.
It was a good game. You know how East Coast road trips can go. You've seen the carnage. For some reason, a snippet from a 13-year-old review of Magnolia has always stuck in my head:
I went into Magnolia like a kid running onto a beach with a pail and shovel ready to explore, only to find myself neck deep in quicksand three hours later, screaming for help.
It's not like it's that good of a line. And I liked that movie! I think I've used "But it did happen" here a few times to enhance my movie-dork cred. But the line always stuck with me.
And that's how I feel about East Coast trips. It's almost interesting! New teams! Not Petco. Not Coors. Different ballparks. I can dig it. Then everything is a chemical fire, and I remember why I don't like these things.
Note: please don't finish the road trip 3-3, Giants.
It's been a good start, though. A really good start. And in the latest adventure, Tim Lincecum pitched well, and Brandon Crawford looked like a fantastic baseball player. Both of those things auger well for the second half. Like, really, really, really well.
Really, really, really, really well. A rejuvenated Tim Lincecum and a Brandon Crawford who can hit enough to make his presence acceptable, if not desirable? Feels good, man. Feels good.
Lincecum made mistakes tonight. He hung the absolute crap out of a 1-2 slider to Chase Utley in the 5th inning, for example. There were more pitches.
That's where it gets tricky, though. You know that old movie/TV trope where there's a guy holding a gun, and he's pointing it at two identical people, each claiming that the other one is the bad guy? It can be identical twins, or it can be some sort of time-travel escapade. Look, there's an entire Wikipedia page on it.
That's what I felt like with stats and scouting when it came to Lincecum. I knew the BABIP. I knew what my eyes were telling me. Not to get all straw hat on you, but I really have seen thousands of games in my life. I'm past that Gladwellian tipping point of 10,000 hours. Heck, you get past that after two Jonathan Sanchez starts. So I don't immediately discount the anecdotal evidence.
And the stats were saying, "Lookit the FIP! The xFIP! No one can be this bad. He's unlucky Juuuuust unlucky!" And I'd whirl around and point the gun at scouting.
The scouting would say, "Dude's terrible. Terrrrrrible. Hangs a buncha crap. Velocity down. Why are we even talking about this? Just give me an update on how Kyle Crick is doing and move on."
I'd whirl around and point the gun at the stats. This went on for a few months. The gun was a light gun that came with my NES. I ended up drinking all night and playing Hogan's Alley.
But what if it really was just an amazing statistical anomaly? As in, what if Lincecum allowed exactly the wrong hit at exactly the wrong time in just over a dozen games this season? That's what we think we would have liked to believe, but it almost would have been more comforting for Lincecum to miss the first four months of the season with an injury. An ambiguous, hard-to-classify injury, like Eric Surkamp, even.
Instead, there was this microanalysis of every single pitch Lincecum threw, and it all went into the same Cuisinart until nothing made sense. When he loaded the bases in the fourth, his first pitch to Placido Polanco was exceptional. A knee-buckling breaking ball that still caught the strike zone. Called strike. It was the best pitch he could have thrown.
How could a broken pitcher make that pitch? I get it if a pitcher has the yips like Rick Ankiel, or if he's hurt, or if his stuff is totally nonexistent. But when a pitcher can sit 91/92 and still break hitters down like that, I don't understand how they can get hit so hard.
I didn't understand how Lincecum could be so bad. I still don't get it. But the best part is that now I get to think of him being so danged good. Two starts in a row. His good starts have come against the Padres, Astros, A's, Dodgers, and Phillies, and I'm pretty sure all of those teams hit like the '08 Giants after a nasty flu goes around the clubhouse, so we probably shouldn't get carried away. But this is clearly better than the alternative. Lincecum looked really good tonight, even out of the stretch. That's two starts in a row. Can't get more welcome than that.
Brandon Crawford's season line: .240/.291/.349. Not quite there yet. Not quite at that, "I'LL TAKE IT!" threshold, where you assume that his glove will make up for any deficiencies with the bat. But it's close. It's really, really close.
The "I'LL TAKE IT" threshold: .240/.300/.390, or something arbitrary like that. So danged close. All that's missing is a little extra power, which has shown up over the past few days. Don't get carried away. Even Mike LaCoss can hit home runs in consecutive games, much less on the same road trip. But Crawford is inching closer to that net-positive zone.
The best part might have been after the grand slam, when he made a supernatural play:
What in the hell … I mean … yeeeesh.