Tim Lincecum: Empirically Better Than the Dodgers

August 21, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Hector Sanchez (29) stops Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis (17) from scoring in the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Tim Lincecum's won two Cy Young awards, you know.

That isn't something put there to be a smartass. But this whole season, we've drifted away from that irrefutable proof. Every Lincecum start has been a dissection, a film student studying the 8,195th frame in Tokyo Story for no good reason. Is it the stretch, the arm, the conditioning, the pod people?

And occasionally, he'd plunk down a fantastic start to make you wonder. He pitched seven innings against the Mets on the last day of July, and he struck out seven while walking one. He struck out 11 Astros over eight scoreless innings two weeks before that. If you adjust for team, his ERA should have gone up, but that's not the point.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't remember thinking, "Therrrre's ol' Cy Young, right there. There you go" with those other starts. They were encouraging. They made me hold out hope for 2011 Lincecum to walk through the door, all jostly with In-N-Out in his belly.

Tonight was just different, though. It was the guy who won the Cy Youngs. That is, it was that guy for five innings. In the sixth, he got wobbly and benefitted from a rare quick hook from Bochy. That Lincecum we know from this year, where he looks like he's playing on a team with six fielders, most of them Cecil. But for five innings, he was magic.

Is it that easy to be seduced by an extra couple miles on his fastball? I'd like to think it was more than that. The movement, the control, the break, the lack of 3-2 count after 3-2 count to hitter after hitter. Everything was working, and it was that Lincecum that made us think things would get better in 2008, that there was something to build upon in 2009. Of all the pitchers to come in and out of the organization over the past three decades -- the promise of Shawn Estes in '97, the resurgence of Mike Krukow in '86, the Swifts, Garreltses, Schmidts, et cetera -- none of them won a Cy Young.

Lincecum has two.

It's easy to forget in a down year like this for him. And his stuff hasn't been the same. He hasn't been the pitcher he was in '08 and '09, even if we've held out hope that he was partially unlucky this year. But for five innings, he was that pitcher, despite a mystery zone from Jerry Cousins and Hector Sanchez stabbing at the close pitches.

And it ended with the Giants extending their first-place lead against the Dodgers. Yeah, that's a a good outing. Forget the weirdness in the sixth. For five innings, Lincecum looked as good as he had all season.


Angel Pagan isn't known for his arm, but he had the best throw second-best throw of his Giants career in the sixth inning:

Apparently A.J. Ellis runs like his shoelaces are stapled to his earlobes, but we didn't know that when the play was unfolding. The ball went into center, and even Duane Kuiper conceded the run before Ellis rounded third.

But is that a GIF you can watch over and over again? Sure. Sure it is. A Dodger is getting thrown out at home plate. But if you're looking for something you can watch over and over, this is the one:

Don't sleep on the discouraged Dodgers fan behind Lincecum. I'm gonna watch this for an hour.


I'm not smart enough to pursue this idea, nor am I mathematically inclined, so I'll just leave this kernel of an idea here. Doesn't it seem like more and more pitchers with stellar strikeout-to-walk ratios are getting pummeled this year? This game featured two of them, Lincecum, and Joe Blanton. But there are others. Dan Haren, Bruce Chen, Max Scherzer, Ivan Nova, Jon Lester. There are 11 guys with a strikeout-to-walk ratio over 3.0 and an ERA over 4.00 so far this season. In a pitcher-friendly year, no less. There were only 21 such seasons in the 1990s.

Hell, I don't know what that means. But it means that the strikeout-to-walk ratio, which used to be my favorite quick-'n'-dirty way to evaluate pitchers, isn't the magic stat it used to be. I hate it when the magnetic poles shift on me.

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