The 2010 Giants won a World Series with Jonathan Sanchez in the rotation. I don't see why they can't win the 2012 World Series with Jonathan Sanchez back in the rotation. Longer hair. Throws with a different hand. But still Jonathan Sanchez. Let's do this.
Harsh? Nope. I can't believe it took me until the end of September to figure out. But this is like watching Jonathan Sanchez pitch. Every outing, you're waiting for the control meltdown. When Lincecum keeps runs off the board, you evaluate his performance on a sliding scale. Yeah, pretty good, considering. Other than the four walks, he was fine. And when he doesn't keep runs off the board, he's nigh unwatchable. Just like Jonathan Sanchez.
No, no. Not this year's Jonathan Sanchez. That guy was a VHS tape soaked in vinegar, unlikely to ever work right again. But the guy from 2010, the one who pitched in the clinching game and shut the Braves down in Game 3 … that's Lincecum now.
You take the strikeout stuff, subtract any semblance of command, divide by plainly visible frustration, and there you go. Here's the big difference between 2010 Sanchez and 2012 Lincecum: The former was far luckier than a lot of us admitted, and the latter is pretty danged unlucky still. Lincecum walked the leadoff hitter and got a sharp groundball. Josh Collmenter walked the leadoff hitter and got a sharp groundball. Guess which one was a single, and guess which one was a double play.
That isn't to say that Lincecum doesn't create a lot of his own problems. Just that he's as much of a 5.00 ERA guy as Sanchez is the 3.07 ERA guy he was back in 2010. Please don't take this as hyperbole. I'm not having a goof. In 2010, Sanchez allowed 21 homers and 96 walks in 193 innings, striking out 205. Tim Lincecum has allowed 20 homers and 88 walks in 180 innings, striking out 186. They're eerily similar. The feeling of frustration and helplessness is the same for both, even when they're pitching okay.
I liked the old Lincecum. Here. Check this out:
Grab BAbip by the scruff of its neck and make it watch that video. That was 12,285 pitches ago. I counted, not including the playoffs. That's not the same pitcher we've watched all year. I've been a little reticent to say it, but it's just not.
He's still the third-best option to start a playoff game, of course. Just like Sanchez was in 2010. Lincecum's just as likely to run into a fantastic start as Sanchez was that year. Lincecum's just as likely to get yanked in the third inning of the NLCS. And that fabled division winner mentioned above? Five innings, five walks, five strikeouts. How Lincecum is that?
So Tim Lincecum is Jonathan Sanchez now. What sort of Folgers Crystals switcheroo bullshit is this?
Maybe this is too reductive. It's an easy analogy in the place of real analysis. But it feels right. Which is to say, it feels wrong. I don't know, man.
As long as I'm in the counting mood, here goes:
Nolan Ryan pitched 5,386 innings over 27 seasons. He faced 22,575 batters. The most home runs he allowed to a single batter, though, was six. That was to Will Clark, who had 36 at-bats against him.
Tim Lincecum has pitched 1,208 innings over six seasons. He's faced 5,049 batters. He's allowed five home runs to Paul Goldschmidt in 15 at-bats.
Paul Goldschmidt's career slugging percentage: .488.
Paul Goldschmidt's career slugging percentage, less his at-bats against Tim Lincecum: .465
The Giants have never won a game in which Tim Lincecum has had to pitch to Paul Goldschmidt. This is the sixth such game. The song remains the same.
Roll the ball to the plate. Roll it like you're scared. Pretend like you're bowling. Make SportsCenter. Give us a GIF. Do something ridiculous. But, whatever you do, don't pitch to Paul Goldschmidt anymore. Just stop. No more. It's so, so deflating to keep this Groundhog's Day thing going.