I hate to get so reductive all the time and bring up that thing that happened at the end of last season -- the one with Sergio Romo striking out Miguel Cabrera -- but imagine this simple conversation from last March.
Future You: So Tim Lincecum's going to be awful.
Future You: Yep. ERA over 5.00 -- worst for a qualified starter since Livan Hernandez. Sixth-worst in San Francisco history. And if you go by ERA+, it was the second-worst in San Francisco history.
Future You: Before the year is over, he's put in the bullpen.
Future You: But don't fret! Remember how that ERA+ will be the second-worst? The overall worst belonged to Mark Davis, and he eventually won a Cy Young award after being converted to a reliever!
You: Can I go now?
Future You: Yeah. Also, the Giants win the World Series.
You: /already sitting in a parked car, listening to the Cure, alone with your thoughts
At this time last year, Lincecum was still a golden god. Pasty-golden is a color, right? Whatever color fits for a titan of San Francisco baseball, he was it. Tim Lincecum, perennial Cy Young candidate. Some selected quotes from last year's community projection, which was written when Lincecum was melting down in preseason games:
But it's almost like a paradox: worry about Lincecum in the short term, expect nothing to change overall. He'll be good again this year.
… when it comes to picking between the Lincecum who won the Cy Youngs and the Lincecum who was very good last year, it's probably safer to pick the latter. It's a safer prediction all around, and that would still be a fantastic pitcher.
And the coop duh gracie, his projection:
Well, look at that, I was only 15 off when it came to walks! That's the kind of expert precision you expect from a pro like me. Pay attention and learn.
So Lincecum was awful. The world kept spinning. And right before it spun off its axis, Lincecum was good again, this time as a reliever. Let's try that conversation again:
Future You: I'm going to show you a video.
Future You: It's Tim Lincecum pitching in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series.
You: That was great!
Future You: I know!
You: /high-fives everyone, including the cat
The cat: Get the **** away from me. Now I have to clean this paw again. What is wrong with you? You are seriously the worst thing that has ever happened to me.
What a befuddling, bizarre season. When it was going on, I figured this was our karmic reward for Cody Ross and Juan Uribe, or Ryan Vogelsong and Andres Torres. Okay, okay, baseball gods. We get it. Giants fans have been blessed, and now you have to take one of our favorite players away and snack on his entrails like something out of a messed up, 19th-century fairy tale. Payment is due. We get it.
Then the Giants won the World Series anyway, and Lincecum ended the season on a high note.
There is probably an objective way to review the season that Lincecum had -- starting with the rise in his walk rate, then moving on to the unsustainability of his complicated, trebuchet-like mechanics as he ages -- but I'm not really qualified to lead that graduate-level seminar. All I can do is sit back, switch the hayseed from the left corner of my mouth to the right, and mutter "Gollllllly, what a weird season."
It can't get worse for him as a starter, I'd think. The leash would be too short on him, especially since there's a precedent of him succeeding as a super-reliever. But we'll get into what he'll do next season with the 2013 community projection in a couple months. Until then, take a moment to step back and marvel at the way things went, and the way things ended up.
Baseball is so high. Every waking moment. So high. I give up.