Giants drop game, series as Lincecum struggles again

I remember this guy from the H.O.R.D.E. Festival parking lot. He was selling bracelets. - Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I will hold off on my "Extending Tim Lincecum" idea for one more week, but that's it.

Tim Lincecum has no command and no fastball. He has off-speed stuff, but the stuff doesn’t play without the first two.

/clock chimes

Tim Lincecum has no command and no fastball. He has off-speed stuff, but the stuff doesn’t play without the first two.

/clock chimes

It’s a tricky thing, analyzing pitchers with a results-based lens. You’re presented with a box score, and the brain tells you that you’re entirely capable of explaining why. Most of the time, your brain is a filthy, fat liar. It’s always lying to you. It’s the Varys of your body, except the only endgame to its constant scheming is to get you to do one of three things: stay alive, have sex, or eat sugary things. Pretending you know exactly why something happened is probably in the stay-alive cabinet at the natural selection archives. The monkeys that correlated "going to that pond = death by crocodile" stayed alive, whereas the monkeys who correlated ponds with wetness and only wetness became popcorn shrimp.

Most of the time, the instinct telling you that you can go back and explain something is a good thing. The belief you can do it infallibly, though, is a relic. It’s a fine line, and baseball fans futz it up all the time. This pitcher should have done this. This pitcher shouldn't have done that. The post-hoc search for meaning makes a lot of baseball analysis (myself included) oblivious, at best.

But here’s why Tim Lincecum stunk today: He had no command. That’s not results-based. That’s not with the benefit of hindsight. Look at these danged 0-2 hits:

0-2 pitches from Tim Lincecum
1. Curveball, top of the zone to Andrew McCutchen (single)
2. Fastball, down the middle to Chris Stewart (single)
3. Slider, off the outside to Gerrit Cole (foul)
4. Slider, down the middle to Cole (single)
5. Curveball, down the middle to Travis Snider (single)
6. Fastball, way above zone to Pedro Alvarez (ball)
7. Fastball, just above zone to Alvarez (foul)
8. Curveball, just below zone to Alvarez (swinging strike)
9. Slider, bottom of zone to Ike Davis (single)

The last three to Alvarez were cool. The rest are mostly disasters. And we’re not talking about two-strike pitches, like the belt-high slider that Neil Walker hit to Brandon Belt in the first inning. We’re talking about 0-2 pitches, a count in which a pitcher is better off throwing a 45-foot knuckleball before throwing something down the middle. Lincecum absolutely could not bury the slider, change, or curve. He couldn’t do anything of the sort. This is because he doesn’t know where the ball is going.

This is because he doesn’t know where the ball is going. A pitcher who throws so many 0-2 strikes is broken.

The only thing that’s hard to reconcile is Lincecum’s sudden propensity for not having any idea where the ball is going within the strike zone. He threw 75 percent strikes on Wednesday, the second time he’s cracked 70 percent this season, after doing it twice last year. That’s probably just noise.

What we have with Lincecum is a hope. The hope is that he figures out the ball is going. It could be that he never really knew, even in the Cy Young years, but his stuff was so otherworldly, it wasn’t nearly as damaging. The other possibility is that something’s not the same, that he had an ability that’s not there right now.

If it’s the first, forget about it. You might as well sign William VanLandingham to a 10-year contract and wait for him to harness his stuff. Any day now. Aaaaany day.

If it’s the second, okay. What was lost can always be found.

I’m in the first camp. After two-plus years of waffling and waiting and hedging, I’m almost entirely convinced the only thing left to do is hope the velocity comes back in the bullpen. Relievers tend to gain velocity after leaving the rotation. If there’s a chance of Lincecum having any value for the next 23 months, it has to come with increased velocity or improved command. I’m completely skeptical about the lateer.

This isn’t something to nail on the front door of 24 Willie Mays Plaza. I’m not saying Lincecum shouldn’t start again. Get back to me in a month. Right now, I’m just a bitter fan, writing out of bitterness.

★★★

My darling Libbie,

Good news from the front! We have repelled the curs once again after losing valuable territory. Several of my brothers have fallen, but I feel impelled to forge on, undeterred. Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and Internet shaming to me. Not my will, but thine O Bonds, be done. I know how strongly baseball knowledge now leans upon the triumph of the sabermetrics, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Statistical Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life to help prove that Brandon Belt is not a shitty player, and to pay that debt.

Today, he had a long dinger and a two-run double. O! how he clubbed those baseballs! You should have seen the path of the ball, the parabolic flight of the dinger. Then he was thrown out at third, even though there were two outs and the cleanup hitter was coming up. This is because he is a nincompoop.

I have doubts about these horrific Belt Wars. I have doubts. It is not worth the cost, I will occasionally deign to think, this war pitting Giants fan against Giants fan. It is not worth it. What in the absolute heck was he doing?

I firmly believe we are in the right, however. We will prevail.

Yours truly,
Grant

I’m starting to think the Belt Wars should have been an unauthorized, third-party Nintendo game released with all sorts of glitches. Fun to play until it resets on its own and erases your saved data. Fun enough to start right back up, though.

(He looked good, otherwise. Hope!)

★★★

I couldn’t get this the other night because of the blackout, but it deserves a mention. This is Pirates reliever Jared Hughes:


Get the hell out of Pittsburgh, fellas. Get the hell out and don’t look back.

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