Tim Lincecum may or may not be back. You'll remember this message from the last time he rattled off a string of three or four good starts, when we all got excited about him being back. Except he wasn't back. Until now. Unless he isn't. But at least we know these things to be true:
1. Tim Lincecum is pitching well right now
You might think this is suspiciously correlated with Lincecum facing the Padres twice in a span of the last two weeks, and the thing about that is
Okay, fine, that is certainly a factor. But the pitches look better. The fastball has more movement than in the flat Lincecum starts. The curveball is sharp. The change isn't hovering over the middle of the plate every other time it's thrown. And the command is a little better, too. More proof that his stuff and command ride on a tandem bike; there is no stuff without command, and there is no command without stuff.
2. Tim Lincecum is suddenly having an okay season
His ERA is under 4.00 for the first time since Opening Day, 2013. Before that, his ERA hadn't been under 4.00 since the end of the 2011 season. That means for 79 out of his last 83 starts, he took the mound with an ERA over 4.00, and three of the four not included were his first starts of those respective seasons.
Now, ERA isn't exactly the most descriptive stat, especially considering that AT&T Park is one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball, but it's still something to note. He's been more than a replacement pitcher, even though he's making ace-type money. This recalls a few of the Barry Zito seasons, and I say that with affection, not derision.
A few more of these starts, and we don't have to bring Zito up at all. That's the best-case scenario for everyone.
3. The advanced and traditional stats agree on Lincecum for once
Are you ready for this? Gimme a drum roll.
Well, hot dang. FIP is based on strikeouts, innings pitched, walks, and home runs allowed, and squeezed into an ERA suit. Over the last two years, FIP maintained that Lincecum was okay, whereas ERA usually suggested he was one of the worst pitchers in baseball. There was nothing more depressing than stridently announcing, "He'll be fine! His FIP is still solid!" then downgrading that to "He'll probably be fine! At least, there's a chance, because look at his FIP!" then moving to "FIP is crap and you're crap and your nerd stats are crap and Lincecum is crap and everything's crap."
4. Tim Lincecum probably annoys the absolute hell out of the Padres and their fans
This is very, very important. No matter if he is back or not back or whatever, he annoys the Padres and their fans. Lincecum didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning, which was hilarious and beautiful. Maybe his problem against other teams is that he's distracted by torsos, and he loses his release point. Right when he's about to follow through with his delivery, his eyes catch the batter's torso, and it messes him all up. But when he's facing a team with camouflage jerseys ...
Whatever. Lincecum will never win another Cy Young, and it's possible/probable that he'll never make another All-Star team. But we've been waiting two years for him to be something other than bad. This is as optimistic as I've been since the 2012 playoffs.
When a team scores five runs, it shouldn't feel this good. The last time they scored more than five runs was Saturday, June 21. The last time they scored five or more runs in back-to-back games was June 7-8, which was the last time we all thought the Giants were going to be in first place for the rest of the year. The Giants have averaged five runs over the last two games, which makes them something of a normal team. This is how it feels to be a normal team.
I never want to let this feeling go. Five runs per game, can you imagine?
Dale Thayer and Hunter Pence pull back the covers and shave over your bed, giggling. They high-five, then slowly put the covers back and hide in your closet, peeking through the cracked door, waiting for you to get into bed ...
Hunter Pence is wearing baseball jorts now.
Hunter Pence is now wearing shorts pic.twitter.com/H8j9M0ti9f— Ann Frazier (@annfrazi) July 6, 2014
I'm okay with it.