If Lincecum had thrown a no-hitter at Coors Field, it would have ranked right up there with the World Series on the unlikely-and-amazing-o-meter. Your mileage may vary, but there’s something about growing an ace from a seedling, watching him ascend to the top of his profession, biting our nails during the Great Velocity Panic of ‘10, and enjoying what Lincecum has morphed into.
Somehow, throwing his first no-hitter at Coors would have taken it from a simple no-hitter to something mythological. Literary professors would study the game, trying to figure out what the Rockies were supposed to represent. My guess: disease and fear, but that’s just the "Beowulf" fan in me.
As is, Lincecum couldn’t finish the eighth inning. He didn’t get a shut out. No worries. He was still the new Lincecum, which is better than the old new Lincecum, which is even better than the old old young Lincecum. After last August, if he had to live at 89/90 mph, that was fine. He’d proven that he could be successful with that velocity -- his changeup was still one of the better pitches in the game.
Then his 94-mph fastball came back as quickly as it had left. He had accidentally picked up Madison Bumgarner’s bag of velocity -- it smelled different, and the zipper wasn’t the same shape, but no one said anything -- and for a while, everyone’s velocity was screwed up. When the bags were switched back, everyone had a good laugh and stared to throw 94 again. That’s how quickly it seemed to happen. And while Lincecum could have lived at 89/90 mph, he’s deadly with the extra few feet.
Around the same time his velocity came back, Lincecum developed his slider. It was a different look to his already-goofy combination of fastball/changeup, and he’s breaking hitters down with it.
And along the way, he’s been making incremental gains with his command. His postseason and start to this season hints at some kind of Mechalincecum -- a robotic beast with plus-plus-stuff and plus-control.
If Lincecum had thrown a no-hitter at Coors, it would have been park-adjusted to rival Johnny Vander Meer’s feat in 1938. Heck, through another few innings on to even the deal. As is, 6 1/3 innings of no-hit ball is park adjusted to be as good as, say, one of those no-hitters where the pitcher walks six guys*.
Lincecum started last season this hot, of course. So don’t start crossing out the "two-time" on your "two-time Cy Young Award winner" poster just yet. But the equation is exciting. Lincecum’s ‘07 velocity + his ‘09 changeup + his ‘10 slider + a sprinkling of improved command = what you just watched.
Also, Tim Lincecum is good.
Two other notes: the home run explosion was fantastic, and there’s something kind of neat about watching Ryan Vogelsong pitch another inning in a Giants uniform. He might not have been as good of a prospect as Matt Cain or Jerome Williams were, but he was no slouch. It took a lot of perserverance -- and Pirate purgatory -- to get back to here he is now. It’s a cool story.
* Kidding, Rockies fans! It’s a joke!