You know there were "What's Wrong With Lincecum?" articles coming. Understandable, seeing as Lincecum has had a miserable start to the season. Here's one from FanGraphs, and here's one from some guy on the Internet.
I remember these articles from last May, and August, 2010. Reports of his demise in both instances were greatly exaggerated. But the articles were valid then, too. Lincecum is the greatest pitcher you'll ever be consistently worried about. It's hard to explain.
To see just how bad this last start was, I forced myself to watch the first three innings again and write a description of all 76 pitches. You're welcome to read about it. But understand that this is for completionists only. This is like listening to the audio commentary on your Patton DVD. Don't blame me if you get halfway through and realize that you'd rather be doing something else.
1. Marco Scutaro
First two fastballs at 92. Great location. Third and fourth fastballs at 92, but both were way high. Fifth fastball sailed low and inside. Sixth pitch was a changeup that sailed inside.
2. Dexter Fowler
Great changeup that Fowler had no business swinging at. Great fastball that Fowler was late on. Not close with a changeup for the third pitch. Perfect changeup -- inside corner with life -- for the strikeout.
3. Carlos Gonzalez
Get-it-in change for strike one. Nice change below the zone for a swinging strike. Hanging change for a sharp foul down the line. Cameras cut to shot of Todd Helton in the dugout, whose goatee is still stupid. Good 93-mph tempter, high and outside. Fastball at the belt, middle-outside, 91 mph, hit for a triple. Brett Gardner might have caught it. Andres Torres playing left might have caught it. Aubrey Huff would have come within one outfield of catching it -- quite close on a galactic scale. Melky did not catch it. Solid double.
4. Troy Tulowitzki
Get-it-in breaking ball for strike one. A 93-mph meatball down the middle, fouled straight back for strike two. Sharp breaking ball low and away that had Tulowitzki flinching. Low change that had Tulowitzki lunging, but he made contact and grounded out to score a run.
5. Todd Helton
Fastball up and in that was almost lost in the thicket of Helton's stupid-yet-protective goatee. Change low and away for ball two. Fastball down the middle at 91, fouled off. Fastball that almost hit the Durham Bull in the on-deck circle. Beautiful change on the outside to bring count full. Good change, low in the zone, that Helton still hit hard for an out. That last sequence was unfair for Lincecum before it was unfair for Helton.
6. Michael Cuddyer
Fastball at 90 down the middle, taken for strike one. Then this happened. Hanging slider (or change) up that Cuddyer swung through. Changeup that Cuddyer was way out in front of but dribbled down the third-base line for a double.
7. Ramon Hernandez
Good change, low in the zone, chopped foul. Fastball at 90, just inside. Floating change (breaking ball?), way inside. Nice, low change chopped weakly for an out.
8. Chris Nelson
Slider in the dirt for a wild pitch (Sanchez probably should have blocked/caught it.) Great change at the knees for strike one. Nice inside fastball, fouled off for strike two. Tempting change, low and inside, that Nelson laid off. Change that Nelson was way out in front of but punched through the 5/6 hole.
9. Jeremy Guthrie
Strikeout. Almost looked like Lincecum was pitching to another pitcher. I lied about charting every pitch.
10. Marco Scutaro
Big-breaking slider outside and low. Middle-outside fastball fouled off. Fastball at 91 up and in. Hanging breaking ball that Scutaro murdered, but right to Melky.
11. Dexter Fowler
Fastball at 90 to the outside for strike one. Changeup low in the zone that Fowler was absolutely waiting for, crushed for a double. No chance Fowler was looking for anything else.
12. Carlos Gonzalez
Change that sailed away for ball one. Beautiful, low change for swinging strike. Fastball away at 90. Beautiful, inside change for called strike two. Inside curve. Krukow notes that Sanchez and Lincecum are taking a long time to get on the same page with signs. Change in a good spot that Gonzalez was still all over, roping it past a diving Schierholtz for a triple. I have no problem with either of the last two changes that were roped for extra bases, other than the part where they were roped for extra bases. Location was okay on both.
13. Troy Tulowitzki
High change for ball one. Slider in the dirt that Tulowitzki flailed at and missed by three feet, but got past Sanchez for another wild pitch. Another one you'd expect a catcher to get in front of. Change up dribbled to third for a swinging bunt single. Jeez.
14. Todd Helton
High fastball at 90 for ball one. Low, inside fastball at 90 for ball two. Change that Helton was out in front of, breaking his bat on a foul liner. Low change that Helton lunged for, but punched into center for a single. Very Pablo, that swing.
15. Michael Cuddyer
Hanging breaking ball that was fouled straight back. Fastball in, fouled away. Fastball up at 90, taken for a ball. Nasty, icky changeup in the dirt for a swinging strike three.
16. Ramon Hernandez
Fastball at 90 swung through. Great change for swinging strike two. High fastball in a good spot for ball one. Hanging change roped into center. Krukow blames Sanchez's inability to block the last two wild pitches for Lincecum hanging the pitch. Pretty sure I don't buy that; it was just a crappy pitch.
17. Chris Nelson
Fastball at 90, swung through for strike one. Fastball at 89, similar spot, taken for a ball. Change inside for a ball. Good change taken for a strike. Fastball at 89 fouled off. Fastball at 91, low and inside. Nasty change in the dirt, barely fouled off. Another nasty change, this one low and outside, barely fouled off. Fastball at 89, nowhere close, for the walk.
End of Lincecum's night.
This was the worst start of Lincecum's career, statistically. This was not the worst start of Lincecum's career. I'd argue that the three worst pitches of the night -- a fastball to Tulowitzki (#4), a hanging breaking ball to Cuddyer (#15), and a hanging breaking ball to Scutaro (#10) -- all had positive outcomes. Lincecum had some poor luck with a couple of weak grounders/balls put in play, but he also had some good luck with two line-drive outs.
His changeup was exceptional at times. Just about every time he caught too much of the strike zone with it, it was hit. His fastball ranged from 90-92, sitting mostly at 90 in the second and third innings. Not great, but only one of the fastballs was even put in play (the first Gonzalez triple.) There were several swing-throughs on the fastball.
Good start? Heck, no. He missed his spots several times, and he had trouble putting hitters away after getting them 0-2 or 1-2. But his stuff was good enough to get them to 0-2 and 1-2 in the first place. But a start worthy of panic? Bah. Not even close. An iffy start made worse by the vagaries of baseball, that's all it was.
Now let's sit back and watch this on a loop for an hour.