And then one day, you stop looking forward to Tim Lincecum starts.
That isn't to say that it isn't going to be fun ever again. Right now, though, the Giants have five starting pitchers. Four of them have had good starts to the season. The other one is Tim Lincecum. He makes watching the game of baseball less fun than it should be. The contrast between Lincecum and the rest of the staff is stunning and just a little depressing.
Of course, I have no idea what's going on. I didn't get this gig by submitting a peer-reviewed research paper titled "Smart Baseball Analysis (and Some Such)" that blew away the decision makers at SB Nation, who were running the network from a kiosk in the mall back then. I made Giants-related knock-knock jokes, a few years passed, and now I'm here, trying to put into words what's wrong with Lincecum. It's a job that I'm wholly unqualified for.
He has strikeout stuff! Bah, the hits weren't hit that hard! Look at the FIP! Look at the xFIP! Look at the BABIP! ALL THE IPS. LOOK AT ALL THE IPS. PLEASE TELL US WHAT TO DO, IPS. PLEASE TAKE MY BABY TO SAFETY, IPS. LEAVE US, BUT TAKE THE BABY. ALSO, TELL US HOW TO FIX TIM LINCECUM.
I'm not concerned about the velocity. Maybe that's naive, but when I watch hitters wave through high fastballs, I can't honestly freak out about the declining velocity as much as some of you.
I'm not concerned about injury. That's almost certainly naive, but I think the declining velocity is just the same thing that happens to all pitchers. Do you realize that in 2009, Matt Cain was throwing 96-m.p.h. fastballs? He was averaging 92/93, and every so often he'd uncork a mid-90s fastball. That hasn't happened for 60 or 70 starts. But Matt Cain wasn't hurt. He was just getting older.
So if I'm not concerned about velocity, and I'm not concerned about injury, what I'm I worried about with Lincecum? I clearly don't know. No idea. Watched the whole game, and my response is this: huh. So that's still happening. Huh. The dispassionate, logical explanation is in the numbers. The balls that get put in play against Lincecum drop for hits more than they should. If Kurt Suzuki's chop in front of home plate goes three feet more to the right, Arias steps on third and throws to first for a double play. That doesn't excuse the runners that were all over the place to begin with, but it seems like the kind of screwy thing that's happened to Lincecum more often than not over the first nine starts.
I know the science behind BABIP. And I know that when hitters put a bat on a pitch thrown by Pedro Martinez, they had just about the same batting average they did when they put a bat on a pitch thrown by Kirk Rueter. Batting average on balls in play is legit for pitchers. And Lincecum was at .346 before the game. That might have gone up. And that's not normal.
But how much more unsatisfying can that explanation be? The answer is none. None more unsatisfying. That honestly feels like blaming a crop failure on evil spirits. Didn't sacrifice the right goat. If things are out of your control, blame them on made-up things that are also out of your control.
The contrast of Bartolo Colon was remarkable. Colon got into trouble, and then he did some veteran wizardry to get out of it, setting up hitters and executing pitches. After a crap 1-0 call on an outside pitch to Angel Pagan -- derp -- Colon was brilliant. He threw another outside pitch that Pagan had to swing at, and then he threw an outside pitch that was never supposed to be a strike. It was supposed to be outside by a foot, because that set up the Maddux two-seamer that came across the plate on the inside. It was some damned fine pitching.
Maybe Lincecum is getting nibbled by shitty-luck piranhas. But I also have no confidence that he can pitch his way out of anything right now. I see a lot of missed bats and some nasty pitches, but I don't see a lot of damned fine pitching. This is from a guy who has won two Cy Youngs, so he obviously had to do some pitching at some point. Not right now, though. He isn't pitching right now. The velocity isn't worrying me. The suggestion that something is physically wrong isn't worrying me. The lack of pitching is worrying me. Where in the hell did that go?
Maybe it'll be found soon. But right now, Tim Lincecum starts are a chore to watch. That's a weird sentence to type.
Take everything up there, switch out "pitching" for "hitting", and substitute Brandon Belt's name. No idea what's going on. His on-base percentage is .354. His slugging percentage is .354. The former is fine. The latter is closer to Matt Cain than it is to Brett Pill.
Is a day like today just one of those things? He had two good swings against Colon in the fifth with the bases loaded -- a half-inch stood between a foul ball and a bases-clearing double. But should we pay more attention to the result? That is, nothing. A called third strike on a magic Colon two-seamer. And then two innings later, another called third strike. Strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts.
It's unbelievably tough evaluating these things on a day-to-day basis when there are 162 of these ******* things every year. Is Belt more Linden than Sandoval? Hell, I don't know. Ask me in 2015. Same goes with Lincecum. I don't know anything, okay? This is all very, very confusing.
I'm just going to have a drink and think things through.
Actually, I'm not going to think about any of this at all. I'll just play some cribbage and not think about any of this. The Giants won two out of three this weekend. Be happy and enjoy the rest of your Sunday, dammit.