Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean gave a State of the Giants press conference on Thursday, in which they discussed Pablo Sandoval, Pablo Sandoval's extension, and the possibility of re-signing Pablo Sandoval. However, Bochy also noted something that caught me off guard.
Bochy on Lincecum: "Timmy, I see him going back in the rotation. We have a need there. That’s fair to say."— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) November 6, 2014
That is most certainly not what I was expecting to read. After Lincecum was removed from the rotation following his August 23 start, the Giants played 463 innings of baseball between the regular and postseason. Lincecum threw threw 12 of those innings. He appeared in one game in the playoffs, and only once came into a close game (he threw two pitches and got a lineout). That doesn't seem like a pitcher who would be in the Giants' offseason plans. At least, it doesn't seem like a pitcher who would be a given for the rotation.
That written, here's the Giants' rotation next year if you don't assume Lincecum is in there:
- Madison Bumgarner
- Matt Cain?
- Tim Hudson
- Yusmeiro Petit
- Uh, Chris Heston?
The Giants have at least one spot to fill in the rotation, possibly two. Everyone likes to assume that Jake Peavy will be back, but that's a big leap of faith. I don't think there's going to be a team willing to overpay Peavy enough to scare the Giants away, but it's certainly possible. You can't just assume that he's back on the team.
So with that potential rotation up there, Bochy can't say, "We don't know what we're going to do, but it sure as hell won't involve Tim Lincecum in the rotation. Because, man, have you seen that guy pitch over the last three years? He's been awful." As of now, Lincecum most certainly is in the rotation, as currently constructed, so there's no point cheesing him off and pretending he doesn't exist.
But ... this is the top priority, right? Improving the starting rotation? Lincecum is one of eight pitchers in baseball history to have three seasons with 150 innings pitched and an ERA+ below 80. He's the only one to have them consecutively. We've had three full years of Lincecum being the very worst starting pitcher in the National League with a regular rotation spot. Three straight years, with the final one ending on the least optimistic not of the three.
If Lincecum starts the season in the rotation, I'll be stunned. I stun easily, of course. Like a possum! But I can't see how a smart organization can try the same broken idea for the fourth straight season.
When I was at the parade, I got to be on the other side of the barriers from the peons, with ample room to walk around like a free man. The poor regular people were smooshed against a barrier, and several of them asked me which players were coming up next. For most of the route, we kept the same pace as the Lincecum/Javier Lopez float for whatever reason. And, yes, I can vouch that Lincecum is still a star to the people who were big enough fans to take a day off work and come to the parade. All five times I responded with "Lincecum" to the query, the person who asked the question got super excited. That sort of popularity doesn't go unnoticed in the front office or by Bruce Bochy.
The Giants sure do take the fans into account on some things. There's almost no way they make a rotation decision based on that. The time for the permanent Lincecum-to-the-bullpen experiment was probably four months ago, if not a year or two ago. The Giants just can't say that.
I can! And I feel like a jerk doing it. But if you got a little twitchy when Bochy suggested that Lincecum was a part of the 2015 rotation as of now, you're not alone. He couldn't really say anything differently, though. He's not the one acquiring the players, and as far as he knows right now, Lincecum is one of the five best starting pitchers on the 40-man roster. I expect that to change by March, and I'll complain loudly the entire time.
At least, when I'm not contorting mid-sentence to remind everyone just how much I love the guy and and what he's done for this franchise, that is. Which I'll do quite often. Like, right now, even.