This is year three of the Tim Lincecum who doesn’t win awards. He’s made 73 regular-season starts since the start of the 2012, and by a rough count, about 10 of those have been unambiguously fantastic. We’re talking games without bushels of stray walks or runners, games where you don’t have to use the word “but.” Like this one against the Brewers last year.
The other 63 games have had something to nitpick, small or large. That mass of 63 starts — ranging from “okay, I guess” to “chemical burn” — is why you were muttering shameful, hurtful things under your breath after Lincecum walked the leadoff hitter in the first inning. You’re expecting bad things now. Timsay Snow has rewired your brain over the last two-plus years.
Except this was one of the good ones. A pure, whiff-filled masterpiece. And even though the other group has the numbers, the unambiguously fantastic starts have charisma and a silver tongue. They’re telling you everything you want to hear. You want to believe. They’re so, so, so very seductive. You forget yourself. You forget why you were upset in the first place. You want to believe the old, award-winning Timmy is back.
That setup is a false dichotomy, though. This isn’t a war between the old Lincecum and a William VanLandingham symbiote that took over his mind. There are shades of gray between the two extremes, and all the Giants want — and all the advanced statistics have suggested they should have — is a pitcher who’s just a little better at preventing runs than he’s been. Instead of every seven outings, maybe Lincecum has one of these starts every six. Instead of having a complete meltdown every four starts, maybe he has one every five. In between, he’s sprinkling more six-inning, two-run starts around, replacing the five-inning, three-run starts.
That’s what a Lincecum renaissance is going to look like. He isn’t going to burst out of the ashes and be the Cy Young winner. But there’s evidence — both eyeball and spreadsheet — to suggest he can be better than he's been. Monday night had plenty of that evidence. I liked the part where the Braves swung and missed.
Lincecum's probable line if he faced the Atlanta Braves for 32 starts every year: 2.83 ERA, 213 IP, 78 BB, 228 K. They're just about the perfect matchup for him at this stage in his career, a team that hits like the breaking ball hasn't been invented yet. Teach your wild, hacking ways to the Padres and Rockies, good sirs. Tell them the secrets of hitting.
Bruce Bochy didn’t bunt Tyler Colvin in the seventh inning.
You might not care to give Bochy credit for anything, especially something that should be covered in the first week of a sabermetrics class, but there were a lot of managers who would have told the new guy to bunt with runners on first and second with no outs. And if Colvin didn't rip a triple down the line, there would have been callers all over the talk radios, waiting to yell at a Bochy effigy for not yielding to the small-ball situation with which he was presented.
The dinger didn't hurt Colvin's case, of course. But remember how anti-bunt Bochy is when he's making you mad about something else. He's a smart feller, and he's gloriously anti-bunt. Most of the time. It paid off today with a two-run double to put the game mostly out of reach.
Colvin is more likely to be a good player than Hicks is. Heck, Colvin has better odds of sticking around than Angel Pagan or Michael Morse ever did. He can whomp a dinger, alright. Tyler Colvin can whomp a dinger.
Javier Lopez pitched his 250th game as a Giant, putting him 23rd on the all-time list for San Francisco. He allowed just his third homer in 154 innings.
Next up on the list: Tim Worrell. Coming for you, Tim Worrell.
In honor of Colvin, here's a list of all the players with exactly one home run as a Giant. It's a surprisingly long list!