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Best Giants of the Decade: Tim Lincecum

Lincecum will always be the definition of a Forever Giant and anyone who says otherwise can get out of here.

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

This month, as part of our decade retrospective, we’ll be taking a look at the players that we think were the best Giants of the decade. These are going to be posted in no particular order in terms of ranking them, they are just our picks.

To start us off, I’ve chosen Tim Lincecum. When you think back on this decade of Giants baseball, starting with 2010, there are few moments more iconic than the image of Lincecum being carried by his teammates after starting the game in which the Giants won their first World Series in the San Francisco era.

Lincecum’s journey with the organization splits this decade and the last. And though he won both of his Cy Young Awards in the late aughts, and his career sadly petered out by the middle of this decade, Lincecum’s legacy will linger over the organization for many years to come.

There’s a reason that no one else has worn number 55. There’s a reason that, to this day, any post on our site that is tagged with his name still gets high traffic. There’s a reason that people freak out when new images of the elusive former pitcher surface. Lincecum is still very much a beloved figure in the Giants universe.

Never one to bask in the spotlight, Lincecum had mostly disappeared from public life before his 2019 return to celebrate the retirement of his former manager, Bruce Bochy. Not only did his fans lose their minds, his former teammates (and Bochy himself) got caught up in the moment of seeing him again as well, spreading huge smiles as far as the eye could see.

You don’t need me to tell you about Lincecum’s contributions to the 2010s era of Giants baseball. His 14-strikeout, complete game shut out of the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS was the stuff of legend.

He went on to split decisions in his two starts against the Phillies, before out-dueling Cliff Lee twice in the World Series. But you know all about that. You were there. You watched it. You don’t need any help from me to remember all of that.

A lot has been written about Lincecum’s dominance in his early years, much of which preceded this decade. What this decade saw from him was a man at the peak of his career, slowly starting to come down. But perhaps what made him even more endearing was the way in which he handled that decline and the surprises he had in store for us along the way.

The 2012 season saw Lincecum’s worst ERA in his Giants career (and that includes the later years). His walks were up and he wasn’t missing a lot of bats. After four seasons as either a Cy Young Award winner or candidate, Lincecum found himself moved to the bullpen on the postseason roster, starting just one game that year, in the NLCS. But he was, overall, effective in that role and he handled the transition with a grace and humility that many young pitchers with such a hot start to their career may not have managed.

He came back from that rough season and gave us two no-hitters against the same team over the course of the next two seasons. Which, to be quite honest, I still don’t see how. But that was one of the joys of being a Tim Lineceum fan. You never really understood how he did any of it, but you enjoyed every second of it. Despite coming out of the gate as one of the most dominant pitchers in the game, he was still viewed as an underdog that fans were fiercely protective of.

Even more so as he started to decline because we saw our own Icarus, starting to fall down to the earth after flying too close to the sun. Burning too bright, too quickly. Which made many fans feel even more fiercely protective of him, even when it didn’t make baseball sense. He was our guy.

We’ll be taking a closer look at a lot of the games I’ve mentioned so far in later posts in this month’s retrospectives, so I’m not going to get into too much detail. But that’s just it, though, when asked which regular and postseason games stood out to us as the best of the decade, a lot of the games chosen by the McCovey Chronicles staff were Lincecum’s.

Though his role on the team, and overall effectiveness, declined much too soon for anyone’s liking, his contributions in his too-brief peak were so impactful that the fans who were around during that time will never, ever forget him or how they felt when he took the mound. In the early 2010s, when Tim Lincecum walked on the field you felt like anything was possible. Because it was.