Every Giants fan who has paid attention to their team knows that Tim Lincecum has been struggling. And, they know that it’s been for the whole year.
Lincecum has a record of 8-14 and an inflated ERA of 5.11, and his pitch count has been just as inflated as his terrible ERA. Lincecum has labored through innings and left fans worried every time he takes the ball, even though he has come through with occasional gems.
Even Barry Zito, who has struggled throughout his six miserable years with the Giants, is having a better year than Lincecum. Lincecum has posted respectable numbers since the All-Star break (his ERA has been around 3.00 and his win-loss record has been about even), but his season will still be viewed as a disappointment unless he throws perfect games and no-hitters to round out the season.
Does that mean he shouldn’t be in the Giants’ playoff rotation if they make it? No.
San Francisco leads the Dodgers by six games with 20 games to play in the NL West, and they seem to be pretty comfortable with their lead. They’ve received some key contributions from lots of players, which has compensated for Lincecum’s struggles. However, he is starting to get the message and pick up the slack for his teammates, some of which are struggling.
The Giants have won Lincecum’s last two starts, and in both of them, he pitched six and one-thirds innings (allowing two earned runs in both). He has pitched terribly in one inning quite frequently, which has drilled holes in his stats. However, he has kept the damage to a minimum in September.
Against a Dodgers lineup featuring Matt Kemp, Shane Victorino, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez, Lincecum pitched brilliantly. He gave up two runs (one of them should’ve been unearned) and he had incredible fastball command. Kemp and Gonzalez couldn’t hit him at all.
Ryan Vogelsong is struggling mightily, as his ERA has ballooned from 2.27 to 3.40 in just six starts. He has left pitches over the plate frequently, and he allowed a home run to the Rockies’ pitcher in his last start. His pitch count is getting very high very quickly, and he has been unable to work out of jams.
Lincecum, who has had that problem all year, hasn’t been doing that anymore. He’s been shutting the door on jams and making key pitches when he needs to. His stats haven’t completely reflected his performance, because he has pitched well in his last four starts and very well in his last two starts.
Zito has been inconsistent throughout his career, and he hasn’t pitched in the playoffs since 2002. Lincecum proved he could handle the playoff pressure in 2010, going 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA and getting the win in Game 5 of the World Series. He will be trusted by his manager, who has faith in proven veterans like Lincecum, to take the ball in the playoffs (most likely in Game 3).
Whether Bochy decides to go with a three-man rotation is another story, but no matter what happens, Lincecum should be pitching in the playoffs. Matt Cain has been consistent all year, but he’s had some rough outings lately. Madison Bumgarner has proven himself in the playoffs, but he’s also struggled. And, Vogelsong isn’t proven and he is struggling mightily.
In my mind, there’s no doubt Lincecum will pitch in the playoffs. I don’t know what game he will start, but if he doesn’t start in the playoffs, it will be a crime.