The old Tim Lincecum came out for Sunday’s big game against the Padres. For one inning. He was a house afire in the first, getting great movement on his fastball and changeup — striking out three, even getting a swing-through strikeout on a fastball to Ryan Ludwick.
Lincecum touched 92-93 miles an hour several times. And then it all went away. Lincecum walked Chase Headley to lead off the second and four runs came across. He was gone by the fourth inning.
Lincecum was not hit especially hard, but he wasn’t fooling too many Padres, either. That sucking sound you heard was the energy at A T and T Park on what could have been a big Sunday. The Padres won, 8-2 to take two of three from the Giants on a day when Adrian Gonzales went 0 for 5.
What’s that Lassie ? What did you say, girl ? Timmy fell down a well ?
Wherever Lincecum has gone, he doesn’t seem to know how to get back to the surface — at least not yet. He tinkered with his windup, then un-tinkered. He’s given up 14 earned runs in the last 14 innings, walking seven and striking out 17.
More than one strikeout per inning tells you the old Tim is in there, somewhere. But it’s not coming back full-time. It’s at this point that we jump in the Hot Tub Time Machine and pull a couple of nuggets from previous blogs.
A year ago we wrote that history does not bode well for pitchers under the age of 25 who have the kind of workloads Lincecum has carried ( top 5 in pitches thrown ). “You’d better be careful,” was the warning, especially for a pitcher of Lincecum’s size. It’s the same concern voiced by scouts when Lincecum fell to the Giants in the draft, but he has managed to confound the experts until now.
Lincecum’s body may simply be wearing down from his max-effort delivery, and he’s losing both power and feel. I’d be surprised if he even tops 160 pounds now. It would explain why, late in the season, he is fading — and why he generally wilts in the heat.
Lincecum might need to borrow some Panda fat. That, and adjustments to his delivery and training regimen, will need to come in the offseason. There’s nothing to help that now.
Second, to borrow from a very recent blog, the transition to Lincecum 2.0 won’t come overnight. He now needs to get batters out with finesse, not speed, and that’s a hard mental adjustment for young pitchers. He doesn’t seem to trust his fastball at the moment, and isn’t used to spotting that pitch rather than blowing it by people.
Lincecum will either need to start throwing a third pitch such as a curveball effectively, or he needs to spot his fastball better. His delivery and his arm might not be conducive to a consistent curve or a slider — so he might remain a two-pitch pitcher. How can he cope with that the rest of the season? Right now, rest.
Our friend Marty Lurie has suggested the Giants might consider shutting Lincecum down or putting him on the disabled list. Unless he is really injured that won’t happen. However, the Giants have some days off coming up — Monday this week and Thursday the following two weeks.
The Giants might want to keep the five-man rotation, since Madison Bumgarner has been reasonably effective, and see how Lincecum does with an extra day’s rest. That might be what he needs to get by the next few weeks. If not, it’s time to push the panic button.
That’s the physical side of the equation, but on the emotional side Lincecum has clearly lost confidence. He has been the Alpha Dog on the mound wherever he has gone and hasn’t been confronted with much adversity in his young life. As I mentioned on Gary Radnich’s show several weeks ago, we’ll find out just how great Lincecum is by how he deals with the current trouble.
Right now, Lincecum is not only NOT the ace, he’s the worst pitcher in the rotation. The tendency is to cut some slack to a two-time Cy Young winner, but unless he returns to a semblace of his old form, the Giants will not make the playoffs.
The Padres hardly field an intimidating lineup, but with the additions of Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada, they’re at least respectable. And I’ll say it again; they’re better than the Giants. They’ve proven it by winning 9 of 11 from the Giants so far this year.
The Padres don’t hit a lot but often get timely hits; they have good team speed, in terms of stolen bases and avoiding double plays; they play solid defense and rarely beat themselves; they have a good starting rotation, and they love close games, because they have a dominant bullpen.
They have a bona fide slugger in Adrian Gonzalez, and they have a terrific manager in Bud Black. The Padres are not going away, they are not going to fade.
They are about to hit a tough part of their schedule, and they still have six games with the Giants, so the race is far from over. But it’s August 15th and it’s time to say it; the Padres are for real. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The best player on the field, even in an 8-2 defeat Sunday, was Buster Posey. He had three hits including a home run to deep right center that was truly impressive. Few right-handed hitters can reach those bleacher seats. Well, I can think of one off the top of my head: Albert Pujols.
Jose Guillen’s first hit as a Giant was impressive — until he started running. He hit a shot to right-center, into “triples alley.” However, it is only triples alley for hitters NOT wearing Bengie Molina’s number who are NOT carrying a piano on their back. My son’s old Pony League coach, Ted Tamone, used to yell “DROP THE PIZZA” at baserunners like Guillen.
Guillen might still be dealing with calf issues, and if that’s the case, he had no business trying to stretch a double into a triple with nobody out and a four-run deficit. Maybe he was trying to make a good impression. If so, he was trying too hard.
Is he capable of playing right field at AT and T Park? Guess we’re gonna find out. That’s a lot of ground to cover. We know he has the arm, but if he plays in right, Andres Torres MUST be in center field every time.
The good news is he might be trading for Tim Flannery’s #6 and a Rolex to be named later.
Jim Joyce was part of the umpiring crew for the Giants-Padres series. He is now far removed from the Armando Galarraga incident, and he was overshadowed Sunday by plate umpire Darryl Cousins’ bizarre strike zone. That might have been part of Lincecum’s problem, as well, although Wade LeBlanc dealt with it well enough.
I bring up Joyce because of an ESPN “Outside the Lines” survey of recent games which found umpires got close calls wrong 20 percent of the time. Senator Jim Bunning, somewhat biased as a former pitcher, says that’s too high, and if technology can make the game better he’s all for it. Former Umpire Doug Harvey and many old-timers, except for the forward-thinking Earl Weaver, bemoaned losing “the human element.”
Harvey says you might as well have robots playing baseball if you’re going to use technology to decide everything. I don’t quite see that logic. He’s biased, as well.
Let’s look at baseball in the year 2040: there will probably still be umpires for rules interpretations, but technology will allow us to electronically determine safe-out calls, strike zones, fair-foul balls, home runs, and much more. I don’t think that would be so horrifying.
We used to have gas station service attendants pump our gas for us; we used to have typewriters; we used to churn our own butter; we used to have town operators. Time marches on. Umpires as we know them may be rendered superfluous on the professional level.
It’s okay: they can still get 43-bucks a game for Pony League games.
The human element was very much in play at the end of the PGA Championship. Dustin Johnson, who tossed a U.S. Open into the Pacific Ocean at Pebble Beach after blowing up on the second hole of the final round, was the victim again. It was ruled he grounded his club in a sandy-dirt area that turned out to be a “bunker.”
Johnson had to erase his 18th hole score and add a two-stroke penalty, knocking him out of a playoff that was eventually won by Martin Kaymer. He answered reporters’ questions afterward, a classy move. Maybe he wasn’t angry by that time, just stunned.
It seems Johnson didn’t read a “supplementary rules of play” sheet warning players of bunkers trampled on by spectators at Whistling Straits, and the penalty for club-grounding. In fact, few players may have read the memo; it just happened to jump up and bite Johnson.
Golf, more than any sport, is ruled by the rules.
Dustin Johnson has all the skills to win a major, but you have to wonder what’s going to happen to him next. Hopefully he doesn’t pull a Roberto Di Vicenzo next time.
That names lives in golf infamy. In the 1968 Masters, he signed for a 4 instead of a birdie 3 on the 17th hole of the final round — a score writtten by playing partner Tommy Aaron. If he had corrected the error, he would have been in a playoff the next day with Bob Goalby.
Instead, Goalby won. DiVicenzo said afterward, “what a stupid I am.” Another cruel twist to this story; Aaron, who wrote in the wrong score, won the Masters a couple of years later.
There is a happy ending. DiVicenzo won the first U.S. Senior Open in 1980 at age 57, was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, had 100 international victories and didn’t officially retire from the game until 2006 at the age of 83. He was also awarded the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the USGA in recognition of his sportstmanship.
Robert DiVicenzo is still alive, now 87.
Here’s what you need to know about the 49ers preseason opener: the first team offense needs a lot of work, the defense let Peyton Manning roll down field with little effort, and Anthony Dixon looked pretty good as a backup to Frank Gore. Otherwise, do not read ANYTHING into one exhibition game.