Saturday, October 13, 2012

To Tim or Not To Tim

Tim Lincecum deserves a start in the 2012 National League Championship series.  Tim's troubles during the 2012 season have been well documented, not least by JC's emotional duress.  When the Giants went into the divisional playoffs, Tim was sent to the bullpen.  He was willing to do whatever to help the team win, and without that help, they might now be well into their winter vacations.  Tim pitched 2 innings in Game 2, allowing only one hit and no runs, and then turned in a spectacular 4.1 innings in Game 4 three days later, 1 run on 2 hits to go with 6 K's to save Zito's ass, the Giants and renew our faith in all things holy.

He looked great on the mound, too.  He was confident, although it's hard to tell because he always looks a bit puzzled, and all of his pitches, including one Mike Krukow referred to as a "Cuban palm ball" were working.  He was making batters miss badly.  But for all of that, were I Bruce Bochy, I would be hesitant to start him against the Cardinals.

Why?  Because he is fantastic as a super reliever.  He warms up quickly and can throw for a while in long relief (he threw 55 pitches Wednesday).  He has thrown more than 130 pitches in a game.  What's more, he said he would go again the next day if asked, and doesn't need a long time between starts.  His "rest" seems somewhat less important to him than to other pitchers.  He is a weapon that NO ONE ELSE HAS.

Think about what a powerful weapon it is to have TIM LINCECUM pitching like he did Wednesday ready to come in during any game.  That allows Bochy to use his quick hook.  He used it to get Zito out of there, didn't have to go to Mota, with whom Lord only knows what would have happened, and not use Affeldt, Lopez or, most importantly, Romo.  Those guys were ready to go Thursday.  Think about Bochy having to make decisions to leave pitchers in during precarious situations because you don't want to go to your relief too early.  Dusty Baker is getting heat in Cincinnati right now for leaving Latos in the game just a bit too long.  One more thing, you pull your starters early enough, you can make them warm up for relief too, should you need it.  I mean, it's not like post-season games ever go to extra innings, do they?

Now think about the flip side.  What if Tim is not available and Zito, or Madison, or Vogie, or, for that matter, Tim, can't give you five innings?  Then you burn through your bullpen in a 25 man roster pretty quickly.  How many starting pitchers on the Giants can you absolutely count on to give you five innings?  Matt Cain.  Any of them, Zito included, might give you eight or nine innings, and that would be beautiful.  But all of them have struggled down the stretch, and I cannot think of a better backstop against the unpredictability of pitching staff than Tim Lincecum.  I would love to believe that Maddy or Vogie or Tim or even Matt are just going to dominate the Cardinals, but there is just no sound reason to assume that will happen.

Or think of it this way.  In a seven game series, Tim could win 4 games.  Wouldn't that be something?


M.C. O'Connor said...

Wow. You are on to something, Zo-meister. Then again, if Timmeh can give you a real Big Time Timmy Jim start, that could be a series-changer, too. I'm glad I'm not Bruce Bochy. I can leave the tough decisions to the man on the spot. Watching the post-season games are tough enough!

Ron said...

I've gone back-and-forth on this issue 1,000 times in the last day. One problem is that I don't think that Zito could do the super-reliever thing. Vogelsong probably could, but he is the Game #2 starter & deserves it. The counter-problem is that you could play an entire 7-game series & never really have a need for an innings-eating long reliever. Then, you would have wasted Lincecum in that role. If Lincecum were to start Game #4, then he would probably be available in relief for Games #6 & 7. I think that I lean that way.

I don't want Mota to be on the NLCS Roster. Right now, he might be able to get a few opposing Pitchers out - that's about the extent of his reliability. If that means bringing in Hensley, that's OK. If that means bringing in Pill or Christian (or even Burriss), that's OK, too.

Zo said...

I agree about Mota. I saw him listed on the roster, but that was yesterday and I don't know if it was final or just a hold-over from the divisional playoff roster. I would consider Hensley. One more point, "deserves" means nothing. You could probably argue that the Reds and the Nationals "deserve" to be in the LCS.

If you start Timmy, you have to assume that either all five guys get starts or that one of the other starters is in the bullpen. I'd rather start Zito, pull him quickly and put Tim in than start Tim, pull him quickly and hope Zito can put out fires. I also like two lefties in the rotation.

JC Parsons said...

I doubt this will surprise anyone: Timmy should start Game 2 and 6, with Matt at 3 and 7. I suppose my top reason is that I really DO NOT want to see it any other way. It would be thrilling to see Tim get a start and the anticipation factor would be ridiculously high For sheer entertainment value, which is what this is all about, a Lincecum start would be a heart-stopper. Which is a good thing... sort of...

Also if Tim sucks in Game 2, then he shifts to the pen for the last few. I really can't generate much hate for Mota. He hasn't done well lately but he throws strikes and he is the last to be used in leverage situations. Zito is fine off the bench, but I see him almost as a another LOOGY. A lefty you can burn to get one or two outs in the fifth or sixth. Isn't that how everyone plays the post season now? I know we do. Yank the starter at the first sign of trouble and start the crazy matchup game as early as possible. I think Boch will use Kontos and Zito as the early bridge to the pen. I would love a starter to get it to the seventh or eighth but it seems like it would take a no hitter sometimes. Look at Homer Bailey, sure glad he only pitched once in that series.

JC Parsons said...

Looks like Vogie gets game 2. Good for him, he deserves it. Tim may just get game 4 or he could the long guy. Sigh...not really surprising

M.C. O'Connor said...

Tim is the X-factor. Giants down 2-1 after three? Timmy comes on to start and save the day. Or, Vogie rocky in Game 2? MadBum in trouble Game 5? Matty needs help in Game 7? Timmy in relief. Lots of scenarios for him to be a hero. Cardinals have shown they can hit late in the game against top relievers. Having a guy like Lincecum could be just the thing. Boch is being cagey and keeping the Ace of Spades as his hole card. You manage a playoff series as a do-or-die-no-tommorrow affair. Everyone has to be flexible and ready to change roles. Look at A-Rod and the Yankees! He's a first ballot lock HOFer and he had to sit. Now he's back in the lineup but not in the 3-hole. Fantastic. That's the way it should be. What if one of our guys pulls a Johnny Cueto? The Freak could be the best insurance against that. This is going to be a crazy, crazy series. These are two teams that thrive on the improbable. Gotta love Mike Matheny on the other side, he's one guy we can all appreciate, even if he's wearing the wrong colors this time.