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?