Saturday, February 23, 2013

Questions of a Tim Nature

As the defending World Champions, ( Wow! What a beautiful phrase.. ) the San Francisco Giants understandably have relatively few unanswered questions heading into the 2013 season.  Sure, there's always a spot or two in the bullpen to squabble about, but I'll leave that to smarter authors. For me, once again my baseball universe seems to revolve around the fortunes of Timothy Leroy Lincecum.  Big surprise, huh?  But seriously, let's face it, the once rock solid, "franchise player" that was Timmeh is a thing of the past.  He's a frigging "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma".

So, let's get to some of those questions.  Off the top of my head I can think of 4 or 5...

Ok, this is not very forward thinking, but sometimes a problem can be identified and fixed. Right? Well, Tim makes this hard.  I sure haven't heard him or Righetti or Bochy or anybody really pinpoint a distinct flaw.  I guess there was some mention by Tim about his follow through, but it didn't sound very major. Could it explain his terrible fastball control last year?  And did he fix it for his post season relief resurgence?  We may have to let this question go;  however it sure would feel good to place some blame for such a disastrous season (ERA+ of 67 for god's sake!).

The short answer is, of course, no.  But perhaps it is an indication of a new focus or commitment to excellence... nah, the long answer is "no" too.

Now we are getting to the tough ones.  My answer: I can't believe he can be that bad again (he led the league in ER!) so I'm looking for a substantial rebound.  I've been burned too bad to really think that Tim will re-climb to the heights of dominance that  he once so easily ascended.  I'm hoping for about an ERA+ of 120 ( his career average now ) which would probably make him the best #3 starter in the league.  Will he matter much? Hell, yea!  We proved that we can win the division without him last year ( more like, in spite of him ) but how far do we go in the post season without Tim's contribution last year?  Like it or not, Lincecum is a key figure in the NL West race.

And, finally, the BIG question, the elephant in the room type question...

I have said for years that the Giants won't keep three big time starting pitcher contracts, nobody can. Two, sure, but not three.  Now I realize that kind of baseball dogma may no longer be true.  The Giants have clearly helped establish a new formula for team structure and payroll.  Swap that slugger outfielder for a cheaper fast guy and use the money for more pitching.  In fact, it could be argued that Tim Lincecum was a big reason for this new thinking; that he was truly a transformative agent.  Isn't that worth something?  I think so.  Which means my answer is NO, this better not be Tim's last season as a Giant.  Timmeh has a lot more history to write.  Good or bad, he remains one of the most engaging Giants of all time.  Matt, MadBum and The Freak all deserve to stay together for a long time to come.  And we deserve to see it.

Besides, I hate to mention the obvious ( and disgusting ) destination if Tim does decide to go the free agent route.  The filthy rich doggers could pick him up at top dollar rates just to piss us off.  That is a future I don't wish to contemplate. Sorry I brought it up.

So, have any questions of your own?  Or better yet, answers.  It is spring, the time of renewal, so get those brain cells fired up again! The off season is OVER!  ( In fact, the first spring training game starts in about a half hour.)

CONGRATULATIONS! You have officially survived another off season. Now write a damn comment!


M.C. O'Connor said...

Well, OK. Now that you've penned a damn post I'll frickin' comment!

Tim will find his way back. This I believe. He's too good of an athlete and too competitive to allow another season of failure. It's not in his DNA. Sure, guys get old, get hurt, "lose a step," whathaveyou, but that's not what I see with Tim. I see a guy who dominated every level of everything he ever did including the rarefied air of the MLB suddenly become mortal. And he wasn't just mortal, he was BAD. That's not Tim. He's not bad at baseball. He's GREAT at baseball. At his level, barring injury, it HAS to be mental. He experienced athletic failure for the first time in his life and was not equipped to deal with it. But mental letdowns, unlike physical conditions, can always be overcome. People learn. They grow. They change.

Tim had a painful and embarrassing reality check. This is the bigs--NO ONE can just "dial it in." You have to work, work, work, and grind, grind, grind. And I think that finally sunk in last season for Tim. I anticipate a more mature, more seasoned young man who still has plenty of fire and drive and great baseball left. Physically he has lost velocity. Well, OK, so has Felix Hernandez, and he can still dominate. It's PITCHING, not throwing.

I look forward to good things from Tim. (I'd take a 120 ERA+ in a heartbeat. That's hella studly!)

Zo said...

"I have said for years that the Giants won't keep three big time starting pitcher contracts, nobody can."

Atlanta can, and did, for a decade, and wound up in the playoffs for many consecutive years. You can argue that the 2010s are different than the 1990s to which I respond, "Really?" The Giants can, and will, if Tim performs. The Giants are pitching and they have been working on this (having these quality starters) for years. They are not going to punt.

Shankbone said...

Apparently Joe Pesci did not enjoy working for Oliver Stone, but that was a pretty memorable line he delivered.

The big thing with Timmy before last year was the declining velocity. A lot of pitchers decline as they mature and stop heavin', but its something to consider.

I agree that he got a reality check, and he's an amazing enough athlete he should rebound. He needs a new plan, hitters have adjusted to his dirtball (well, them Tigers didn't know what to do with it but small sample size eh?). I think he needs a new plan. Sabean has alluded to that, calling for him to be a more pitch to contact guy. His strikeout rate is still stellar, but his H/9 went way up, as did his HR/9. He also posted his worst BB/9 of his career in 2012. I'd say he has to get his K/BB ratio back towards the career avg of 3/1.

So a lot of it is mental. I feel like in 2011 we either got on Timmy, or spaced out Timmy. Spaced out Timmy made mistakes. In 2012, the mistake I remember the most was a 0-2 pitch to Tony Gwynn Jr that went for extra bases and the lead. Timmy needs to toughen up, he can't coast on his talent. Every pitch counts, especially when you can't dial up 96 to gloss over some mistakes.

I think the Greybeards will ride it out to the bitter end. That 100MM contract may get elusive, but they'll give him a competitive 4 year deal as long as he rebounds. Maybe his publicly stated preference for short term deals will be put to the test. 2 years 40MM? There are worse ways to live. One thing, he ain't getting traded. The noise from the crowd when he hit the steps to go warm up in the Cards series... man, it was amazing. Hometown heroes don't grow on trees, and while there is downside, there is also upside. Giving up on a Seaver, a Ryan, a Perry. That is the mistake. Having some dead payroll is a mistake as well, but its one the Giants have weathered and won 2 championships with.

Brother Bob said...

Last year Tim loaned his mojo to Zito. Tim was bad so Zito could finally have one adequate season as a Giants pitcher. And the result was another World Series championship.
I'll be shocked if Tim isn't more or less back to normal this year. He's smart and has always used a variety of pitches even though the gaudy strikeout stats would make you assume he's strictly a "power" pitcher.
I guess I like the haircut. He can always grow it back out again if he wants to.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Fuck the haircut. Grow it back, Tim.

nomisnala said...

For Tim to get his pitching mojo back, he will have to get his mental toughness back. He needs to be able to consistently repeat his original motion. This is something he could not do last year. His release point was all over the place. At least, until the playoffs.