Yesterday, there was no pressure. No sense of urgency. Everyone had given up on the Giants, and somehow, they responded by winning in convincing fashion. But they were still five games out of first, and instead of being meaningless, today became a must-win game. Unfortunately, the Giants did not win, and that’s about all there is to it.
Regardless of what happens tomorrow, things have got to change now. Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford both need to play every day. Bruce Bochy has stuck with his veterans all year, and I’m inclined to believe he’s not going to waver until his team is mathematically eliminated. That’s just his managerial style and I can accept that, but only to a certain extent. Let me make this clear: I don’t expect the Giants to give up. Realistically, future role players such Emmanuel Burriss, Darren Ford, and Brett Pill don’t deserve lengthy opportunities while the team theoretically still has a shot. Both Brandons, on the other hand, need to gain as much experience as possible if they’re going to be key contributors on next year’s team, which is expected to contend. Veterans like Orlando Cabrera and Aubrey Huff simply do not need to be out there every day, playing meaningless games while two rookies essential to future success waste away on the bench.
Lincecum, Lincecum, Lincecum. Usually, there’s something a little different about his games, even when he hasn’t been as dominant of late. Today wasn’t quite like that. His command wasn’t ever really there, but instead of missing outside of the zone, he missed in it. In case you’ve forgotten, a major league caliber-offense usually takes advantage of that. One could argue that Lincecum got BABIP’d to death, but it seemed pretty obvious that he placed more than a few right down Broadway. In the later innings, I couldn’t help but notice that Lincecum’s velocity had dropped significantly. In the 1st inning, his fastball was clocking in around 93-94 (mph), and he even hit 95 on three of the first four batters. By the 6th inning, he had thrown a lot of pitches, and was registering more in the 90-92 vicinity.
With another potential arbitration case approaching quickly this winter, I think it may be time to reevaluate Lincecum as a pitcher. Though it’s not really fair to do this after two of his worst starts of the season, fWAR ranked him as the Giants’ third best pitcher coming into today. Even more surprisingly, his 4.1 mark isn’t even close to Cain’s 5.1 and Bumgarner’s 4.7, which are both career-highs. While I don’t doubt Lincecum’s talent, it is worth noting that he’s experienced a three-year decline in terms of K/9 and BB/9, while the other two have only improved. It’s fair to wonder if he was worked too hard during his two Cy Young seasons. Some people have pegged this offseason as the time to sign Lincecum to a long-term extension, and for the record, I’m all for it. I just hope that his quirks, popularity, and accomplishments won’t prevent the Giants from questioning if we’ve seen his peak, and if so, how long he can continue to be a 5 WAR pitcher.