93 Wins, Tim Lincecum, and the Postseason Roster

Greetings from the Petco Park press box, where hahahahahahaha I can’t believe the Giants actually won that game. Okay, sorry, I’ll pull myself together — I just watched the Giants wrap up their 159th game of the season. They pulled off a pretty spectacular comeback win, but Tim Lincecum pitched poorly (more on that later); and this was my last chance to see the 2012 Giants in action, as I won’t be able to make it to any postseason games. So, ultimately, it was a bittersweet day.

This game was, in a word, eventful. Let’s start with Lincecum, the latest concern as the Giants look ahead to the playoffs. He’s sort of pitched better in the second half, with 3.93 runs allowed per nine innings since the all-star break — compared to a first-half RA/9 figure of 6.70. Except, he sort of hasn’t. (And, really, how hard was it to improve upon those dreadful first-half numbers anyway?)

Lincecum got off to a promising start today, with a 1-2-3 first inning. He followed that up with a scoreless second inning. Okay, so now we’re rolling. In the third, he walked Everth Cabrera, who proceeded to steal second and third. And then the Padres started to do their damage: Logan Forsythe homered on the eighth pitch of his at-bat to put two runs on the board. It wasn’t a good pitch, but it wasn’t exactly a meatball. It was on the innermost part of the top of the strike zone, and really, it was pretty impressive that Forsythe was able to get around on it.

But Lincecum wasn’t done there. In the fourth, he served up a leadoff homer to Yasmani Grandal, on a pitch placed squarely over the middle of the plate. In the fifth, he walked Everth Cabrera, who again proceeded to steal second and third, only this time he came around to score on an overthrow to third from Hector Sanchez. And in the sixth, once again, Lincecum served up a leadoff homer on a pitch right down the middle.

Lincecum finished his day with the following line: six innings, four hits, four strikeouts, two walks, and a whopping three homers allowed (at Petco Park, no less!). I guess those two walks were somewhat of a silver lining, and hey, he drew a couple walks himself. But it’s pretty hard to feel confident about Lincecum starting a postseason game at this point. According to Andrew Baggarly, it would have taken a “truly bad” showing from Lincecum for him to forfeit his spot in the playoff rotation. I’m guessing that today’s outing, bad as it was, didn’t do the job. And, like it or not, the Giants have no better options. The Reds have mashed against left-handed pitching to the tune of a 106 wRC+, the third-best mark in the majors. Suffice it to say, a Barry Zito start against that lineup would probably not end well. (And while we’re on the topic, I’m not sure what value Zito is going to have as a reliever.)

Given the uncertainty surrounding the Giants’ starters, and Bruce Bochy’s own managerial tendencies, it’s odd to see that the Giants are leaning toward putting 11 pitchers (instead of 12) on the postseason roster. Bochy loves to mix and match with his bullpen, and unsurprisingly, Giants relievers have the lowest average innings pitched per appearance of any ‘pen in the majors. In fact, no team is particularly close. Coming into today, that mark stood at 0.86, with the next lowest being the Mets bullpen’s mark of 0.91. Given his style, I’m guessing he’d have more use for an extra arm than a designated pinch runner. Plus, as @SFBleacherGirl points out on Twitter, the Giants could play as many as three games in Cincinnati’s homer-happy home park; in other words, pitching will come at a premium.

Anyway, back to today’s game. The Giants got thrown out at home twice in the same inning. Hector Sanchez, as noted earlier, threw the ball over Joaquin Arias’ head in an attempt to gun down Everth Cabrera, which allowed him to score. Gregor Blanco struck out with the bases loaded. Ryan Theriot was caught stealing second to end the third inning. There was just a lot of sloppy baseball played by the Giants in general.

Yet they entered the ninth inning with just a one-run deficit, and against one of the toughest closers in the majors, they miraculously mounted a comeback. The sequence: Xavier Nady solo homer, Francisco Peguero single, Hunter Pence two-run homer. Sergio Romo came in, closed the door, and that was that — a 7-5 Giants win, salvaged rather miraculously. The Giants have now won 93 games, their most since 2003.

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5 thoughts on “93 Wins, Tim Lincecum, and the Postseason Roster

  1. It’s miserable that the home run tendencies which has been such a chronic problem all year is surfacing again in the ugliest way, home runs at Petco Park. I don’t believe for one moment that Lincecum/Bumgarner will suddenly “click” and be shut down pitchers again in the playoffs – not after a full year of struggle.

    Inevitably, though, Lincecum must be the one who starts away. Cain is virtually invincible at AT&T and Bumgarner needs every inch of fence and defense behind him. If today’s game is any indication, cavernous ballparks aren’t going to do Lincecum any favors if the home runs he serves up are always no-doubters. It would be the stronger play to start him at National’s Park or Great American where he can focus on limiting walks and contact. And if he implodes…Vogelsong can step out of the pen as a “super” long relief man.

    In the end, I hope Lincecum rebounds next year. This 2012 team has been fantastically entertaining, but the narrative of the last few years has been elite pitching, so I definitely felt some anguish watching the starters wither throughout this season. Although last year’s run was sabotaged that fateful day in May, the pitching staff inspired much more confidence than this year’s offense. I knew It isn’t quite as ridiculous as 2010, but one is always uneasy, or looking for signs, of players about to enter a slump or regress to career averages.

    A different style of torture, but no less trying than two years past.

  2. I agree with you an carrying 12 vs 11 pitchers. I’m finding myself thinking that I’d rather see a full on bullpen game or two in Cincy than a traditional start by any of Timmy, Zito or Vogey.

  3. At least some the problem yesterday was Hector-inflicted. The physical errors (not throwing runners out, throwing the ball away at 3B) are obvious, but I wonder about the pitching calling, too. Yes, it’s the pitcher’s final decision what pitch to throw, but I have gathered throughout the course of the season that Lincecum either feels Buster calls too often for pitches he doesn’t want to throw, or doesn’t push him hard enough to throw pitches that he should throw. Either way, seems like maybe Posey’s way is worth a try, and he definitely is a better defensive catcher than Hector. Since Bochey is leaving open the possibility of Buster catching Tim in the postseason, I would have liked to see them work together yesterday.

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