On Monday night, for the third time in his three starts this season, Tim Lincecum gave up a pile of first-inning runs. The opening frame has been a nightmare for Tim so far. He allowed four runs in the first inning to Philly this week, two to Colorado last week, and three to Arizona in the opener.
Check out Lincecum's situational stats page and just look at what opposing hitters have done to him within the first 30 pitches: 21 total batters faced, nine hits, three doubles, a triple, two homers, two walks. That's ridiculous. If Santiago Casilla is indeed the Giants closer, they might want to begin using him to navigate the first inning whenever Lincecum takes the hill.
We know these are dark times for Timmy. We also know that his fastball is sitting at 90-91 mph. That's a tick below last year's average velocity (92.3), but not far from where he was in 2010 (91.3), when he struck out 231. Let's recall that his change-up is a killer pitch; he's not a guy who needs to throw 95-97. Still, a few extra miles-per-hour can provide a nice margin for error. Right now, when Lincecum makes a mistake with his fastball, the pitch gets drilled. Or he misses his target by two feet and the batter hits the dirt. Either way, it's a bad result.
We shouldn't pretend that Lincecum is the only starter who's dealing with a small dip in velocity early in the season. We also need to remember that this is not the first time a top-tier ace has opened with a string of messy performances. Back in April of 2008, thousands of you were begging us to remove CC Sabathia from the Can't-Cut list. Sabathia's ERA peaked at 13.50 that season; he finished at 2.70, with 251 strikeouts.
But that was then, and it was CC. This is now, and it's Tim.
If the Lincecum owner in any of my leagues were to put him on the trade block today, I'd bite. Despite Tim's struggles, he's still whiffed 16 batters in 13.2 innings this season. The history here is spectacular, and I'm not convinced he's irretrievably lost. After the ugly first frame on Monday, he was competent for his final five innings. Upcoming starts against the Mets and Pads offer hope, too.
Scott phrased this Freak situation really well in Monday's Closing Time, per his usual: "The spin can go either way with Tim Lincecum right now; his third start had data to support anyone's argument." If you're worried, I get it. If you're bullish, I understand that, too.
Let's please hear from the Lincecum owners in comments. Are you panicked? Confident? Holding? Benching? Selling? And if you've already sold, what was the return?
No one's going to judge you here, I swear. (Except the usual 10-12 people). We're a supportive community. Share your story, make a new Internet friend.
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