'Duk

Theory! Tim Lincecum misses Bengie Molina, pass it on

Big League Stew

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So we all know that Tim Lincecum(notes) is 1-3 with a 6.15 ERA over his last six starts.

And we all have our pet theories for the slump, like blaming the San Francisco Giants for refusing to employ Tim's advice-giving dad as a utility infielder so he can be within close range.

But as Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News writes, the hot explanation du jour now plays his ball in Texas.

That would be Bengie Molina(notes), who caught Lincecum for a majority of his two Cy Young seasons but was traded to the Rangers on July 1 to make way for super rookie Buster Posey(notes) behind the plate.

So did the Giants create another problem while trying to fix another when they effectively swapped Tiny Tim's defensive security blanket for the big, bad bat belonging to Posey?

From the Mercury News:

The two-time Cy Young Award winner was 8-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 16 starts with Molina before the Giants traded the veteran catcher to the Texas Rangers on July 1. Lincecum is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three pairings with backup Eli Whiteside(notes). In his past seven starts with rookie Buster Posey, Lincecum is 2-3 with a 4.85 ERA.

Lincecum didn't completely reject the effect the catching change has had on him, but he made it clear it wasn't an overriding factor.

"People will say that because it's true, I've thrown to Bengie my whole career," said Lincecum, who has made special mention of Molina while accepting his two Cy Young trophies. "But when it comes down to it, I've had good games with Bengie and bad games with Bengie. I've had good games with Buster and bad games with Buster."

I've always been interested in the relationships (or lack thereof) that pitchers seem to have with certain catchers — say hey, A.J. Burnett(notes) and Jorge Posada(notes)! — even though it's impossible to prove a definitive correlation.

In the case of Lincecum, we're dealing with a very small sample size, and a host of other factors — adjustments to his delivery, the effect of a lot of innings thrown the last three seasons — could also be figuring into things. Plus, it's not as if Lincecum has completely struggled since Molina was shipped off. Posey caught his six-hit shutout against the Mets on July 15.

The departure of Molina also hasn't had a huge impact on the entire pitching staff, even though Giants starters have struggled the past few weeks. Under Molina, the team's staff had a 3.50 ERA over 458.1 innings in 2010.

Since July 1, it has a 3.67 ERA over 392.1 innings with Whiteside and Posey.

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