August 03, 2009
Fans of Dan Haren(notes) can feel free to disagree with me, but I'd argue that Tim Lincecum(notes) is definitely en route to the second straight Cy Young award despite only racking up 80 appearances for his career so far.
And since watching Tiny Tim shut down opponents has become almost routine — he blanked the high-powered Phillies on Saturday night — I thought I'd add a new wrinkle to his outstanding season.
Could he top a plateau that many have said is unreachable in today's game?
• Lincecum currently has 191 strikeouts over 22 starts, a rate of 8.68 Ks per game.
• If you look at the rest of the Giants' schedule and conservatively estimate that Lincecum will start every fifth game, he has 11 starts remaining in 2009. If that holds true, he'd need to strike out 9.9 batters per game to reach 300, which would be a reach. He most likely wouldn't have enough innings to get the job done.
• But because the Giants are in a race for the NL wild card, they're likely to alter their rotation so that Lincecum and Matt Cain(notes) maximize their time on the mound. Looking at the remaining off days on the schedule, Lincecum has a possibility to start 12 or maybe even 13. If he squeezes in 13, he'll only have to average 8.38 per start to reach the magic number.
As you can see, it's probably a bit of a long shot unless Lincecum is able to post a few more big numbers like he did when he struck out 15 Pirates on July 27. He might get his additional chances considering the Giants are in serious contention for a wild card spot — they're currently tied with Colorado for the lead — but the extra effort on his arm should only come in the name of team achievement, not individual milestones.
But considering that a lion's share of 300 seasons were achieved with 275 or more innings pitched, Lincecum's season wouldn't be any less impressive any if he didn't reach the mark. He's currently on pace for about a career-high 240-250 innings pitched this season and there's no shame in falling short of Pedro Martinez's(notes)
305 313 Ks in 213.1 IP in 1999.
Still, how cool would it be to see Lincecum add his name to the 300 list? Only Johnson, Schilling, Pedro, Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott have done it since the '80s began and the 300-mark has been crossed only 33 times since 1901. Two Cy Youngs in his first three seasons would give Lincecum a historic first, but he can make even more history than that.