SAN FRANCISCO — With the way things are going, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Tim Lincecum earn a win in relief or even a save at some point this World Series.
But what about for the Giants in 2013 or another team beyond?? As Lincecum continues to find himself while running out of the bullpen, people are starting to wonder if Tiny Tim has a future as a closer.
That includes Jack Moore of Fangraphs, who looks at Lincecum's stellar relief line this month — 10 2/3 innings, one run, 14 strikeouts and one walk — and wonders if the two-time Cy Young winner should readjust for the long run.
If the scouts who saw durability issues from heavy workloads and Lincecum's relatively small frame are right and Lincecum's body and arsenal are struggling to catch up with starting, Lincecum's ceiling in this role could approach (Willie) Hernandez's tremendous 1984 season. The stress taken off his arm — and entire body, given his frantic delivery — could allow Lincecum's velocity to return and allow him to pitch, at least on a per-inning basis, like the Lincecum who won the Cy Young award in 2008 and 2009.
Tim Lincecum as the next Tom Gordon? It's fun to think about, but I also think it's a little premature. It's not a decision that's going to be made this offseason because there's no way the Giants should voluntarily cut down what used to be one of the best 200-inning assets in baseball to just 80 or 100 innings. Especially since he'll be making $22.2 million in 2013.
That paycheck, those two Cy Young wins and the way he's selflessly thrown himself into this new role the past few weeks earn him the benefit of the doubt and a chance to reprove himself in the spring and first month or so of the 2013 schedule.
Speaking of the team-first approach that Lincecum has admirably used while embracing this new role: Isn't it a bit of a stretch to think it would continue in 2013 if the Giants asked him to start the season in the bullpen? Lincecum may be 100 percent sincere about his feelings now, but how would they change if his free-agent earnings potential is jeopardized after next season? It's hard to think anyone would be able to shift from record-setting starter money to a reliever's deal without a bruised ego and outlook.
That's not to say that Lincecum won't ever have to face the new reality of a bullpen assignment and its diminished paycheck. Just that he'll get — and deserves — another chance to prove himself as a starter.