Tim Lincecum Angling for Cy Young Award, Giants Ruining Him in Meantime?

We’re getting to that point in the season where there are fewer and fewer games available for standings and stats to change. We have a pretty good idea who’s going to make the playoffs in both leagues, and I have a pretty good idea to whom I would award all the regular season hardware. I’d still go with Carlos Quentin as my AL MVP, Albert Pujols as NL MVP, Cliff Lee as runaway AL Cy Young, and Tim Lincecum as the NL Cy Young winner. I really hope voters don’t just look at Brandon Webb’s win total and give it to him — that would be shortsighted, albeit typical. Lincecum has a better win/loss percentage, better ERA, more innings per start, more strikeouts, fewer hits allowed — he’s just been the best pitcher in the NL this year. Before Brandon Webb stalled on win No. 19 and started to implode, Lincecum’s chances to win were much slimmer. Webb’s shoddy performance opened the door, but the Giants have also bent over backwards to help Lincecum try to win the Award. And they may have gone too far.

The Giants stretched Lincecum in each of his last three starts, two of which were direct efforts to let him throw a complete game shutout. Lincecum was yanked in the 9th three starts ago after he gave up his first runs of the game, his pitch count at 126. The next start, Lincecum entered the 9th with a shutout going, and this time he finished it off — a four-hitter in which he struck out 13 Padres. Oh yeah, he threw 138 pitches. It was only a few weeks prior to that start against San Diego that Lincecum was pulled after 8 innings despite shutting out the Padres — his pitch count was 115. His team also had a slimmer lead the first time around — 5-0 rather than 7-0. Clearly the Giants’ mindset had changed, and manager Bruce Bochy was going to help his pitcher try to win the Award.

Thursday night, Lincecum got burned by a horrible fielding play in left by Eugenio Velez that allowed two runs to score in the 6th, otherwise he would have taken a no decision, or possibly a win. When Bengie Molina homered in the 8th to tie things up and get Lincecum off the hook, I thought for sure he would be out of the ballgame. Instead, he pitched the 8th, gave up a run, and took the loss — pitch count at 118.

It’s really tough to say whether or not the Giants were right to let Lincecum continue pitching in all three instances to try and improve his stats. I’ve pitched before and I understand how special shutouts are, so I can’t really blame them for letting Lincecum try to finish it off; pitchers always want to finish off their masterpieces. I also can’t blame them for bumping Jonathan Sanchez in the final week to give Lincecum another start, especially since it’s on his typical four-days rest. What I don’t get is why these past few starts have been inconsistent with the rest of the season. Why would he be allowed to finish a shutout against the Padres this time around but not a few weeks before? If they were protecting his arm and his future in every other start, why wouldn’t they do the same now? If they’re making exceptions to try and win him the Award, I think that’s poor policy. They should stick with what they planned to do before, especially when 8 innings is good enough to get the win.

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    understand what you are saying and agree with most of it (except nl mvp, should be given to a guy like howard, or even your boy MANNY), but maybe the Giants/Bochy/Righetti felt that his arm has developed enough strength throughout the season that he can throw an extra 15-20 pitches. Yes, 130 is a lot compared to all other pitchers in baseball, but to me, it’s nothing extreme. If you want to start talking about going too far, I think 150 pitches would be pushing it.

    And yes, throwing a shutout is something special. Hell, I believe there might only be around 50-60 total shutouts throughout the major leagues combined this year, so if you can do it, why not? I don’t think there are doing any major harm to Lincecum. Also, it’s not like they are starting him on 3 days rest (short rest) like the Brewers are in panic mode with CC and others

  • http://baseballmastermind.com Alan

    Spot on. Running up the pitch counts and innings totals like that is dangerous for such a young guy. I know he’s a mechanical freak, but you don’t want to bet against history and over-work young pitchers.

  • Gene

    You are right about abusing a young arm, especially when you take Lincecum’s diminutive status into account. If reader Jewcy thinks it is okay to keep sending Lincecum out there, he needs only to look at the Chicago Cubs and Kerry Wood and Mark Pryor.

    As far as your top four selections, I begrudgingly have to go with Ryan Howard over Albert Pujols, even though I am a huge Pujols fan and Howard is still on the wrong side of .250. Howard has 46 homers and over 140 ribbies in the middle of a pennant race. He alone has kept the Phillies in playoff contention. Pujols has kind of leveled off, as have the Cardinals and he is a victim of being pitched around because he is the best hitter in all of baseball.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    Just seems weird to me that they’re giving him the OK to pitch an extra inning and go 130+ pitches 3 weeks after he was in the exact same situation. As Alan said, he may be a mechanical freak, but that doesn’t make him pitch count proof. But you are right — the Brewers really have abused Sabathia and it didn’t even pay off today.