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Friday, November 21, 2014

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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