While most were probably nestled snugly in their beds last night when San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain became the 22nd pitcher in Major League Baseball history to throw a perfect game in a 10-0 victory over the Houston Astros, the news is definitely mainstream by now.
What we are certainly all well aware of however, are the meager efforts of two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum so far this season.
Big Time Timmy Jim no more, Lincecum has struggled mightily to the tune of a 6.00 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, only two wins and a startling 4.9 BB/9 in 13 starts.
What is the source of the dramatic drop-off?
Are the concerns of his slight frame and quirky delivery beginning to come to light? Have opposing hitters finally figured The Freak out? Or is it simply a lack of confidence that Lincecum can correct with some minor tweaks and by simply grabbing the bull by its horns?
For the sake of both Lincecum and the Giants, hopefully it is door No. 3.
With no legitimate injury concerns, Lincecum’s body still seems to be holding up well to the rigors of toeing the rubber every five days. And while opposing batters appear to be getting the best of him, Lincecum seems to be the victim of that one bad inning; I call it the Bad News Bears Effect.
Once the issue(s) get hammered out, everything seems to click again, resulting in positive outcomes with no real logical explanation.
Some will cite velocity (career low 90.2 MPH on four-seam fastballs this season) as the culprit of Lincecum’s digressions and that there has to be a matter of health behind it all. If that was true, the Giants organization would have identified that by now, and he would have been shut down to uncover the problem.
The signs honestly point to a lack of confidence.
Lincecum himself insists it is a matter of rediscovering his swagger in reverting back to his former dominant self. While it may be hard to believe coming straight from the horse’s mouth, Lincecum has given no indication for us to suppose otherwise.
Obviously if Lincecum’s issues aren’t corrected—yielding much better results—the Giants have a major problem on their hands.
But is it possible that seeing Cain slowly creep from behind his shadow—capped off by last night’s historic performance—will be enough to propel Lincecum into a second-half surge?
If it truly is a matter of complacency, Lincecum should take Cain’s emergence not only as a sign that he start doing his part to help the Giants make up ground in the National League West, but that Cain is out to prove that he, too, is capable of being the ace of the staff.
The friendly competition between Lincecum and Cain could result in an epic end to their individual seasons as well as the Giants’—that is, if Lincecum is up for the challenge.