San Francisco Giants: Why Tim Lincecum's Next Start Is Make or Break

Bruce FriedmanCorrespondent IIJuly 12, 2012

A dejected Tim Lincecum
A dejected Tim LincecumJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

Tomorrow night the San Francisco Giants and the other 29 teams in baseball resume the MLB season after the All-Star break.

Tuesday's midsummer classic was an amazing high for Giants fans. The Giants had four starters, more than any other team in baseball. The last time I can remember that happening was, well, never.

Buster Posey, Matt Cain, Pablo Sandoval and the game's Most Valuable Player Melky Cabrera all had major roles in the National League's 8-0 victory over the American League.

Now back to the business of trying to win the NL West as Madison Bumgarner hopes to repeat his stellar first half, opening against the lowly Houston Astros at AT&T Park.

But the game all Giants fans are most concerned about comes on Saturday, as Tim Lincecum takes the mound for his first post All-Star break start.

Lincecum has been in a word, terrible the first half.

His record is is 3-10. His ERA 6.42, the highest among 99 qualifying starting pitchers in baseball. His WHIP 1.58. In 96.2 innings he has allowed 103 hits and 50 walks.

About the only positive stat is his strikeouts, 104. He has also given up 11 homers and has thrown 10 wild pitches.

Statistically, he is the worst starting pitcher in all of baseball.

That's about as bad a first half as any pitcher can ever dream of having. Of course it's much worse when you're a two-time Cy Young award winner like Lincecum, who has had relatively few struggles in his previous five years.

Nobody, including Timmy seems to have any idea what's wrong.

But there's one thing for certain. It can't continue like this any longer.

Back when Lincecum faced the Oakland Athletics, after a three-run first inning he shut the A's down the rest of the way. Then he fired seven shutout innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Tim was back.

Not so fast.

Prior to the A's start, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Lincecum would come out of the rotation if things didn't get better. They did, but just for a minute.

Now after two more disastrous starts, where Lincecum gave up 13 earned runs in 6.2 innings, we have reached the point of no return once again.

All along Giants manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean have stood behind Timmy, promising their total support. Bochy has continued to insist that Tim won't be pulled from the starting rotation. That "we'll just keep throwing him out there."

Well Boch, it's come down to this.

The Giants are 4-14 in Lincecum's starts. When Lincecum DOESN'T pitch the Giants have a record of 42-26.

Here's another stat for you. When the Giants score four runs or more, they have an excellent record of 35-14. Guess what those numbers are when the Giants score four or more and Timmy is on the mound. How about 2-7?

This team does not have enough firepower to hit their way out of a bad start by a starting pitcher and that's what Tim Lincecum has given the Giants virtually every time out.

This isn't a condemnation of the guy. As a Giants fan I love Lincecum.

And as a Giants fan I know that if he doesn't turn it around NOW the Giants can't afford to, in the golden words of their manager, "keep running him out there."

It's just not working. So here's what has to happen.

If Lincecum has anything from a good to an OK start on Saturday, keep him in the rotation.

But if he gets shelled again, it's time to send him to the minors. Nothing more, nothing less.

And unlike my plan in this article, the Giants should send Lincecum to the minors just like any player who has underperformed, without conditions.

If and when he's ready to come back then bring him back up. If he isn't showing signs he's ready, then don't.

There are people who say "send him to the bullpen." What will that accomplish at this point?

If he's walking people, getting behind on the count and getting slammed as a starter, how will it be any different as a reliever?

If they bring him into pressure situations it is likely to be even worse. And if they're planning to use him as a mop-up guy, why bother? Starts in the minors would be a lot more productive.

I'm tired of all of these people telling me "oh, his confidence will be shot," blah, blah, blah.

Too late folks, it has already happened and the Giants are responsible.

If they had let him skip a start before or sent him to the minors earlier, on the condition it's only temporary and for his own good, then his confidence had a fighting chance. Now his confidence is gone. 

If you watch this guy when he's pitching, he looks lost. He looks like a guy who has gotten battered one time too many and now he expects it to happen.

Time to do what's right for Tim, but even more, for the team. It doesn't matter who takes his place either. It can't possibly be any worse then it is right now.


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