When San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy threw Tim Lincecum into a relief role against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 2 of the NLDS, the common reaction throughout Major League Baseball was, "Huh?"
But, as Bochy has proven before, he's one of the best managers in baseball, and he made the right decision deciding to start right-hander Ryan Vogelsong against the Reds in Game 3.
In 2010, this would have been out of the question. Lincecum went 16-10 with a 3.43 ERA while leading baseball in strikeouts that season, then proceeded to go 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA in the Giants' run to the championship.
But Lincecum is a completely different pitcher now, and that's evident by the 5.18 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 15 losses he posted in the regular season.
The 28-year-old's drop in velocity has been well-documented this season in San Francisco. On top of that, he's struggled with location mistakes. That has led to a nightmare season for the two-time Cy Young winner. Every once in a while, he'll show flashes of his old self (as against the Reds on Sunday), but he can't be relied on day in and day out. That's the long and short of it.
As for Vogelsong, he's come back down to Earth after an outstanding 2011 campaign (3.37 ERA this season), but in his last three starts he's been the Vogelsong Giants fans know from 2011 and the first half of 2012.
Yes, those three starts have come against the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, but that doesn't change the fact that the 35-year-old has looked good on the mound, giving up just one earned run in his last 17 innings.
It's very simple what Bochy is doing: he's riding the hot hand. And while Lincecum has the name recognition, Vogelsong has been the better pitcher this season, plain and simple. In fact, Vogelsong has arguably been the Giants' most consistent pitcher, posting a team-high 22 quality starts.
As for Vogelsong's numbers against the Reds?
In his first start against them (and his third start of the season) on April 26, he gave up four runs in six innings.
On the other hand, he pitched seven innings of two-run ball against them on July 1, allowing just three hits in the process.
The Giants have won both games he's started against the Reds.
It was only natural to question Bochy's move in Game 2, but, in hindsight, it was the right move and it positions the Giants better to steal Game 3 in Cincinnati.
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