Cardinals vs. Giants: Tim Lincecum Has Earned Game 4 Start

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIOctober 15, 2012

The Giant's posteason hopes could rest on The Freak.
The Giant's posteason hopes could rest on The Freak.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giant's rotation is sinking, and it could land on Tim Lincecum to keep their playoff hopes afloat.

But at this point does he deserve it?

The man dubbed "Big Time Timmy Jim" was anything but in 2012. He struggled all season long, finishing with a 10-15 record, 5.18 ERA, 1.468 WHIP and 4.4 BB/9—all career worsts. For those looking to take solace in sabermetrics, there's not much there. Lincecum's .309 BABIP wasn't far off from his career mark of .295, and his 4.18 FIP is still pretty mediocre.

Now, the Giants are a team with rotational depth. Even with his struggles, they have enough studs that one would figure they could roll with Lincecum and still pick up the pieces.

Think again: The Freak was so bad this season that Bruce Bochy opted to have Barry Zito in his October rotation.

Yep, that Barry Zito.

Perhaps one of the most relaxed guys in baseball, Lincecum has taken his lumps all season. He knew his charge coming into the postseason and took to the bullpen—even with a smile at times.

Since then, Lincecum has been solid for the Giants. When Zito sputtered in Game 4 of the NLDS, Lincecum came in and pitched 4.1 innings, giving up one run on two hits while striking out six.

In his three appearances this postseason, Lincecum has pitched 8.1 innings with a 1.11 ERA and 10.0 K/9. In his career, he's now 5-1 in October with a 2.18 ERA, 0.838 WHIP and 5.20 K/BB.

Down 1-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, the Giants once again find themselves in a hole. This time, they have to mount their comeback against the most stubborn team in these playoffs. If they want to win, the Giants need to lean on their rotation.

Unfortunately, that's the big issue.

Outside of Matt Cain—who has also seen some struggles—no one's rotation spot is safe.

Madison Bumgarner has been awful this October, with a 9.0 ERA between his two starts. Ryan Vogelsong and Zito have limited their damage, but have struggled to pitch deep—not to mention that Vogelsong was awful down the stretch, posting a 5.85 ERA between August and September.

Now back to the question at hand. Does Lincecum deserve a starting spot for Game 4?

The evidence pretty much speaks for itself. Whether you look at this postseason or postseasons past, Lincecum has always been a big pitcher in October.

The Giants aren't going to win games with their bats, especially against this heavy-hitting Cardinals squad. They need their rotation to be the best it can.

Right now it's not even close, and Bruce Bochy won't sniff a World Series return unless he makes some changes. The obvious choice is slotting Lincecum in. If he hadn't pitched out of the 'pen in Game 1, I'd go as far as to say let him pitch sooner than later.

But if the Giants get to Game 4 and need a stopper, Tim Lincecum remains the best starter at their disposal.

At the least you have to ask yourself: With the way everyone else is pitching, what could it hurt?


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