Before this season began, we wondered what exactly National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum could do for an encore.
After two starts to begin the year that left people scratching their heads, The Franchise is back to what he looked like a year ago and everybody is enjoying the show.
His ERA may be almost one-and-a-half runs higher than it was through five starts a year ago and half the number of wins, take away the two dismal starts to begin the season and Lincecum has been everything a staff ace represents.
His past three starts have been works of art and if it wasn’t for his exit with the bases loaded Tuesday night against the Dodgers and all three runners scoring, then things would look even better.
Lincecum is racking up strikeouts like they are going out of style. He has struck out more this season (43) than he did through five starts last season (36) in less innings.
Even though he got out of the gate so incredibly hot in 2008, he didn’t record two double-digit strikeout performances in the same month until August.
He already has two in the first month of 2009.
The most impressive thing may not be all the strikeouts he is tallying, but how he is doing it. In his first two outings that went a combined 8.1 innings, Lincecum walked six batters. Since then, in 23 innings, he has walked all of four batters and struck out 33.
That is no typo. A strikeout-to-walk ratio of close to 11 in his last three starts.
He has rediscovered the command of his fastball and teaming it with his hammer of a curveball and his continuously improving changeup, Lincecum can now say he has the potential to strike people out with three pitches.
Because he has the control back in his favor, you aren't seeing him giving up the kind of hit totals that he did in his first two outings. Against the Brewers and Padres, he gave up 14 hits. In his past three, he's given up 16.
Team that with the previously mentioned walk totals, there is a reason why he is barely giving up any runs.
Also, the Giants are giving Lincecum, more often than not, more run support that would certainly make Matt Cain jealous, but nobody in their right mind should expect that to last the whole year. We have seen them go from a team that can’t stop scoring in the opening series against Milwaukee to one that had to struggle to get two on the board against San Diego.
Yet despite the inconsistent comings and goings of the Giants offense, they are, for the most part, getting the job done.
Twenty games are over and done with and, believe it or not, the Giants are at the .500 mark, something they never achieved a year ago, and are just three games behind the hated Dodgers.
Although he only has two wins on the season, Lincecum can be looked to as one of the reasons why the Giants have won four consecutive series and are at least succeeding my expectations of what they were capable this season.
Albeit there are still 140-plus games to go, but with Lincecum firing on all cylinders and the other four starts doing what they have been doing the past couple of turns in the rotation, the offense won’t have to kill the ball for the Giants to win.
We knew the pitching would carry this team and they are. This is no surprise to any of us, but the matter of how they are doing it is. Starters are going deep into games, allowing low run totals and that means the offense doesn’t have to tear the cover off the ball to win.
But it all comes back to Lincecum being Lincecum. He is pitching the way he did a year ago and we know how that turned out. His starts are becoming events in San Francisco. Even a freezing night in the city by the bay saw AT&T Park almost completely full.
Apparently lightning does strike twice in San Francisco.