Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain Go Head-to-Head for NL All-Star Starter Nod

Danny PenzaSenior Writer IJune 24, 2009

Let’s face it—San Francisco Giants fans, players, management, broadcasters, and all the other employees at AT&T Park have been completely spoiled this season.

The starting pitching staff the Giants roll out on a daily basis, sans Jonathan Sanchez and his inconsistent ways, have been absolutely phenomenal this season. Strikeouts, complete games, shutouts, no-hit bids—you name it and the Giants pitching staff has delivered it at least once in 2009.

People had a feeling that it would be good, but did we know it would be this good?

The two main reasons why they have been so good so often are the two young guns in the rotation, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, who have just gotten better as the season has gotten deeper into its schedule.

Lincecum and Cain’s first-half dominance has combined for a 16-3 record with a 2.42 ERA as we enter the final week of June. They are both among the leaders in ERA in the National League with no signs at all that they are slowing down any time in the near future.

Last time we checked, that’s good.

We’re just a few short weeks away from the Midsummer Classic in St. Louis, boys and girls. Could one of the Giants’ young guns be on the mound?

You have to believe they have two of the best candidates outside of Arizona’s Dan Haren.

Their showings over the past few weeks have been even better than they were the first two months of the year, incredible as that is to imagine. They have seemingly developed a unofficial “anything you can do I can do better” moniker.

Lincecum (7-2, 2.57), in less than two weeks' time, has doubled his career complete-game total, which now stands at four, and in those games has allowed just four runs, walked three, and struck out 29. His ERA in just less than 40 innings pitched is 1.82.

That’s just dirty.

The fastballs are a sizzling past batters, the changeup that’s only about a year old is dropping off the table, and the hammer of a curve is firing on all cylinders.

While Lincecum has been his normal strikeout and dominating self, no pitcher in baseball deserves recognition of what he has done this season more than Cain. He’s gone from Mr. No Run Support Himself to the man the Giants can count on for seven innings and a chance to win every time out.

If Lincecum’s numbers in June are dirty, then Cain’s are just plain filthy.

In four starts this month, he has allowed one run in three of them (seven total this month), two of those being complete games. He’s struck out 30, walked just 10, and has given up just seven hits in his latest two outings.

He’s tied for the National League lead with nine wins and is second in ERA with his 2.28 nastiness.

Can you say "dealing"?

On the year, Cain has failed to record six innings of work only once, with the lone exception being a rain-shortened complete game to begin the month against the Nationals.

Cain has Lincecum beat in almost every statistical category other than strikeouts and WHIP, in which he is just decimal points behind the shaggy-haired ace. With "The Franchise" backing up his Cy Young season of a year ago, to say Cain’s stats are equal to Lincecum’s is something to take notice of.

We can all throw stats out there to state the case for our favorites, but the product on the field that both of those two horses have put together this year is one hell of a sight to see. Lincecum has become more than just a fastball-curveball pitcher, after developing the aforementioned filth of a changeup, while Cain has seen everything just click start after start after start.

To steal a line from an old coach of mine, “It’s a beautiful thing.”

How many times have we seen two guys just 25 and 24 years old put together two incredible individual seasons at the same time in a San Francisco Giants uniform?

It’s been awhile.

This all could be thrown out if one of them ends up throwing in the final game before the break and at least can’t pitch to start the game. Don’t worry; they’re both off to visit the arch in St. Louie, and you'd better believe both Cain and Lincecum have earned the right to be there.

But for now, the talk is whether it’s Cain or Lincecum that Charlie Manuel will give the first two or three innings to.

It’s pretty nice to say that of the three best candidates to start the All-Star Game for the National League, two of them are in orange and black.