Could Tim Lincecum's Run as Top NL Pitcher Be Done Already?

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Could Tim Lincecum's Run as Top NL Pitcher Be Done Already?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

(I would like to say first that I originally wrote this article for another sports website, so I apologize for the glitches in formatting. The original article is here: http://sportsflecks.com/?p=895)

I will probably get a lot of criticism for this post. As a Giants fan myself, it is considered sacrilege for me to talk negatively about the team’s future, it’s pitching in particular.

When you put the two together, the end result isn’t pretty. I can already hear you calling me a deserter, impatient, or even worse, a band wagoner for voicing my concerns over Lincecum’s future outlook.

However, I am not here to please anybody. I am here to give you my opinion on what’s going on in baseball and sometimes basketball...whether you listen is your choice entirely.

Here it is: after Tuesday night’s horrendous start against the Cubbies, I don’t see how, barring a major turn of events, Lincecum could possibly regain his stature as the top pitcher in the National League, let alone baseball.

There, I said it. Now, before getting your blowtorches and pitchforks ready, let me finish lamenting the fall of a player who was supposed to be the new face of a franchise I have cherished for years.

After Timmy’s second Cy in 2009, it seemed impossible for him to be gone before the end of 2010. He was the ace of a young and improving team that plays in a pitcher’s park, and had just put up numbers unprecedented by people of his age.

The only thing going against him, it seemed, was a misdemeanor he received while driving through his home state of Washington with trace amounts of marijuana in his car. Life was good, and so was baseball.

Fast forward to August 2010. While the Giants are certainly contending, it is virtually impossible for Timmy to achieve the three peat which, barring a Halladay surge, seemed rightfully his at the start of the season.

His 3.41 ERA ranks 19th in the National League and 35th in all of baseball, hardly the mark of an ace. His 1.3 WHIP isn’t even top 40 material, and he is currently locked in an 11 way tie for the 17th most wins in the majors.

Just to point out how much can change in a year, he held the league’s third-best ERA and fourth best WHIP last season. Oh, and he has already allowed a career-worst 13 homers this season.

I know what you are probably thinking. “Oh, sure, this season may be a bad one for him, but it’s just a hiccup. He’ll be back better than ever next season.” Maybe so, but as strange as it may seem, 2011 may be too late.

The end of the steroid ERA has caused the power to shift to the mound, and many of today’s brightest stars are young NL pitchers. In other words, it will be way harder to win the NL Cy Young in 2011 than it was in 2008 and 2009.

Ubaldo Jimenez already has 17 wins this season, and it’s only mid-August. Yeah, that’s already more than Lincecum had in all of 2009.

At age 26, Josh Johnson’s dazzling 1.97 ERA leads all pitchers in baseball. Yeah, that’s over half a point off of Timmy’s in ’09. And don’t get me started on Stephen Strasburg. A Cy is in his future, be certain of that.

On the flip side, it’s not all bad for Lincecum. His strikeouts have remained consistent, and he’s still a dangerous pitcher when he pitches well.

However, inconsistency and struggling in a time when pitching is better then ever and only improving means that Lincecum’s time as the top pitcher in the NL may be over just a few years after it started.

Back-to-back Cy’s in a player’s first two full seasons followed by no more the rest of their career seems implausible, but in Lincecum’s case it looks like it is exactly what will happen if the Freak doesn’t start pitching better soon.

And by soon, I mean right now.

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