San Francisco Giants fans have to feel good about Tim Lincecum now. After a few rocky months, Lincecum is hitting the mid-90s again with his fastball and looking as dominant as he did during his two Cy Young years. I knew going into the game that, if they were both on, Lincecum would out-pitch Roy Halladay.
Despite what the stats may say, both were on last night. Due to an unforgiving strike zone, the game was higher scoring than it should have been, although 4-3 certainly isn’t much. Lincecum struck out eight against the National League’s best offense, despite walking three. What should be concerning for Giants fans is the method of scoring for the Phillies: the long ball.
While the Phillies have a prolific offense, Lincecum has historically been able to keep the ball in the park—becoming a rare strikeout/ ground ball type of pitcher. This year however, Lincecum nearly doubled his home-runs-allowed rate, a concerning stat going forward in these playoffs.
The biggest problem is that, while the Phillies are a good hitting team, they pale in comparison to the home run power of Yankees and the Rangers. And while the Phillies are a patient team, they are not the New York Yankees. Against a more patient team, especially with a home plate umpire like Gerry Davis, Lincecum could be in trouble.
Unlike years past, he is hittable. And against the best AL offenses he will be very hittable. Lincecum’s changeup is the best in the league, but it is effective falling out of the zone—something that the Yankees or Rangers will be sure to exploit.
I love watching Lincecum, and except for the month and a half where he couldn’t hit the strike zone (five walks in four straight games? C’mon man!), I don’t miss his starts. But it would make me nervous to be facing an AL team with him as my ace.
That being said, I could be entirely wrong and he’ll look like the Lincecum we saw from game one of the NLDS against the Braves. But even in that game, those two Braves hits were long doubles—and many of the outs were fly-ball outs. The 14 strikeouts were extremely impressive, but they come with some caveats.
Giants fans should, however, be impressed with their offense—managing to score four runs off of one of the best pitchers in the game. They are a scrappy team, and manage to score just enough runs to win. With each of their division series wins coming by merely one run, they have shown the ability to hit just as well as their very talented pitching staff allows.
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