Tim Lincecum: the Most Important Player in The World Series
For the Giants, that is certainly true. But of all the 50 players that will be participating in the 2010 World Series—which begins Wednesday at 7:57 p.m. in the San Francisco's AT&T Park—"The Freak" is still the most important.
Here are 10 of the reasons why:
"The Freak" deserves his nickname for a whole slew of reasons: his hair, his stuff, his two Cy Young Awards by age 25.
But watching him work, you'll appreciate the nickname even more. The speed at which Lincecum works echoes Bob Gibson-like pace that once prompted Vin Scully to describe Gibby as pitching "like he's double parked."
Lincecum is one of the least deliberate pitchers in baseball. He really controls the pace of the game when he does that. No other player on the field—not even Cliff Lee—boasts that type of ancillary impact.
Forget the fact that he only had seven hits this season, and is 0-for-7 this postseason with five strikeouts: Lincecum isn't paid to score runs, otherwise the Giants might have to pay him $20 million per season instead of $9 million.
What is important is the fact that in Game 1, and potentially Game 6 and 7, the Rangers will have one less bat in the lineup in against Lincecum.
Assuming the series goes the full seven games, it will be imperative for the Giants to win both Game 1 and Game 2. With three games back in Arlington with the Rangers lineup at full capacity, the Giants will be at a real disadvantage. The Giants don't have a great designed hitter option like the Rangers do in Vlad Guerrero.
And in that likely Game 4 scenario, in which the Rangers have Guerrero and (probably) Jeff Francoeur, Lincecum will have to be even sharper.
If Lincecum has one weakness, it's his inability to keep runners on first base.
Thirty runners tried to steal bases on him in the regular season—only three were caught.
Now for a pitcher like Lincecum, he usually doesn't have to worry about that since his stuff is so good.
But because he doesn't have a great move to first, the Rangers will test him and catcher Buster Posey. With Elvis Andrus (32 steals) and even Nelson Cruz (17) Texas is capable of turning a single/walk into a double/runner-in-scoring-position.
To avoid that, Lincecum needs to keep runners of base....or develop a nasty move ASAP.
As we saw in Game 6 against the Phillies, the Giants' fourth option in the rotation probably isn't as good as Tim Lincecum on three or four days' rest.
He was unable to make it out of the third inning against Philadelphia, and only a tremendous effort by the bullpen kept the Giants away from a Game 7 on the road.
Bumgarner might turn out to be a star: he is only 21 years old.
But for right now, Bruce Bochy is more likely to turn to his weary ace than the young lefty. For that reason alone, Lincecum will have to be extra sharp if he's not as rested as usual.
Look at the past three World Series.
In each of those series openers, the eventual winning team got a tremendous performance from their ace.
In 2007, Josh Beckett dominated the Rockies, allowing just one run in seven innings. Boston swept Colorado.
In 2008, then-No. 1-ace Cole Hamels was electric in his Game 1 start against the Rays. The Phillies won in five.
And last year, CC Sabathia didn't get the win in Game 1—because Cliff Lee was even better—but he too surrendered just two runs in seven innings of work. The Yankees won in six.
A similar effort by Lincecum in Game 1 will get the Giants that much needed leg up on Texas.
These two guys can't keep it going in the World Series, can they?
Someone else might step up with clutch late-inning hits, but Ross' tremendous power numbers this postseason (four home runs and eight extra-base-hits in 10 games) are not likely to be repeated by anyone on the Giants roster.
Pitching may win championships, but you've got to have some offense.
Even if you include Cody Ross' tremendous 10-game stretch in this year's playoffs, the Giants offense has been fairly awful.
They've come up with clutch hits, via Ross, Juan Uribe and Buster Posey, but even with those guys, they are averaging just three runs per game.
If that is all they can muster against the Rangers and their outstanding staff, then Lincecum will have to keep it to two or less in each of his starts.
And if the Giants offense cannot score enough runs, in the likely Game 1 and Game 7 starts from Lincecum, Bruce Bochy might have no choice but to lift Lincecum for a pinch hitter.
Vlad Guerrero has a good shot at winding up in Cooperstown someday. And Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, and Nelson Cruz are very good hitters. But the most important position player for the Rangers—for both teams really—is Josh Hamilton.
When Hamilton hits, the Rangers usually win.
For the most part, left-handers have done well against Hamilton: ALCS homers against Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia defied his .271 average during the regular season.
Hamilton hit better than .400 against righties in 2010. He didn't face a guy like Lincecum, however.
The Giants bullpen was outstanding in Game 6, not allowing a single run in seven innings, and allowing just eight total baserunners.
Ironically, Lincecum was the worst of the bunch, allowing two hits in just a third of an inning. He'll do better in the starter's role.
But the Giants have to be concerned that their 'pen has been overworked a bit in this postseason....although any pitchers would be running on fumes by this point in the season.
Now if Brian Wilson is out there, it probably means the Giants are protecting a lead: the Giants will take that. But Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo have also worked very pressure packed situations this postseason.
If Lincecum can't get through the sixth inning, then the 'pen is going to be overworked by the end of the series: it's unlikely that Matt Cain and/or Jonathan Sanchez can go all eight innings against a lineup like the Rangers.
In a dream world, Lincecum will face Lee in Games 1, 4 and 7.
Of course we have no way of knowing whether or not that can happen, it all depends on the arms and the managers. (And don't completely ignore the chance that rain or maybe Northern California snow lead to a postponed game.)
So if the Rangers trot Lee out there in those three games, it's a safe bet to say Texas has a huge advantage, no matter how good Cain or Sanchez has been this year. Really the only way to neutralize Lee would be an equally great start by Lincecum.
He did so against Roy Halladay, now he'll have to do it at least once against Lee.
Because Lee is backed by a better roster of position players, Lincecum's performance will be slightly more critical than Lee's.