San Francisco Giants: Critical Ways to Save Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito

Scott Burns@Follow @ScottInTheBayCorrespondent IIIJune 22, 2012

San Francisco Giants: Critical Ways to Save Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito

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    Tim Lincecum is broken and now Barry Zito is becoming Barry Zito again.  The once-dominant starting rotation now has two major holes in its foundation, and it’s a guess how long Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong can hold it down.

    Nobody, including himself, has been able to figure out Tim Lincecum in his transition year.  Writers point to his velocity, mechanics or confidence as the key issues.  Barry Zito is just not fooling anyone anymore.

    Let’s take a critical look at the problems both of them face:

The Timmy Five

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    Let’s take a closer look at Timmy.  He has improved from being bashed around in the early innings to holding on longer before the one big inning strikes.  Here is the ugly news: 2-8, 6.19 ERA and the Giants are 2-12 in games he pitches.

    So what is the answer to the problems?  Do you send him to the bullpen, sit him or send him to the minors?  No, no and no.

    My solution to the problem is “The Timmy Five.”  If he can get through the first couple of innings without many problems, this strategy will build his confidence which he is severely lacking.

    Timmy will have to earn extra innings and by yanking him after five, it will leave him, Bochy and the packed house at AT&T Park wanting more.  Timmy can also keep his velocity up the entire game and it will limit his chances of getting out of a mechanical groove.

    Once Timmy has completed three starts without giving up more than three runs, he can progress to the sixth inning.  His confidence will build and he should return to some version of his former self.

Make or Break Time for Barry Zito

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    Barry Zito always seem to give glimpses of hope.  He started the season rescuing the Giants with a shutout in Colorado.  He kept dominating all the way up through his June 3rd start against the Cubs, where he ended the day with a 5-2 record and a 2.98 ERA.

    Zito must have then looked in the mirror.  During his last three starts, he has yielded four, five and eight runs and his ERA has risen to 4.35.  He is looking like the pitcher we saw in spring training, where he couldn’t get anybody out.

    There are two trains of thought to the Zito problem.  The first one is to trade him and the second one is to skip his turn in the rotation.  The bullpen is not an option anymore.

    Which team will eat a contract that size?  The Giants would need to eat a lot, if not all of his contract in order to trade him to a pitching-depleted squad.  Eric Hacker from Fresno would be first in line to replace Zito.

    The other possibility is to skip Zito in the rotation anytime the Giants have an off day.  This strategy might reset Zito and give him that hunger needed to feel like he belongs in the rotation.

    Zito is a great guy off the field, but his unique attitude doesn’t translate to the fire needed to be a dominant pitcher.  His statements after being rocked around by the Angels showed he doesn’t want it bad enough.

    Zito's biggest problem is the differentiation in speed between his fastball and his offspeed pitches.  Since there is no longer a big difference, hitters can sit back and take hacks once they realize what type of pitch he is serving up.

    The Giants have enough money to cover this mistake with their long sellout streak and continued revenue streams generated by their World Series win in 2010.  Zito has proven he can’t be trusted and eventually will have to go when the next big arm is ready.

    They don’t want to keep him around long enough to guarantee his 2014 option year.