"Oh, the places you’ll go...there are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all."—Dr. Seuss
Don't look now, but a bad situation for Major League Baseball just got, potentially, a lot worse.
Particularly if you earn your paycheck hitting in the National League, and if you suffer the ultimate indignity, if you have the misfortune of operating in the NL West.
My sincerest condolences.
Because Tim Lincecum seems to have found a new toy.
I'm not really talking about the sinister slider he's featuring more heavily in his growing repertoire. Although The Freak's newest out pitch was in full effect during Monday night's masterpiece against the St. Louis Cardinals, it must play second fiddle on this night.
The real star of the show was a different culprit—Lincecum seems to have stumbled across the Greg Maddux Pitch, and he seems to like it.
Consider the following:
First inning—13 pitches, whiffs Albert Pujols
Second inning—12 pitches, whiffs Ryan Ludwick and Chris Duncan
Third inning—eight pitches, whiffs Brad Thompson
Fourth inning—nine pitches, retires Pujols on one pitch
Fifth inning—10 pitches, surrenders his first hit to Rick Ankiel
Sixth inning—11 pitches, whiffs two more
Seventh inning—13 pitches, Pujols touches him for a double and he Ks Duncan again
Eighth inning—13 pitches, his final strikeout
Ninth inning—six pitches, puts newly acquired Mark DeRosa away to end the game
Final line—nine IP, CG, zero ER, two hits, eight strikeouts, 0 walks, 95 total pitches (60 for strikes), and no more than 13 pitches in any single inning
Like I said, that sheet right there is horrible news for opposing MLB batters.
There is nothing unique about what Greg Maddux did, in the sense that any pitcher disciplined enough and possessing the requisite control with some movement can repeat it.
Obviously, all those things coming together in one hurler is extremely rare, thus the resplendent legend of Greg Maddux.
But Maddux was not a freakishly tall fireballer like Randy Johnson, nor did he have the once-in-a-lifetime arm of Nolan Ryan. He had no preclusive physical attribute.
Any special pitcher wise enough to take notice could incorporate a little of Mad Dog's special ingredient.
The right special pitcher could absorb it completely.
The Franchise might be that ace. (He even paid homage to Maddux's Gold Glove collection on Monday with a terrific play in the field.)
The latest work of art twirled by our virtuoso makes three complete games in his last four starts, and the pitch count has been eroding with each successive gem—110 tosses on Jun. 10 against the Oakland Athletics, then 108 on Jun. 23 against those same Athletics, and now 95 tonight.
The shutout of the Redbirds and the fearsome Albert Pujols took the diminutive righty a brief two hours and six minutes. Not too shabby, especially since the Giants scored six of 10 runs via their customary small ball.
All of this information suggests that Lincecum has learned the power of, as Mike Krukow said during the telecast, retiring hitters in three pitches or fewer.
In other words, pounding the strike zone with pitches good enough to swing at or be called strikes, but not good enough to drive anywhere except by the perfect swing.
Some would call it using your fielders.
Others would simply call it smart.
Whatever moniker you prefer, the 25-year-old reigning NL Cy Young winner has the tools to adopt the approach perfected by Maddux, and to keep the hitters guessing and desperate to swing at the first attractive offering because the count only works against them.
In truth, Tiny Tim has the tools to dazzle hitters on an entirely new plane.
Like a primed Maddux, Lincecum usually has good control of all his pitches when he takes the bump. Unlike Maddux at any stage in his career, the Giants' star deploys a rotation of filth far in excess of anything the soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer could run up to the plate.
I can't imagine there was anything fun about an afternoon in the batter's box against Maddux. Nor can I imagine the proposition will be any more enjoyable if you add Lincecum's PlayStation arsenal with its Xbox movement.
What makes The Freak even scarier is how green the kid is.
It's not just that he's five years shy of 30. He's also lounging on merely one-and-a-half years worth of experience in the Show.
And it's not like Lincecum's been letting the time go to waste. He added the dominating changeup after his first stint in 2007 and sprinkled in the polished slider for good measure after winning the hardware in 2008.
Lincecum has clearly learned how to pitch, no longer relying on his gnarly stuff. In 72 starts, the youngster has gone from thrower to pitcher, from brutish force to artful finesse.
It's been a joy to watch for the San Francisco Giants organization and its fans.
I imagine it's been quite the opposite for the rest of the big leagues.
Because we get to watch him, they have to face him.
And that's becoming an uglier ordeal with each start.