Tim Lincecum was still far away from the form he displayed when he won back-to-back Cy Youngs in 2008 and 2009. Sure, it wasn’t as bad as last year, when he posted an ugly 5.18 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, and eventually got left out of the Giants’ World Series rotation (he ended up pitching extremely well in relief, but still), but his 2013 numbers are still un-(pre-2012)-Lincecum-like. A 5-9 record (wins are a terrible stat, yes, but still an ugly record), 4.26 ERA, 79 adjusted ERA+ (league average: 100, and for the uninitiated, unlike regular ERA, ERA+ is better the higher it gets) – these are the numbers of a below-average pitcher.
But the potential to dominate was still there. A look at all of Lincecum’s starts this season shows an inconsistent pitcher, but clearly one capable of being really good – as good as, say, Tim Lincecum was a couple years ago. There were the back-to-back starts in late April when he gave up just two runs combined in 13 2/3 innings and struck out 17. There were the seven shutout innings against the Braves in May. There was the performance last week against the Mets, when he allowed three runs in seven innings and took a no-decision but also struck out 11 and walked just one batter. And then, there was last night (note: let us know whether or not the video below works for you):
Yeah, he walked four guys and had the usual help of occasional good fortune and good defense that no-hitters usually require, but make no mistake: Lincecum no-hit the Padres because he dominated them, striking out 13. This is the guy he’s been in the past, the guy he can still be, and just about anyone except fans of and players for the Giants’ N.L. West rivals has to hope last night’s performance will serve as a particularly bouncy springboard toward attaining his former heights. What fan doesn’t want to see someone pitch like that?
Really, there’s only one concern: Lincecum threw 148 pitches last night. That’s the most he’s ever thrown, and going back to 1947, the second-most anyone’s thrown in a no-hitter. The one guy who threw more, Edwin Jackson, threw…149. That’s a lot of arm stress. Hell, Terry Collins still wonders if he should have pulled Johan Santana from his no-hitter last year… and Santana threw 14 fewer pitches than Lincecum did last night.
The good news, though: Lincecum’s only 29, and has about as clean a bill of health as you could hope for in a pitcher: he’s made at least 32 starts in each of his last five full seasons, pitched at least 212 innings every year from 2008-2011, and only failed to go above 200 again last year because he wasn’t good enough to consistently last deep into games. If anyone could be expected to throw nearly 150 pitches and feel little to no ill effects, it’d be him. So let’s hope the only impact of his performance will be positive. Big Time Timmy Jim rode again last night, and if he can consistently approach anywhere near that level going forward, both the Giants and baseball as a whole will be way better for it.