"It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage"
That's a fine quote delivered by Harrison Ford to Karen Allen in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in response to her declaration, "You're not the man I knew ten years ago."
And it's relevant to us Giants fans as we wonder what in the hell happened to our guy Tim Lincecum. I think part of the answer is that during his entire time in the MLB, the Giants have always (except for the final half of the 2010 season) had a crappy offense -- which puts much more pressure on the starting pitchers, the anchor guys: Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner and Vogelsong. He's had 4 seasons of well over 200 innings and the extra added something that made him stand apart seems to have gone away.
And my guess is now that Lincecum has run out of steam. E at Where Have You Gone Joe put in a nut a few weeks ago. Here's part of it --
The miracle of Voglesong is the only thing that kept the Giants out of the dumpster last year. Zito's continued uselessness and Jonathan Sanchez' demise notwithstanding. Play-off baseball kills arms, increasing the length of the season by a month, inclement weather and increasing pressure physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Compounding it with 7 consecutive years of sub-par offense only increased the amount of stress. Instead of coming out after 5 innings with a 4 run lead, starters were relentlessly left in to go maximum pitch counts to keep a game within a run or maintain a tie or one-run lead. The Giants have ranked at the bottom of every meaningful offensive category since Bonds last year of health which was 2004, with the exception of Aug-Sept 2010 when they ranked 17th in runs scored..
How Bad Offense Affects Good Starting Pitching
They ranked 17th of 30 teams in runs scored in 2010 when they won the World Series. Every year going back to 2005 before and since has been worse. Cain came up for good in 2006. Lincecum in 2007, Bumgarner in 2010, Vogelsong in 2011. None of those pitchers has had the kind of run support that would have enabled them to take an inning off here and there over the years. Maybe 30 innings over the course of a year. Add it up. Thats a lot of potential quality innings thrown away because of guys like Aaron Rowand, Aubrey Huff, Mark DeRosa, Freddy Sanchez, Bengie Molina, Edgar Renteria, Miguel Tejada, and just a great number of horrible signings that floundered, then fizzled, and eventually failed.
As Usual The Buck Stops At The Top.
When Sabean became the baseball face of the franchise in 2003 following Baker's departure, things started downhill. Other than Bonds, no more homerun power was to be had. Sabean told Kent that he was no longer wanted. The Giants made some decent draft choices of starting pitching and Buster Posey has had one stellar year and portions of 2 other years. Sandoval is up and down like a Jenny Craig drop-out and Belt is who knows at this point. We will give Sabean credit for recruiting but overpaying, an above average bullpen over the last few years. His evaluation of free-agent starters that signed were Matt Morris, Brett Tomko, and Barry Zito not to mention the millions to Armando Benitez.
Patching together the 1989 "Major League Indians" in 2010 was one thing. Handing out multi-year contracts to multiple-walking-papers Aubrey Huff was quite another. The Aaron Rowand contract was bizarre to say the least. Freddy Sanchez' extension-signing was beyond bizarre as he was obviously and visually crippled to even the most casual of TV viewers at the time. Mark DeRosa played fewer than 60 games in 2 seasons. Renteria was a geriatric rectal plug until the World Series. Bengie Molina made a snail appear supersonic and he couldn't take a pitch even if it was smothered in A-1 sauce. Blah. Enough of that.
Don't Put This On Lincecum
His old man, Chris Lincecum is right Tim's media critics are out of line and ignorant when they attack his performance. They are worse than petulant children, and of course never understanding that baseball is a team game that relies on offense, never ever takes Sabean to task with any meaningful vigor. Without Lincecum, the Giants never even sniff the post-season. Let alone win the LDS, LCS and the first WS ever in San Francisco. His failures this year are not because he is an ass-clown like perennial frat-rat Aubrey Huff, or a walking ambulatory case like Freddy Sanchez, or a greedy incompetent like Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito or social juvenile-delinquent misanthrope Pablo Sandoval. Nope.
Tim Lincecum has, had, and always will have the heart of a Triple Crown Winner. People who boo champions when they break down or are hurt are the scum of the earth. It appears some have reared their ugly ass heads lately.
If Lincecum does not pitch another decent inning in his life, he will always be amongst the best to ever wear a Giants uniform. Nothing can change that.