Tim Lincecum, the no-hit freak

No, it’s not 2008. Not 2009 for that matter, either. It’s 2013 — not exactly the best year for Timmy, let alone a good year for the Giants.

(Photo by -nanio-/Flickr)

(Photo by -nanio-/Flickr)

To explain the feeling a Giants fan might have after a game like this is tough. I know I certainly can’t explain it. Too many adjectives, too many incoherent thoughts. I can tell you it was surreal to be in the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (a Dodgers affiliate, no less) press box, watching Carlos Marmol try to close out the game for the Quakes against the Bakersfield Blaze whilst trying to watch the last three outs on my phone. (Baseball feelings, man; it’s certainly something. S’all I got to say about that experience.)

From the minute he made his debut in a Giants uniform, it seemed inevitable that Lincecum would throw a no-hitter. 2008 and 2009 went by, two Cy Youngs were won, and he flirted with no-hitters a few times to no avail. 2010, still a solid season, but no such luck; though there was more hardware in the form of a World Series ring and a trophy for the team. Continue reading

Framing the Problem

As I sit down to write this post, Tim Lincecum is taking the mound to pitch against the Colorado Rockies. Catching him is Hector Sanchez. Now, as you may be aware, Sanchez has emerged as Lincecum’s “personal catcher,” which is to say that he always catches when Tim pitches. Never mind that the reigning National League MVP also plays catcher for the Giants, it’s worth noting that Sanchez isn’t very good. He isn’t very good at hitting, playing defense, or running the bases. Here is a chart of all of Lincecum’s starts since the beginning of 2012 (h/t Twitter user @carmerkiew). As you can plainly see, Sanchez has started 17 of Lincecum’s last 21 starts, with 3 of the 4 non-Sanchez starts coming when Hector was on the DL.

Sanchez’s hitting woes could take up an entire separate post, but I wanted to focus on one very specific part of Sanchez’s game that he struggles with – framing pitches. Now, this has been a somewhat popular subject recently, having been the subject of posts by Baseball Prospectus’ Sam Miller, and McCovey Chronicles’ Grant Brisbee. Both articles are excellent, and you should read them both if you haven’t. The BP article has lots of GIF’s if your interested, as well as the nitty gritty details as to some of the reasons why Sanchez struggles with this particular skill. In short, the key to getting more calls on borderline pitches is to be as quiet with your movements as possible. Don’t move the glove or your head around too much and you’ll get your fair share of borderline calls. Sanchez, however, is the opposite of quiet. His head especially is all over the place, as you can see in the GIF’s in the Miller article.

Research from 2008 came to the conclusion that the run difference between a called strike and a called ball was 0.13 runs.  Now, that may not sound like much, but pitchers throw around 3000 pitches per season. In the Brisbee article I linked to above, Grant notes that for every 27.3 pitches thrown to Sanchez, Hector loses a strike call he should have gotten. Over the course of a 3000 pitch season that’s 109.9 missed strike calls – or over 14 runs lost per season. Now, obviously, this isn’t taking everything into account. For instance, I didn’t look at the number of pitches that should have been called strikes that Sanchez successfully framed.

That being said, digging yourself into a 14-run hole before taking all the good things into account is less than ideal. And the fact of the matter is right now Lincecum needs all the help he can get. As I write this he’s given up 6 runs in 5 innings with 4 walks, bringing his season total up to 11 in 10 innings pitched. He walked Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio – twice. His fastball is dead-straight and getting crushed, and his breaking pitches can’t find the zone (luckily the Rockies are swinging at them anyway).

And, of course, there’s a measure of overreaction going on here. Sanchez’s struggles last game were historic for him – 9 pitches called balls that should have been strikes is a career high – and indeed in the game I’m watching right now he’s been better. But if Lincecum is going to continue to trot out there every 5th day, and as long as Sanchez continues to catch him, this is something to keep an eye on.

2013 Giants ZiPS Projections – Pitchers

(Flickr/sjsharktank)

A week ago, I tackled the hitters. Now it’s the pitchers’ turn. For the pitching staff I’ll be guessing whether they’ll be UNDER or OVER their projected ERA+.

Matt Cain: 125 ERA+ in 2012, projected 121 ERA+ in 2013. What is there to say about Matt Cain? He’s the rock of the staff, the unquestioned team ace. He’s the Opening Day starter. He’s gotten better each of the last three seasons, and in 2012 posted a career high in strikeouts and a career low in walks. He’s never made fewer than 31 starts in any full season, or thrown less than 190 innings. I’ll confidently predict the OVER on his projection. Continue reading

A Look At The Giants Roster: The Pitchers

I’ve taken a look at the position players, now it’s time to take a look at the pitchers.

Starting Pitchers: Tim Lincecum (probably), Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito

WARNING: CONTROVERSIAL AND POSSIBLY UNPOPULAR OPINIONS AHEAD

About a week ago, Buster Olney created a bit of a hubbub amongst Giants fandom when he ranked the Giants’ rotation only the ninth-best in baseball. Here’s the thing – I’m not sure I disagree with him. Continue reading

In The Land Of Hope And Dreams: Giants Are World Series Champions Once Again

A Civic Center Plaza kind of crowd. (Jen Mac Ramos)

Take a time machine to 10 years ago. Find your 10-years-ago self and tell them that the World Series that year was awful, you know it, but in 10 years, everything will be okay.

“NO. STUPID RALLY MONKEY,” your old self might say. “SCREW THE ANGELS.”

You’ll calm your old self down — or try to at least — and say, “In 10 years, the Giants will have won the World Series twice in three years.”

Your old self won’t believe it, continuing the curse everything about the Angels.

Say that to your 2007 self, too. And maybe even your 2010 self.

It still feels improbable.

The Giants won the World Series twice in three years? No way. Not possible. Come on.

That’s just crazytalk.

There’s just absolutely no way that’ll ever happen.

Right? Continue reading

World Series Recap: Pablo! Pablo! Barry! Barry!

Pablo Sandoval’s all like “SORRY ‘BOUT IT.” (Jen Mac Ramos)

And so the narrative went: Barry Zito going up against Justin Verlander? None chance. No way would the Giants win here.

But Pablo Sandoval happened. Along with the rest of the Giants offense. They chased Verlander out of the game after four innings and 98 pitches.

Zito, though? He went five and two-thirds, giving up only a run. One walk, three strikeouts.

And that was the new narrative they were building for themselves. Continue reading

NLDS Game One Preview: In Matt Cain We Trust

The Matt Cain. (Flickr/rocor)

The former THIRD STARTER — AT BEST! takes the mound tonight in game one of the NLDS.

It’s the year of the Matt Cain, it seems. From emerging as more than the shadow of the middle of the rotation guy he was for the past few years to a bonafide front end of the rotation guy, the 2012 Giants have had a remarkable season with Cain being one of the dominant figures in their oft-madness ensuing narrative.

Matt Cain has been a decent pitcher. He may not have gotten off to the start Tim Lincecum had, but my goodness, he was good. FIP hated him, but fans surely didn’t.

Now, it’s October again and the Giants are back in the playoffs. It’s not Lincecum starting the series off — it’s Matt Cain.

If someone had said that this would be the way the playoffs begin back in the offseason, it would’ve been laughed at. Matt Cain? Starting over Tim Lincecum? Aha. Ahahaha! But now, it’s just the most logical decision.

From escaping the shadows and lurking behind reporters, Matt Cain has come into his own. Striking out batter after batter, throwing a perfect game, being reliable, and also transforming and becoming a horse, it seemed like Cain was unstoppable this season.

To those new to the Giants or the national attention to Cain, this might seem like it’s surprising. To those who’ve been around for a while, you could say it’s a long time coming.

Cain began the season with signing a contract extension — $127.5 million until 2017 with an option for 2018. Big contracts like those can always seem risky, especially after Barry Zito. But with Cain, not so much.

Here is a guy who could give you a solid amount of innings without giving up a lot of runs. The defense and the offense sometimes (or mostly) failed him, but he was solid. It led to the term “Caining” or “being Cained.” Some didn’t think he was that great because the Giants used to lose a lot of his starts, even though he likely pitched a gem.

So when the season started and Matt Cain nearly threw a perfect game at the Giants’ home opener, it was a sign of great things to come. Never mind his off-start to begin the season, Cain was bringing it.

And he did — it was one great start after another and then the perfect game midway through June, followed up with the All-Star Game and some more solid starts.

After all of that, it’s no surprise that Cain is starting game one. He rightfully earned the role and everyone recognizes it. And if they don’t, they should.

In the adrenaline rush of “Oh my goodness, it’s the playoffs — THE PLAYOFFS!” and whatever the narrative decides to be today, it’s a calming reminder for fans that Matt Cain exists.

Giants Recap: Nady, Pence Power to Late Win. Just Like You Drew It Up.

This has been my face for the past hour, minimum.

Tim Lincecum put together yet another off kilter start, the defense was shaky, and I had already made the decision to recap this game with a sarcastic paint graphic by about the sixth inning.

And then Xavier Nady and Hunter Pence hit the first home runs that Huston Street has given up all year and suddenly the Giants won.

Baseball just wanted to remind us all that we shouldn’t get too comfy about our expectations of how games will go, apparently.

Series Preview: Giants vs. Padres

With the magic number down to three, the Giants will be trying their hardest to clinch the NL West this weekend — or at least, a playoff berth.

This weekend marks the last regular season weekend series the Giants will have at AT&T Park. They face the San Diego Padres, who have long since been eliminated from playoff contention.

Hey — at least there’s no Mat Latos to face this year. But also no Jonathan Sanchez around to hit triples off of Latos.

But the Giants have been running as strong as they can and are 10 games up on the Dodgers.

The only question left is whether or not they’ll be able to keep this up throughout the playoffs, should they make it far.

The focus this weekend, though, will be on aiming to clinch and keeping a good lead on the Dodgers.

Willie Mac Award winner Buster Posey has been making a case to be MVPosey this year, with good reason. Tonight, he’ll be honored in a ceremony and presented with the award.

Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, and Tim Lincecum will be starting for the Giants in this series.

The Padres have been the Good Padres as of late, which is rather similar to the Bad Padres of this past season.

You could say that the Giants have a chance to clinch this weekend. But it’s the Giants and anything is possible. Would be great to see the clinch happen as soon as possible, but they just need to keep winning.