PADECKY: Lincecum may be answer to Giants' pitching woes
Published: Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:23 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Sure, of course, it would be easy to shrug. The Giants lost Game 1 of the NLCS Sunday night. Oh well. Everyone expects the series to go seven games. No worries. Plenty of time.
Not if their starters keep pitching the way they have been.
In their six postseason games, Giants starters have a cumulative 6.92 earned run average. Sunday’s pitcher, Madison Bumgarner, who couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning in Game 1, has a 11.25 ERA in his two postseason starts. Not one of the Giants starters in these six playoff games has made it out of the sixth inning.
You don’t win the National League pennant with a number, 6.92, that reads like a strong earthquake.
You don’t win the National League pennant either, with a team batting average in the six playoff games of .195. That’s a batting average that if it happened to a player in the season, he’d be back in Triple A.
All of which begs the obvious question.
Isn’t it time to insert Tim Lincecum back in the rotation? Like subbing out Bumgarner in the lefty’s next start? Lincecum pitched two strong scoreless innings Sunday. In three postseason appearances Lincecum has a 1.08 ERA, allowing just one run in eight innings.
“Confidence-wise, this is the best I’ve felt all season,” Lincecum said.
And as we all know with Lincecum, confidence is everything to the kid. The idea being, his mind matters. It is mind over matter with him.
Does Lincecum expect to get the call that he’ll be starting?
“It’s not up to me,” Lincecum said.
It’s up to Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti.
“He’s busy,” was the word from a Giants official.
Possibly deciding how to stop the gathering flow of starter ineptness? Against a team like the Cardinals, with solid sticks one-through-six in the order, St. Louis doesn’t give struggling pitchers much wiggle room. The Cardinals put the bat on the ball. They foul pitches off. They are patient. They didn’t own the second-highest batting average in the NL this season by swinging at the first thing that moves.
And thus we come to Bumgarner. Counting Sunday, the lefty has lost six of his last nine starts, with one no-decision. Bumgarner’s ERA in those nine starts is 6.85. He never made it out of the sixth inning in any of those starts. Pitchers like hitters have slumps, too.
But after the game Bumgarner hinted there may be more at work here than a slump.
“I’ve got to cut down the stuff I do between starts,” Bumgarner said. He didn’t elaborate but it seemed obvious his inference.
The man is tired. He logged 208 innings, threw 3,269 pitches. The innings don’t seem excessive but, again, as Bumgarner suggested, it may be what he has done between starts that has created the burden.
Either way, what he said next was not comforting for those who want to look for a silver lining in his future.
“My stuff is not normally where it should be,” Bumgarner said. “It’s not going to where it’s supposed to go.”
Bumgarner is missing his spots. While possessing good stuff, he doesn’t have the pitches that just by their speed and movement create outs.
When asked how he has extricated himself from similar situations in the past, Bumgarner offered a slight clue.
“Maybe I have to start pitching a little more inside,” he said.
That statement is a direct reference to leaving the ball over the plate, not ticking off the corners. It’s where all pitchers like to live, there and with the dippers and the buzz balls across the knees.
Bumgarner mentioned he wanted to get some of the Cardinal hitters, like Jon Jay and Yadier Molina, to chase some high fastballs.
“But obviously I didn’t get it (fastball) up enough,” Bumgarner said.
Jay had an RBI single in the fourth that scored the Cardinals’ fourth run of the game. Molina had a single in the second inning that proceeded David Freese’s two-run home run.
“Yeah, the bullpen has been great all year,” said Bumgarner, and that was the one smile the Giants had for this game. St. Louis didn’t have a hit after the fourth inning.
But, truth to tell, while the bullpen indeed has been stellar, the Giants have built this team around its starting pitching. It fits the park for one thing. And, with quality starters, it’s been the greatest buzz-buster for any opposing team on a hitting rhythm. The bunch won a World Series with that philosophy.
No team can sustain a playoff run with a 6.92 ERA from its starters. The Giants can’t panic. Options are limited. Juan Marichal is retired after all. The funky, dreary regular season Lincecum just had bears no resemblance to the postseason he now is having. The Freak looks like the Cy Young pitcher we saw in 2008 and 2009. He is pitching aggressive.
He is not chewing his nails anymore.
And he is looking more and more like the answer for Righetti and Bruce Bochy to stop chewing theirs.
You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.