Right now, while the San Francisco Giants are fighting to reach the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons, there’s a little-known reality being played out behind the main storyline. It almost hurts to say it, but Tim Lincecum has likely thrown his last pitch for the organization.
By now, the story on “The Freak” is well-documented. He came up through the Giants system, had a breakout season in 2008, which was the beginning of four straight All-Star appearances for the native of Bellevue, Washington. Over those four seasons he would go on to compile a record of 62-36 and ultimately endear himself to the fans in San Francisco by being a key component in the Giants’ World Series run in 2010 and winning the NL Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009.
But 2012 was the beginning of a decline for Lincecum. Despite helping the Giants to another title that year and again last season, he compiled just 32 wins between 2012 and 2014 and his ERA went from 2.48 in 2009 to 5.18 in 2012.
But Lincecum was in the beginning of a modest turnaround this season. Before getting hit in the forearm in a game on June 27, he had cobbled together a respectable 7-4 mark with a 4.13 ERA, a 1.48 WHIP with 35 earned runs surrendered in 76 1/3 innings pitched in 15 starts. He even had a five-start stretch from May 3 to May 25 that saw him go 4-0 and give up just seven earned runs in 30 2/3 innings.
Now, with Lincecum undergoing hip surgery this past week, his contract set to expire and more attractive free agents like Mike Leake and David Price set to go to the open agent market this winter, Lincecum likely doesn’t project in to the Giants’ future.
Giants fan or not, you have to admit, it’s a sad ending for a player who brought so much electricity to AT&T Park – and really, all of baseball – with his unorthodox windup, trademark hair and Cy Young numbers.
How will Lincecum’s tenure in San Francisco be remembered? You could probably narrow his nine-season stint down into three touchstone moments:
- September 28, 2008
The Giants were on the bottom of the NL West that season, but there was one bright spot on the roster and that was a pitcher in his second season of major league action named Tim Lincecum.
On the final start of his breakout 2008 season, he held the eventual NL West-champion Dodgers to four hits and one run over seven innings en route to a 3-1 win. While it was a win at the end of a lost season, it was significant because it capped an All-Star year for the young pitcher that saw him win the Cy Young Award and also saw the foundation laid for San Francisco’s title runs.
- The 2010 World Series
Lincecum was coming off a 15-7 regular season that saw him win his second Cy Young Award and make his second All-Star appearance in as many years. Coming into the Giants’ World Series matchup with Texas, he had also gone 2-1 in postseason play and was the Giants bona fide ace.
On baseball’s biggest stage, he did not disappoint. While his performance in Game 1 wasn’t stellar, he did just enough to give his team a chance to win, tossing 5 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on eight hits, striking out three and picking up the win for his team.
He would also start Game 5 and completely shut down the Rangers’ bats, giving up a run on three hits while striking out 10 in eight innings of work, picking up the win and leading the organization to their first title since moving to the West Coast.
- July 13, 2013 and June 25, 2014
Even in the later days of his career when production was down, he still gave fans memories – and one division-rival fits.
On July 13, 2013 at Petco Park in San Diego, Lincecum would show everyone that he was still capable of posting elite numbers when he threw his first career no-hitter against the Padres, striking out 13 and throwing 148 pitches.
For an encore, almost one year to the day, he did it again, this time in front of the home fans, throwing a less stressful 113 pitches and striking out six Padres in what will likely be known as Lincecum’s last dominant outing in a Giants uniform.
Lincecum’s peak didn’t last long, but he was one of the best their was in baseball at its height. Even in his decline, Lincecum constantly gave the Giants and their fans something to cheer for. If he never throws another pitch in a Giants uniform, it may not come as a surprise, but it should come with a reverence and admiration for what he did.