When the San Francisco Giants won two games in a row last week against the struggling San Diego Padres, a glimmer of hope seemed to appear amid the ugly nightmare of the 2013 season.
Then San Francisco Giants starter Tim Lincecum threw the 15th no-hitter in Giants franchise history Saturday against the Padres and callers flooded the local sports talk radio airwaves with the news that the team's troubles were over.
The next day San Diego not only scored 10 runs to win the last game before the All Star Break, they held San Francisco to a single run.
As so often happens, excited fans successfully resisted letting actual statistical data get in the way of their firmly held belief that the San Francisco Giants have really, really turned their year around.
And the pesky reality check this time?
In the thirteen July games played by Giants leading up to the All Star Game, the team went 4-9, scoring 46 runs-- 3.53 runs per game. Opposing teams scored 61 runs-- 4.69 per game. And, amazingly, that counts Lincecum's no-hitter and two games in which the Giants scored 10 and 9 runs consecutively!
This team isn't going to magically start scoring a lot of runs. The bullpen remains unsettled, and the return of Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 1.727 WHIP, 7.19 ERA) doesn't quite have the feel of something we need to notify the Baseball Hall of Fame about. (Although we do wish him a speedy recovery and good health.)
Which brings up Tim Lincecum's value. It will never be greater than it is at this exact moment. Which provides San Francisco Giants ownership the unexpected opportunity to trade a pitcher who will soon be a free agent, who is still owed around $9 million on his 2013 salary, and who has performed poorly over the past two years.
I understand the no-hitter against the Pads made everyone stop in their tracks-- it was a beautifully crafted gem. Hopefully that historic game suggests Lincecum may have more to contribute to the right team in the right situation. But not to the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants should take the bold step of moving Lincecum very soon, with a specific goal of getting several actual prospects in return. This is a team that should currently be making a series of organizational needs assessments with an eye toward the 2014 season and beyond.
We're not talking full-out rebuilding mode-- Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval, and Matt Cain provide a damn solid foundation, thank you. But there's a hell of a lot of remodeling that needs to get done. And quickly.
I don't understand how you can call Sandoval part of a "damn solid" foundation.
That makes no sense. His ankle injury means he will NEVER be his former self.
I hope that's not the case, but you may be on the mark with Sandoval and all his various injuries.
I see him as part of the basic go-forward foundation because of his past performance. Along with Posey he's been a key contributor to the offense, especially in the 2012 post season. We can hope what Pence will do, or what Brandon Belt or Brandon Crawford might turn into, but Sandoval has done it.
But when you add the conditioning issue, you wonder where his career might be heading. I do think Sandoval belongs at first base next year.
I think the big issue with the Giants is that their starting pitching has pitched way too many innings over the last five years and their arms are exhausted, shot, spent.
If this weren't the case, why would Bochy be so gung ho on Cain getting 8 days rest over the All Star break?
So what Cain, Vogelsong and Lincecum are faced with is how to become great pitchers because Lincecum will never throw a 98 mph fastball again and Cain will never throw a 96mph fastball again.
They have to learn to pitch in the mold of Greg Maddux.
And now that Lincecum has brought back his VERY slow curve (which he used to strike out Puig for the Dodgers and throw a no hitter), Lincecum is showing very solid progress on that born again role as a finesse pitcher, in the style of Greg Maddux.
Nobody denies he still has great stuff, it was a matter of getting it over the plate.
But his last five starts, which is a meaningful sample, have been getting better and better and that no hitter was full of some pretty astonishing pitches, even in the eighth inning.
But look at Cain's last two starts, neither of which went two innings.
The pitchers are in a time of transition from thrower to pitcher.
Lincecum may well be near the end of that transition.
But what about Cain?
The verdict is not in yet on whether he will pull through, irrespective of how we personally feel about the guy.
So I say stand pat on Cain and Lincecum and trade Sandoval. The team did very, very well when Arias replaced him last year during the hamate bone recuperation.
You make a superb point in your article. That is let's trade players before everyone knows they are damaged goods.
Wait till Pablo has a few good games, hits a few doubles, and then trade him for a good starter.
Actually I didn't say anything about, "That is let's trade players before everyone knows they are damaged goods."
First of all, there are zero secrets in baseball so one GM wouldn't think of trying to fool another GM by trading a damaged player to them.
And if a baseball organization did try that, the media would make it the lead sports story that night and that team's reputation would immediately go to hell.
Lincecum's stats and the problems he's had the past several years are accessible and known by everyone. But he just threw a no-hitter and that's enough to make some teams think he might just be turning it around.
Including the Giants...