Tim Lincecum is keeping it freaky in relief.
This World Series could have been about him Tim Lincecum getting demoted to the bullpen. Instead, it’s about him embracing a relief role and turning a negative into a positive. Lincecum had the worst year of his career, going 10-15 with a career-high 5.18 ERA. The 5-11 fireballer could have riffed with Giants manager Bruce Bochy. Usually, a guy who has averaged 233 K’s the last five seasons is too nice with his to be mopping up games. Lincecum’s back-to back Cy Young Awards in 08’ and ‘09 prove his worth as a starter. His 5-2 record, 2.58 ERA and 60K’s in 11 starts, shows he’s pretty hot stuff come playoff time. In fact, the Giants won it all in 2010 and Lincecum was the premier player on the field, winning the Babe Ruth Award. Instead of being a good soldier, Lincecum’s pride could have drowned out his common sense. Ego distorts the reality of athletes who can’t accept the fact that they aren’t performing at the same level anymore.
Allen Iverson isn’t in the NBA because he couldn’t accept coming off the bench. Donovan McNabb might still be a quarterback if he was cool with holding a clipboard and mentoring young players. Lincecum wanted to start, but he did what leaders do, not letting his selfish desires disrupt San Fran’s playoff plans. Lincecum’s humility and team-first attitude has been a key to the Giants success. He notched a win and posted a 1.42 ERA in helping them come back from a 2-0 deficit to Cincinnati in the NLDS. Last night, Lincecum relieved Giants starter Barry Zito in the 6th inning. He had the slider poppin’ and rifled 2 1/3 innings of no-hit 5 K ball.
Pablo Sandoval’s three-homer night stole history and the headlines. But Zito and Lincecum made sure those homers meant something by shutting down a potent Tiger offense and securing a key Game 1 win over the previously untouchable Justin Verlander.
Lincecum’s success as a reliever is a testament to his strength in the face of adversity, which will bode well for him as a free-agent following next season. Despite his rough 2012, if he can rebound with a Lincecum-like 2013, the market will favor a pitcher with his stuff and attitude. Sometimes it pays to stay quiet and go with the flow.