Tim Lincecum's new normal

Thearon W. Henderson

Wednesday night, Tim Lincecum pitched ... well, not so well against the Athletics, giving up six runs in 4⅓ innings. Lincecum did strike out four Athletics, but he also walked four Athletics. Lincecum's whole season hasn't gone like this; this was actually one of his worst starts of the season. But what's striking is how similar this season has been to last season.

Lincecum's throwing exactly as hard this season as last season, his fastball averaging just a tick over 90 miles an hour. He used to routinely throw 92, and before that 94. Now it's 90.

Last season he walked 11 percent of the batters he faced; this season he's walked 10 percent of the batters he's faced. Last season he struck out 23 percent of the batters he faced; this season he's struck out 24 percent of the batters he's faced.

It's actually semi-surprising the numbers are this close. Even if his stuff were exactly the same, you would expect randomness to strike his walk and strikeout ratios. But it hasn't. And he's giving up home runs at the same rate as last year, too. Finally -- and again, this isn't what you might expect -- his ERA this year (5.12) is almost exactly the same as last year (5.18).

You know what else is the same? According to FanGraphs, Lincecum's been really unlucky, ERA-wise. By roughly a run in each season, or even a run-and-a-half (depending on how you like your Fielding Independent Pitching). Frankly, FIP doesn't have a real strong history when it comes to Giants pitchers; Matt Cain, for instance, has refused to behave for his whole career. So I'm reluctant to assume that Lincecum's ERA is going to come around, any minute now.

Everything worked out okay for the Giants last season, in part because Cain pitched brilliantly and Ryan Vogelsong was quite good. This season Cain's been just fair and Vogelsong was terrible before breaking his hand last week while batting. For the moment, Chad Gaudin will take over. It's far from obvious that the Giants' rotation, now anchored by just Cain and Madison Bumgarner, will be enough to keep the Giants in contention all summer. But hey, maybe Marco Scutaro and Brandon Crawford will keep hitting like Derek Jeter for a few more months.*

* they probably will not keep doing that

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