Tim Lincecum's no-hitter: The Greatest Gift of All

Denis Poroy

In the Great Big Grand Scheme of Things, you might argue that Tim Lincecum's no-hitter doesn't really mean so much.

For example, you might argue that it doesn't really mean so much for the Giants' postseason chances. Coming off a World's Championship, they're still going to enter (and exit) the All-Star break six or seven games out of first place, and still stuck with a lousy run differential.

You might argue that it doesn't really mean so much for Tim Lincecum's future. His fastball's still topping out in the low 90s. He wasn't exactly dominant Saturday night. While he struck out 13 Padres, he also walked three, plunked two, and needed 148 pitches to complete his gem. You might even argue that it bodes poorly for Lincecum's near future. Three years ago, Edwin Jackson threw 149 pitches in a no-hitter. Over his next five starts, he gave up 24 runs in 27 innings.

Of course one can make too much of such things, and Jackson was just fine after those five starts, pitching exceptionally well down the stretch in the midst of a pennant race. But then there's Johan Santana. Last year he threw 134 pitches in a no-hitter. Terry Collins just wasn't going to remove Santana, because no Met had ever thrown a no-hitter. Until Santana, who proceeded to post an 8.27 ERA over his next 10 starts. And hasn't pitched since.

I'm not saying Lincecum's suddenly going to collapse. I'm saying that while a lot of Giants fans, understandably enough, probably think Lincecum's no-hitter means that good times are ahead, most of the available evidence says something quite different. Most of the available evidence suggests that the Giants are still in trouble, and that Lincecum will continue to pitch like just a shell of the young man who not so long ago was the best pitcher in the National League. That guy's almost certainly still gone, and probably forever.

Was Tim Lincecum's no-hitter even the "best" start of the night? See if you can detect the skepticism here:

Yeah, we get it. Most of us do, anyway. I'm sure Brian annoyed some Giants fans with that one. But Lincecum put five guys on base and needed 148 pitches. Zack Greinke put three guys on base and needed 110 pitches. Purely in terms of things a pitcher can control, Greinke was better. As usual. We do get it. Most of us.

So the big stuff ... no, Lincecum's no-hitter doesn't really mean so much.

Oh, except for the biggest thing of all. You know, the reason we love sports: WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN.

In one sense, in perhaps the most important sense, Lincecum's no-hitter means far more than a no-hitter thrown by Clayton Kershaw or Justin Verlander or Felix Hernandez. We expect them to throw no-hitters. When they throw no-hitters, we just go, "Yeah, see, told you he was really good." Ho freaking hum.

I exaggerate to make my point. I was as thrilled as anyone to be in the ballpark for King Felix's perfect game. But the truth is that game didn't tell us a single iota we didn't already know, didn't even tell us anything we needed to be reminded about.

Tim Lincecum wasn't supposed to throw a no-hitter. Not this year. For much of this season, he seemed more likely to get demoted to the bullpen than to throw a no-hitter. Really, with the possible exception of his relief work last October and a few decent starts sprinkled through these last couple of years, he's been difficult to watch. And not just if you're a Giants fan. I felt sorry for him during spring training. Two springs in a row. You know it's a tough game when you're felling sorry for a guy in his 20s who makes $20 million a year. But I did. And I might again.

But not Saturday night. Saturday night, I was exhausted and just about to shut everything down when I checked Twitter one last time. Somebody said something about a no-hitter in the seventh inning. You don't go to sleep if somebody's got a no-hitter in the seventh inning. I dialed in the San Francisco radio guys on my phone. I turned on ESPN2 in my hotel room. I listened, and I watched, and by the end I felt as good about being a baseball fan as I've felt in a long, long time.

Tim Lincecum and his 148 pitches and his space-alien right fielder gave us the greatest gift of all.

One never knows what the tide will bring. So we might as well hang around and see.

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