What Gives With Lincecum?Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Many fans were really looking forward to Monday's late-night matchup between Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum. I know I was. Unfortunately the air got taken out of the whole thing in the top of the first inning.
Though some poor outfield play didn't help matters, Lincecum allowed four runs on four hits and a walk before the Giants even had a chance to bat. He settled down from there, limiting the Phillies to one run over the next five innings, but the damage was already done.
All told, Lincecum gave up five runs over six innings while striking out six and walking one. The 27-year-old right-hander has now allowed a grand total of 16 runs over 13 2/3 innings this season, good enough (or bad enough, really) for a bloated 10.54 ERA. Lincecum didn't give up 16 earned runs last season until May 16. Worse yet, this is the first time in his career that he has allowed at least five runs in three straight starts in the same season. What gives?
We still need to see more before officially sounding the alarm bells, especially for a pitcher with such a long track record of success, but there are some obvious warning signs. Lincecum is showing diminished velocity on his fastball (he was right around 90 mph last night, down from 92.3 mph last season) and while velocity isn't everything, having some separation with his changeup is critical. He's also struggling with his location, leaving way too many pitches up in the zone.
Much was made about Lincecum scrapping the slider at the start of the season to avoid the risk of injury, but he actually mixed in quite a few in Monday's start and had a number of swings and misses. Desperation? Maybe. But if he isn't throwing as hard as he has in the past, having that fourth pitch could be enough to keep hitters honest and get him back on track. Things should get better, it's almost impossible for them not to, but I'm not exactly holding my breath for the return of the fantasy ace we have seen in the past.
Bobby V Gambles and Loses With Bard
Fenway Park was quite the scene Monday morning. Not only did the Red Sox have the early start time against the Rays because of the annual Patriots' Day game, but the ballclub was still reeling from some curious comments manager Bobby Valentine made about Kevin Youkilis. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Bobby V's judgment wasn't much better on the field.
After getting knocked around for five runs on eight hits over five innings in his first start of the season last Tuesday, Daniel Bard allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings against the Rays. He could best be described as effectively wild, allowing only four hits and striking out seven, but also issuing seven walks and hitting a batter.
Bard was clearly out of gas after reaching the 100-pitch mark in the seventh. While he retired the first two batters he faced, he then loaded the bases by walking Sean Rodriguez, giving up a single to Desmond Jennings and walking Carlos Pena. Most expected Valentine to take him out of the game at that point, if not sooner, but Bard was left in and walked Evan Longoria to force in the only run of the ballgame.
While it wasn't the ending fantasy owners had in mind, there were some positives to take away. Bard averaged more than 93 mph on his fastball and his slider was absolutely filthy at times. He also got three swings and misses on his changeup (according to Brooks Baseball) compared to none in his season debut. There's obviously some risk attached for those in mixed leagues, especially with a tough assignment against the Yankees on tap for this weekend, but Monday's outing showed that it's way too soon for the Red Sox to abandon the reliever-to-starter experiment.
Big Deal For Mad-Bum
After inking Matt Cain to a long-term extension earlier this month, the Giants locked up another key piece of their starting rotation on Monday by signing Madison Bumgarner to a five-year extension with options for 2018 (club and vesting) and 2019 (club).
Assuming Bumgarner doesn't become a Super Two player this offseason, the deal will guarantee him $35 million and cover all of his arbitration seasons and his first year of free agency. The options are worth $12 million and could jump to $14 million if he places in the top-three in the Cy Young balloting at any point or $16 million if he takes home the hardware. If Bumgarner qualifies as a Super Two this winter, has the options exercised and maxes out on the escalator incentives, he would make $70.5 million over the life of the contract. Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com has the full details.
Of course, this is a small price to pay for Bumgarner's immense potential. The 22-year-old southpaw has a 3.12 ERA over his first 337 innings in the big leagues, averaging 7.8 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. He won't turn 30 until the final option year, so if all breaks right, he will still have another big payday down the line. It's a win-win.
NL Quick Hits: Brian Wilson was diagnosed with a "moderate" sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and could potentially avoid Tommy John surgery depending upon what is advised this week. Either way, he's headed for a lengthy absence … Carlos Gonzalez (strep throat) was out of the lineup for the third straight day Monday, but hopes to return Tuesday … Roy Halladay earned his third win of the season by limiting the Giants to two runs over eight innings Monday night while Stephen Strasburg improved to 2-0 by allowing two runs over six innings against the Astros … Ryan Howard (Achilles) saw another specialist Monday and it's not clear when he'll ramp up baseball activities … Cory Luebke tossed seven innings of one-run ball in a win over the Rockies on Monday … Astros' GM Jeff Luhnow said Monday that there's "nothing to" reports of Brett Myers being shopped … Jason Bay (finger) homered in his return to the lineup Monday … Henry Rodriguez earned his second save of the season Monday against the Astros … Freddy Sanchez will not begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday as scheduled after having a "minor setback" with his surgically-repaired shoulder … Chien-Ming Wang (hamstring) is scheduled to throw a simulated game Wednesday … Jorge De La Rosa (elbow) threw 60 pitches in a simulated game on Monday and is on track to join the Rockies' rotation in late May or June … Stephen Lombardozzi got the start in place of Danny Espinosa on Monday night and went 4-for-5 with two RBI … The Brewers are expected to activate Alex Gonzalez from the paternity leave list on Tuesday … Padres' pitching prospect Casey Kelly will travel to San Diego to have his sore right elbow examined …
AL Quick Hits: Justin Verlander tossed 131 pitches and allowed two runs in a complete-game win over the Royals on Monday night … Hector Santiago blew his first save Monday against the Orioles by giving up two solo homers in the top of the ninth … Justin Morneau started at first base for the first time this season on Monday and went 2-for-5 with a solo homer. He was also dropped to fifth in the order while Josh Willingham moved into the cleanup spot … Matt Wieters hit two homers (including a grand slam) and drove in five in an extra-inning win over the White Sox on Monday … James Shields tossed 8 1/3 shutout innings in a 1-0 win over the Red Sox on Monday while Fernando Rodney locked down his fourth save … B.J. Upton (back) is on track to come off the disabled list on Friday … After being criticized by manager Bobby Valentine in a radio interview on Sunday, Kevin Youkilis sat out Monday's game with a sore groin ... Erick Aybar is reportedly seeking at least five years and $50 million as part of a contract extension with the Angels … Kendrys Morales connected for a home run on Monday night against the A's, his first since infamously shattering his lower left leg on May 29, 2010 … Michael Pineda (shoulder) threw 26 pitches Monday in his first bullpen session since being placed on the disabled list … Doug Fister (costochondral strain) threw 10 fastballs off the mound Monday … Danny Duffy gave up three runs and struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings in a loss to the Tigers on Monday and is worth considering in most mixed leagues … Mitch Moreland underwent surgery Monday on an abscessed front tooth, but is expected to be in Tuesday's lineup … Glen Perkins has been shut down for a couple days due to inflammation in his forearm … Andy Pettitte will make his next minor league start Friday with High-A Tampa and could join the Yankees' rotation as soon as May 10 …