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Here is a link to my Friday column about Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The full text runs below.

So, how do you like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain now?

It was all praise about them in spring training. How they were throwing the ball great. How they had lost speed on their heaters but that was a natural evolution in the career of every elite pitcher.

Speed loss was strictly no problem because they had learned how to pitch, how to nibble the corners, how to use the entire plate. How to be the star hurlers — artists — the Giants need and always build their team around.

Timmy and the Cainer. Forty percent of the Giants’ starting rotation. Everything under control.

Sure, they “underperformed” in 2013. “Underperformed” is a euphemism for stunk out the joint. Both had losing records and their earned run averages were stratospheric. Of 43 National League starting pitchers who qualified for the ERA list, Cain was No. 34, Lincecum No. 38. But as I say, that was so last year, ancient history, strictly an aberration.

Everything would be different this season. The Giants were sold on Lincecum, gave him a solid-gold contract — $35 million for two seasons. It’s always nice when a team has confidence in a pitcher. Cain already was working on his own solid-gold contract — six years, $127.5 million through 2017.

That’s how to lock up two superstars.

It’s just that Lincecum and Cain are again “underperforming” this season, as in stinking out the joint. Imagine that. Forgive me for citing some statistics. Bad statistics can be so inconvenient for the parties concerned.

You know how Lincecum had a losing record last season and a crummy ERA? Funny thing, he has a losing record this season and a crummy ERA, 9.90, which happens to be the worst ERA in the National League for starting pitchers. Well, it was the worst before the start of play on Thursday. It doesn’t even read like an ERA. It’s more like a stock price.

Pretty much ditto for the Cainer. He has a losing record and his ERA, 5.73, ranked 38th out of 50 in the National League before Thursday’s games.

Which means — certainly seems to imply — 2013 was not an aberration for Lincecum or Cain. It’s exactly what they do and who they are and what we should expect. An aberration would be if they actually could pitch up to their salaries, if they could win lots of games, if they could keep the freaking ball in the park. Lincecum has given up four home runs in two starts, Cain three. With these two, it’s strictly bombs away.

Please don’t think for a minute Lincecum and Cain are the exact same pitcher. They are not. They have achieved early misery taking two entirely different routes.

Lincecum, with that complicated delivery containing a million moving parts, can’t put the ball where he wants to. Buster Posey calls for the pitch high and inside. Lincecum throws it low and outside. Every pitch for Lincecum is an adventure, so many balls in the dirt. Batters wait on him to throw a strike and, when he throws a strike, they murder him. Bye bye, baby.

Eyeball these stats. This season, 36.4 percent of his fly balls are home runs. That’s get-him-out-of-the-rotation awfulness. He has given up line drives more than 34 percent of the time batters make contact on him. That means they are killing his pitches.

Bad formula for Timmy.

Cain is a different story of being a flop. Like Lincecum, he lost his fastball. He used to throw 93 mph, but now he’s down to 91 tops. In the past, he benefited from Lincecum’s failure. Lincecum failed so spectacularly fans didn’t notice Cain had similar problems. Cain is out in the open now.

He has better control than Lincecum but his stuff isn’t any better. So, when he throws his stuff over the plate, batters crush it. In his second start, Cain gave up three big flies, as Duane Kuiper likes to say — not that he likes it when Cain owns the big flies. That second start was in L.A. against the Dodgers, Cain a home-run machine. Last season, almost 11 percent of his fly balls were home runs — not good. This season, he’s up to 21 percent. You find the relevant adjective.

Why should we think Cain or Lincecum suddenly will become elite pitchers? The trend is downward and the trend has a large sample size. The burden of proof is on them.

True, the Giants are hitting better than last season, hitting with power. Small sample size, but we’ll let that ride. Over the long haul of a baseball season, pitching matters most. The Giants know that.

A friend of mine said, “It’s the hoses that count.”

We’re talking hoses as in arms. If Lincecum and Cain can’t get their hoses under control, the Giants are going to get hosed.

As long as we’re discussing troubling trends, there’s Lincecum’s mustache.

Have you taken a look at that thing? Is it real?

It looks like he bought it at a party supply store and glued it on. No, that’s quite not it. It looks like a ferret took residence on his upper lip.

He goes out in public with that thing on.

Tim needs to shave it off. I’m not saying shaving off the ferret will make him a better pitcher. But it couldn’t hurt.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell@cohn.pressdemocrat.com.

 

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Comments

10 Comments

  1. Eddie

    Absolutely spot on nailed Lowell. Thanks for calling a spade a spade, unlike Giants “reporters” like Baggarly, who is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the org at this point.

    April 11th, 2014 12:30 am

  2. Johnc

    Before the season started your pointed out that Lincecum said that he was going study the tendencies of the batters and become more of a finesse pitcher now that his fastball has lost velocity. The problem with that pronouncement is that Tim has had trouble with his command for the last three years. So the Giants give him 35 big ones based on…?? Did the Giant braintrust think that he was going to be another Greg Maddux?

    April 11th, 2014 12:59 am

  3. Ben

    I’d give it a few more starts before jumping to the conclusion that this season will be as bad as last. With only a few games it’s troubling to talk about season percentages. I’m hopeful, anyway. But great call on the mustache. It’s like a juvenile caterpillar took up residence on his upper lip.

    April 11th, 2014 8:16 am

  4. Stan

    Cain has been bad since last season. His problem and with Lincecum and Vogy are all the same..they throw the ball right down the middle of the plate. Cain’s twist is to do it so often with 2 strikes or 2 outs. He’s killed the team with down the middle after the 2 strikes. And when you start to do it the rest of the inning more often,no lead is safe with him now.
    Vogy? I trace his fall back to Earth started the very week Melky Cabrera was caught. Like a switch. Connect the two dots.
    Lincecum? Something about his lights are one and nobody’s home these days. Interviews are stone faced monotone answers. I think he’s got a real issue going..and going back to his huge weight loss days. Again,its not “mechanics”. He hasn’t forgotten how to throw a baseball after 2 Cy’s and all the rest. He just doesn’t have the same body.. He ruined it with..his off time doings. Like some Seattle alt rock band leader from the 90′s, fame ate at Lincecum so young. An old story.

    April 11th, 2014 9:50 am

  5. mendozaline

    Stan, Much of what you write about Lincecum, I agree with.
    Your past comments about him trashing his SF home was proved incorrect.

    Tim Lincecum, ex-landlord settle suit
    Henry Schulman
    Updated 4:07 am, Friday, February 21, 2014

    A San Francisco landlord who sued Tim Lincecum in 2011, claiming that he wrecked a rental town house in the Mission District, has agreed to a $100,000 judgment in the Giants pitcher’s favor that ends the case, Lincecum’s representatives said Thursday.

    Lincecum had denied the claims lodged by his former landlord, Mindy Freile, and countersued in San Francisco Superior Court. The Beverly Hills Sports Council, which represents Lincecum, said he and Freile had agreed to resolve the case.

    Freile can satisfy the judgment by paying Lincecum a lesser amount if she does so by a certain date, according to the pitcher’s lawyer, Peter Bransten. He said he could not reveal the amount under a confidentiality agreement.

    Lincecum lived in the Hampshire Street town house owned by Freile from May 2010 to February 2011. In her lawsuit, she claimed that when Lincecum moved out he left a trail of damage to “bedding, doors, carpet, pillows, kitchenware, linens, furniture, household appliances, artwork, decorations, patio furniture, lights, lamps and mirrors, among other things.”

    In seeking $350,000, she also claimed Lincecum had squatted in the town house for several months without paying rent.

    Lincecum denied her claims and countersued, saying Freile had illegally withheld his security deposit.

    Bransten said the two sides came to an agreement after he filed for a summary judgment on Lincecum’s behalf.

    In a statement released through Lincecum’s agency, the 29-year-old pitcher characterized the original lawsuit as a shakedown attempt against a public figure.

    He called it “an attempt from the very beginning on the landlord’s part to take advantage of my public profile for financial gain. She kept the balance of my security deposit while making unsubstantiated claims of exaggerated damage.”

    “While litigation is something you always want to avoid, I will always defend myself against frivolous lawsuits,” Lincecum said.

    Freile’s attorney, Jonathan Bornstein, declined to discuss the case or respond to Lincecum’s comments.

    April 11th, 2014 11:06 am

  6. Steve the cat rescuer

    I think a more appropriate question is: What gives with the Giants? How can anyone, especially Sabean, rationalize spending 35% of the payroll on 4 pitchers, one of whom is obviously washed up (Vogelsong), one of whose primary residence is the disabled list (Affeldt), and two of whom were questionable and on the decline when they signed those monstrous contracts (Cain and Lincecum)? I cannot believe that Cain would have received anywhere near $20+ million a year from any other team, nor do I think Lincecum would have received more than $10 million. I doubt Vogelsong got any offers. Sabean deserves kudos for putting together teams that have won two World Series in four years, but I don’t get his manic obsession with high priced, underachieving pitchers. Didn’t the Giants learn anything from the Zito fiasco?

    April 11th, 2014 12:04 pm

  7. Marco

    Thank you, Lowell. Finally a reporter that is not afraid to say what we’re all thinking. Tim and Matt are done and so might be Sabean. Things can unravel rather quickly.

    April 11th, 2014 12:14 pm

  8. Stan

    Its good justice prevailed for Lincecum. It was hard for me to imagine a landlord would try extortion and near blackmail to the point she would give “tours” of the smashed home to TV.

    Even when I try not to be cynical? I learn I should have been.

    WHO would EVER trust Mindy Freile again?

    April 12th, 2014 10:19 am

  9. Stan

    And let me say,for all my posts on the guy,I KNOW he’s a nice guy..a good person. NO doubt.

    BUT,The last time I saw him interviewed in his new mustache?,he looked like a very unhappy John Waters (director) talking baseball. And I if Waters had to talk sports,he probably would feel miserable…

    April 12th, 2014 10:49 am

  10. Neal

    Lowell, I know you think the world of Sabean but looks like a couple of bad contacts, which is about 10 so far , along with the second basemen situation.

    April 12th, 2014 10:25 pm

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