Bay Area

Reflecting on Tim Lincecum’s career in San Francisco

Christian Petersen, Getty Images

The Giants announced on September 3rd that Tim Lincecum had undergone hip surgery, officially ending his season and, quite possibly, his career as a San Francisco Giant.

Tim Lincecum, nicknamed “The Freak” for his 170 pound frame with the ability to throw 95mph fastballs by the game’s best hitters, along with mixing in a devastating changeup. Lincecum served as the face of new Giants baseball post Barry Bonds era. Drafted with the tenth pick in the first round in 2006, he quickly rose through the minor leagues and made his major league debut on May 6th, 2007 against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

It didn’t take long for the Bay Area to fall in love with the kid many felt they could relate to. From his long hair that give him a “hippy” look, to his careless attitude and being caught with possession of marijuana, the illegal substance that many in San Francisco enjoy, Lincecum fit the description of a San Franciscan as he continued to plow through major league hitters.  

In 2008, Lincecum was awarded the National League Cy Young, the first Giant to be awarded the prestigious award for a pitcher since Mike McCormick in 1967. Lincecum went 18-5 with 2.62 ERA in 227 innings pitched, striking out 265 and posting a 168 ERA+ and 2.62 FIP. 

Lincecum defended his Cy Young winning season with an even better season in 2013. Lincecum went 15-7 with a 2.48 ERA in 225 1/3 innings pitched, striking out 261 and posting a 2.34 FIP and 1.047 WHIP. He was once again awarded National League Cy Young.

What else could he do to win over the hearts of San Francisco? Lead the team to their first World Series championship title in 56 years. Lincecum took on the Atlanta Braves in game 1 of the NLDS and threw a complete game, two hit shutout while striking out 14. Lincecum lead the charge in the NLCS against the Phillies, and followed his dominance against the Texas Rangers and be awarded the  Babe Ruth Award for his overall performance in the 2010 postseason.

In 2012, Lincecum’s career started to take a downturn spiral. After four season of complete dominance, Lincecum posted the worst season of his career. His velocity started to slip, which resulted in a 5.18 ERA and failing to hit the 200 innings + 200 strikeout mark for the first time since his rookie season in 2007. Lincecum’s struggles was a head scratcher, failure was not something “The Freak” was accustomed to seeing, and the frustration continued to boil over start after start. Rumors began to swirl that Lincecum and catcher Buster Posey were not getting along. Though Lincecum insisted he was completely healthy, he found himself out of the starting rotation come playoff time.

With a team first mentality, Lincecum took the demotion with stride and continued to dominate out of the bullpen, serving as manager Bruce Bochy’s secret weapon en route to helping the Giants win their second World Series title in the past three seasons.

Following the season, Lincecum spent his entire offseason rehabbing and working to add to his 170lb frame, in hopes that he could rebound from a disappointing season as he prepared to enter his contract year before hitting the free agent market for the first time in his career. 

However, his 2013 season was once again disappointing, but certainly up from his 2012 season. His season was highlighted with his first career no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on July 14th, 2013. Lincecum allowed just four walks and struck out 13 Padres. While the overall numbers were not quite there in 2013, he showed enough improvement that GM Brian Sabean felt compelled to bring back Lincecum to a two year $35 million deal, which came with a bit of scrutiny as Lincecum was far from the ace material he once was to be receiving that kind of money. 

Still,  fans were happy to see their “Freak” back in Giants orange and black. However, Lincecum’s struggles continue to spiral downwards. The highlight of his 2014 season, of course, was throwing another no-hitter against the very same San Diego Padres, on June 24th, 2014. This time, Lincecum allowed just one walk while striking out just six, a sign that Lincecum was moving from overpowering and dominance to being more of a finesse pitcher. However the rest of his 2014 season was a disaster, posting a 4.31 FIP, the highest of his career and 7.7 SO/9 innings proved Lincecum’s best days were behind him, at the age of just 30. Lincecum was once again removed from the rotation come playoff time, and though he proved to be Bochy’s secret weapon in the 2012 playoff run, Lincecum was hardly seen in 2014 as he appeared in only one game against the Kansas City Royals, in which he had to leave with an injury.

Injuries have been the story of Lincecum’s 2015 season. After a hot start in which many felt he finally figured it out as he transitioned to a finesse pitcher, Lincecum came back to life and began to struggle once again. A line drive off his forearm caused a contusion, an injury the Giants used to DL him in place of removing him from the rotation again. While on the DL, Lincecum’s hip pain began to worsen, and after visiting specialists, it made sense to undergo season ending surgery. 

Lincecum certainly hopes to continue his playing career, and the hip issue hopefully will not prevent him from doing so. However, as the Giants aim to go younger, it is unlikely Lincecum will dawn Giants orange and black in 2016.

Lincecum’s accolades as a San Francisco Giant: 2 time Cy Young, 3 time World Series champion, 4 All-Star selections, Babe Ruth Award. 

Lincecum’s 108 career victories list him 18th in Giants history. His 1,704 career strikeouts rank him fourth in Giants history. While the previous four seasons have hindered what once looked like a potential Hall of Fame career, there is no doubt Lincecum’s name will be enriched in Giants history, and eventually when his career is all said and done, we will hopefully not just see a plaque recognizing him on the Giants Hall of Fame wall, but even a statue somewhere near AT&T Park. 

While it certainly would have been great to have Lincecum pitch one more time in September for a final “Thank You” send-off ala Barry Zito in 2013, we all wish “The Freak” the best of luck. He was a great Giant, and his genuine team first mentality is what turned this organization around into a winning atmosphere. 

Thank you, Tim Lincecum. 

 

 

 

 

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Kunaal Madhavan

Kunaal loves talking baseball. In his spare time, he is an active volunteer assisting in youth camps for some of the top athletes in the Bay Area.
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