Liotta: Giants ace Lincecum still silencing doubters

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What does Tim Lincecum have to do to get baseball to believe? Really believe?

On Wednesday, at a little after 3 p.m. on a gusty April afternoon, Lincecum walked off the AT&T Park mound, two outs away from a 5-for-5 start. Five wins in five starts to open 2010.

It would have been his best start yet — better than either of his NL Cy Young Award seasons. For the record, he was 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA after five starts in 2008, and 2-1 with a 3.16 ERA after five starts last year.

The 5-for-5 thing didn’t happen, thanks to a bullpen meltdown, but it brought to mind all the worrying done on Lincecum’s behalf this spring. I’ll admit that Lincecum prepared for his fourth major league campaign in less than scintillating fashion, but was all that drama really necessary?

Has he thrown too many pitches at too young an age?

Has the arm finally begun to wear down at the end of the odd windup?

Baseball has had its doubts about Lincecum since before he was drafted. He was too small. Too skinny. Too unorthodox. He’d never hold up.

That thinking allowed the best pitcher in college baseball to fall to the 10th overall selection. Baseball selected six pitchers, four from college, two out of high school, before the Giants called Lincecum’s name.

Four of the six pitchers selected before Lincecum — Luke Hochevar of the Royals, Greg Reynolds of the Rockies, Brandon Morrow of the Blue Jays and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers — averaged 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, and have combined for a 40-61 record and an ERA close to 5.00.

At 5-foot-11, 170-pounds, Lincecum owns a 44-17 record, a 2.28 ERA, and a mantel’s worth of hardware and a career’s worth of I-told-you-sos.

 

Random Thoughts

Barry Zito’s 2010 start officially went off the charts on April 24. All he did to Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and the Cardinals was dominate in a way few major league pitchers can. The Cardinals weren’t just striking out against Zito — they were missing by a foot. It was actually unfair.

With AT&T Park sounding awfully familiar with chants of “Barry, Barry” echoing through the rafters, Zito looked like he was worth every penny the Giants paid for him. And I never, ever thought I’d say that.

– Nothing needed to be said after the 49ers’ 2010 NFL draft. Two offensive linemen, three offensive weapons, a linebacker and two defensive backs. This was the strongest statement yet that the Niners are in the hands of Alex Smith in 2010.

“We are asking [Alex] to go out and perform to the best of his ability and to execute to the best of his ability,” Niners coach Mike Singletary said at the draft’s conclusion. “So, that is what we’re asking him to do. And, if he can do that, then fine. We’re going to be OK.”

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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