Warszawski: Giants' Tim Lincecum keeps getting better with age

The Fresno BeeJune 25, 2014 

You're probably already aware Tim Lincecum became the first Giants pitcher since Christy Mathewson in 1905 to throw multiple no-hitters.

Well, I can top that.

Until Lincecum did so Wednesday afternoon, no pitcher in MLB history had celebrated a no-hitter while wearing both a Team USA soccer jersey and samurai helmet.

(Checked with the Elias Sports Bureau on this. They're getting back to me.)

It's all part of what makes him unique -- and so uniquely compelling.

Naysayers will denigrate Lincecum's second no-hitter in 347 days against the Padres because ... well, they're the Padres. But it's not like anyone else has no-hit them during the span, either.

Only Lincecum. And both times, it's been the older, less dominant, less Freaky version of his former self.

Lincecum, 30, used to bring no-hit stuff with him every time he stepped on the mound -- and never pitched a no-hitter.

Now that his stuff has diminished, Lincecum has pitched two of them.

It's a paradox that makes sense only in the context of these two words: That's baseball.

Lincecum has shown an incredible knack for rising up to the big moments.

He's done it twice in postseason play, first by pitching the clinching game of the 2010 World Series and then in 2012 as an unhittable long reliever.

So once Lincecum began carving up the Padres on Wednesday while also keeping that pitch count under control, you had the feeling he would finish it off.

Wearing a big grin, both on the mound and the basepaths, Lincecum looked like he was having fun. Back in the dugout, he did not sequester himself.

One of baseball's big superstitions is that pitchers don't talk to anyone during a no-hitter. They're supposed to sit apart from teammates and coaches.

Lincecum did neither. Cameras showed him chatting and laughing -- much to the amazement of Giants announcers Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper.

Moments like that remind me of Lincecum's brief tenure with the Fresno Grizzlies in 2007. I say brief, because he only made five Triple-A starts (going 4-0 with a 0.29 ERA) before the Giants summoned him.

Even back then, he was totally chill and relaxed. Starting pitchers typically keep to themselves before games, sitting quietly at their lockers. Lincecum would lead pop music singalongs while a teammate strummed a guitar. Other times, he'd recite material from comedian Dane Cook.

I've heard Lincecum isn't as loosey-goosey before games as he used to be -- he watches video instead -- but that carefree attitude still serves him well. He doesn't get tight and jittery.

"It's more awkward when they don't talk to you than when they do," Lincecum told reporters at AT&T Park.

Lincecum's blazing fastball is a thing of the past. But throwing 91 mph instead of 96 these past few years hasn't necessarily been what's hurt him. It's more not being able to keep that 91 away from the fat part of the strike zone.

Wednesday, he had total command of that wayward fastball, along with his slider, curve and changeup that's really a split-finger.

When everything is working, Lincecum showed his arsenal can still be effective.

This is the kind of performance the Giants were hoping for when they signed a pitcher whose best days are behind him to a two-year, $35 million contract.

Of course, Lincecum means more to the Giants -- and Giants fans -- than statistics and salary figures. That much is clear.

By striking out just six batters during his second no-hitter, as opposed to 13 in his first one, it's also clear he has learned to become a complete pitcher. One capable of inducing weak contact in addition to missing bats.

Lincecum's no-hitter was the third in baseball this season and came one week to the day after Clayton Kershaw's 15-strikeout mastery of the Rockies.

In his next outing Tuesday night, Kershaw shut out the Royals for eight innings. Is it fair to expect the same from Lincecum? Of course not.

That's baseball. But to quote the great Joaquin Andujar, "You never know."

The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6218, marekw@fresnobee.com or @MarekTheBee on Twitter.

The Fresno Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service