EXTRA BAGGS: Playing the Lincecum 'what-if' game, etc.

EXTRA BAGGS: Playing the Lincecum 'what-if' game, etc.
July 4, 2012, 4:41 am
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BOX SCORE
WASHINGTON If you are searching for positives after TimLincecum melted like an ice cream cake in Tuesday nights 9-3 loss to theWashington Nationals, then sorry.

Unless you like ice cream soup, we dont have much for you.

But there is this: Even though Giants manager Bruce Bochypulled most of his starters, including Angel Pagan as early as the fourthinning, the entire team save Wednesday starter Madison Bumgarner stayed tothe final out.

Ordinarily, that would not merit special mention. But thegame was delayed nearly 90 minutes by a thunderstorm in the seventh inning. AndWednesdays first pitch is at 11:05 a.m.

No, no, they wanted to stay as a team, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Itsnot too bad. Well have a bus that leaves at 9 a.m. Theyre all still here.

Said Pagan: You want to be here to the last out to supportyour team.

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As mentioned in the Instant Replay story, the Giants areexactly halfway through the season and they have 45 victories in 81 games. Theyare on pace for 90 victories. If they had won Tuesday night, they wouldve hadthe most victories in the National League.

What if the Giants were a meager 9-8 instead of 4-13 in TimLincecums starts?

They would be 50-31, tied with the Texas Rangers for thebest record in the majors. And, with the Dodgers result still pending as ofthis writing, the Giants would hold a six-game lead in the NL West.

If I had told you the Giants would be 9-8 in Lincecumsfirst 17 starts, youd have been disappointed.

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Interesting stat from my pal Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports:The leader in the NL West on the Fourth of July has failed to win the divisionin four of the past five seasons.

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So much for the whole whos catching Tim Lincecumcontroversy.

I figured itd end either way with Tuesdays start.

Outcome No. 1: Lincecum would have another good outing withHector Sanchez, giving him momentum that could be viewed as a little moresustainable. Call it the string and the top effect. Then Bruce Bochy couldswitch back to pairing Buster Posey with a more confident Lincecum.

Outcome No. 2: Lincecum would have a bad start, proving thetheory that it doesnt really matter who catches No. 55. It comes down toexecuting pitches. So hed switch back to Posey, so long as the schedulepermits him to catch.

Bochy originally turned to Sanchez because the Giants hadlost nine consecutive starts with Lincecum on the mound. Something had tochange. After the wheel came up red, he put more chips down. After it hit redagain, Bochy didnt want to mess with a good thing, and besides, the scheduledictated that Posey would have to take a break from catching either Tuesday orWednesday. Made sense to me.

Now Lincecum has around 17 starts remaining, and Ill wagerthat Posey will catch at least a dozen of them. Color me up, Monsieur Croupier.

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The rub of having Sanchez catch Lincecum is that it forces Bochy to choose between starting Posey and Brandon Belt at first base. Belt is on a tear at the plate.

What about putting Belt in left field, and perhaps sitting Gregor Blanco?

I asked Belt the last time he took a fly ball in batting practice. "Spring training," he said.

It might be an option in the future, Bochy said. But he wasn't going to try it in one-off fashion Tuesday. Belt acknowledged he is more comfortable at first base, and playing there and only there probably has helped him settle in and make adjustments at the plate without adding another element of uncertainty.

"But if they asked me, I'd go out there," he told me. "I think I'd be OK."

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Angel Villalona still doesnt have his U.S. visa and thatprocess remains a bureaucratic mess. But the one-time 2.1 million bonus baby is playing in Dominican SummerLeague games for the Giants affiliate. And hes doing quite well.

Villalona had a .407 average with two home runs in 14 games.Hes even drawn seven walks compared to 14 strikeouts in 54 at-bats.

Then again, Villalona should be dominating the competition.The former teenage prospect is now a soon-to-turn 22-year-old playing againstmostly teenagers.

If you've forgotten, Villalona hasn't stepped foot in the U.S. since he was arrested and charged in the 2009 fatal shooting of a barroom patron in the Dominican Republic. After two years, the charges were dropped -- reportedly because witnesses changed their stories.

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Youve probably heard this a billion times already, but for Wednesdays 11:05 a.m.game here in Washington, the first bus will leave the Giants' hotel at 8 a.m. The second bus will leave at9 a.m.

I just wish Guillermo Mota were still on the active roster.Id take 10:47 in the Mota arrival pool.