Lincecum's losses make future uncertain

September 26, 2011, 12:00 am
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PHOENIX -- Tim Lincecum was far from at his best in his final start of the season Sunday, and the Giants' offense did what it typically does when Lincecum is on the mound: virtually nothing.The Diamondbacks closed out a three-game sweep of the defending champs with a 5-2 victory, and Lincecum ends his year on a losing note.
Can you blame the guy for not wanting to sign a long-term deal?The man threw more than 200 innings, struck out more than 220 hitters and posted a 2.74 ERA. That's a career year for most pitchers.For Lincecum, it was the first losing season of his career, 13-14.

Ten times the Giants didn't score behind him. Three runs was an explosion. The lack of run support he received was ridiculous.And it's not like this year was an anomaly. Lincecum has been pitching without a safety net for most of his career. It's impossible to explain, but the Giants just don't get it done at the plate when he's on the mound.With decent run support, he could have won between 17 and 20 games this year. The offense cost him a handful of wins in 2009 and 2010, too.And while most baseball people are coming around to the notion that wins and losses don't accurately reflect a pitcher's performance, they still matter. Losing a game in which you pitched a gem stings, and Lincecum has felt that sting time and again.Why, then, would he willingly commit to three or four more years of it? He won't, based on his recent comment to the San Francisco Chronicle, and it's difficult to blame him.This isn't about money at all. It's about winning. Always has been for Lincecum, who already is ungodly rich and will become moreso no matter what happens this winter, when he's up for arbitration.He's arb-eligible next winter, too, so unless the Giants do the unthinkable and trade him, he's a Giant through 2013 at the very least.Beyond that? It's anyone's guess.The Giants would love to sign Lincecum to a deal that locks him down beyond his arbitration years, but they'd be fine with another two-year deal.Lincecum's camp, however, is taking a wait-and-see approach. And what they're waiting to see is what the Giants do to make sure not just that another 2.74 ERA doesn't lead to a losing record, but that all of the club's many gifted pitchers don't have to throw a shutout to win, that the offense will be able to carry the club for stretches instead of leaning so heavily on the pitching staff.That doesn't make Lincecum selfish. Heck, he's taking a big risk in not wanting to sign for more than one year at a time. A long-term deal brings guaranteed glue. An injury stops the gravy train cold.Look, anyone involved with Bay Area sports wants to see Lincecum in Orange and Black forever. He's an all-timer, an icon after just four years.But if you take a step back, don't you see where he's coming from?

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