Some Aces Aren’t Off to the Best of Starts
Once the ball leaves his hand, though, he is not getting the same results he did when he earned two National League Cy Young Awards. Quite simply, Lincecum has not been himself this season.
It is the same with some other pitching stars.
Josh Johnson looked ordinary in Miami before making a tweak to his delivery. C. C. Sabathia’s earned run average was above 5.00 entering the weekend, and the Atlanta All-Star Jair Jurrjens is not even in the big leagues right now.
From coast to coast, some pretty big-name starters are off to some pretty sluggish starts. It is still early, so there is plenty of time for them to get rolling.
Lincecum is 1-2 with an 8.20 E.R.A. in his first four starts. He gave up 16 runs in his first three games and has already allowed more first-inning runs this year than he did all last season.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, a little self-doubt creeps in there,” San Francisco Manager Bruce Bochy said.
The Giants do not seem overly worried. They have seen this before. Lincecum, who signed a two-year, $40.5 million deal in the off-season, endured a career-worst 0-5 stretch in a winless August in 2010 before he became the winning pitcher in Game 5 of the World Series that fall at Texas as San Francisco pulled off an improbable championship.
Yes, Lincecum’s velocity is down, though scouts do not seem alarmed by that, because they expect it as a pitcher’s career goes on.
“Right now, I have a small sample size,” Lincecum said after allowing four runs in the first inning of a loss to Roy Halladay and the Phillies on April 17. “It’s three starts, and I have about 30 or so left. It’s about fixing it and getting it right and being aggressive again.”
Adam Wainwright (0-3, 7.32 E.R.A. heading into the weekend) is having a heck of a time in St. Louis in his return from Tommy John surgery, Francisco Liriano (0-3, 11.02) has been a disappointment in a contract year in Minnesota, Cincinnati’s Mat Latos (1-2, 5.64) is not in Petco anymore and Dan Haren (0-1, 4.74) and Ervin Santana (0-4, 7.23) are two of the biggest reasons the Los Angeles Angels lost 13 of their first 19 games.
Jurrjens led the Braves with 13 victories last season despite two trips to the disabled list. But he went 0-2 with a 9.37 E.R.A. in his first four starts and was sent to Class AAA Gwinnett on Monday.
Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 E.R.A. in 2010 and was 3-1 with a 1.64 E.R.A. in nine starts last season before being shut down with shoulder inflammation.
His gave up 21 hits in his first two starts before realizing that he had stopped tapping the ball into his glove before throwing it. He started doing it again and was much better in the last two starts, allowing 3 runs and 10 hits in 132/3 innings.
“It’s frustrating because I didn’t catch it before, but that’s part of it,” Johnson said.
The Twins have seemingly tried everything with Liriano to get him to be the consistent, top-of-the-rotation starter they think his skills merit. After an impressive spring, he has been a wreck in the final year before he becomes a free agent. The Twins skipped him in his previous trip through the rotation to give him a chance to regroup.
For Latos, there may have been a little added pressure to work through in his first year with the Reds. Cincinnati paid a hefty price — four players, including the prized prospect Edinson Volquez — to get Latos from San Diego, and he acknowledged that he was trying a little too hard.
He gave up 21 hits and 14 runs in his first 151/3 innings, but finally started to settle in with seven shutout innings in a victory against the Giants on Tuesday.
With five months left in the season, there is little reason to panic. But if the Giants want to with Lincecum, Philadelphia Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel would be fine with that.
“If they panic and they don’t want him, they can always send him here,” Manuel said. “I’ll walk over and show him the way over here. I might pick him up and carry him.”