Yeah, but is he going to hold up?
He's not that tall, and he's not that big, and you know, he's got that big delivery that just seems so violent. Sure he throws hard, and he has a great breaking ball and a great changeup and you can't pick up the ball and no one ever gets any hits off him, but is he going to hold up?
You'd think by now we'd stop asking. You'd think by now, after two Cy Youngs, after 227 brilliant innings one year and 225 1/3 even-more-brilliant innings the next, we'd start thinking that maybe Tim Lincecum is going to "hold up."
You'd think by now the only question we'd be asking about Lincecum is whether he's headed for the Hall of Fame, because the things he has done in his first two full seasons with the Giants are the things Hall of Famers do.
The list of guys with more than one Cy Young Award isn't that long, but almost everyone on it is either in the Hall of Fame or headed there soon. The list of guys with back-to-back Cy Youngs is considerably shorter, and the only guys on it who aren't absolutely sure of getting a place in Cooperstown are Roger Clemens, who has been linked to steroids, and Denny McLain, who has every problem other than steroids.
And Lincecum, whose only problem is that he's not 6-feet tall, and doesn't weigh 200 pounds, and looks like ... well, when I called some scouts Thursday to talk about Lincecum, I heard the same old thing.
"The only thing about him is how he holds up," one guy said.
"His stuff is as good as any in the game," another guy said. "But ... he's skinny, lean, thin, and everything is so unorthodox. I saw him at the end of the year, and this guy was tired."
The same old thing. The same old questions.
Is he going to hold up?
If the questions hadn't been asked three years ago, when Lincecum was a junior at the University of Washington, the Giants never would have been able to draft him. One of the nine teams picking ahead of them would have jumped. Maybe he'd be with the Royals, teaming with AL Cy Young Zack Greinke in an incredible rotation.
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Thread: Lincecum wins second in a row
But the Royals, drafting first, took Luke Hochevar instead. The Rockies, drafting second, took Greg Reynolds. In all, five teams drafting ahead of the Giants took college pitchers, and those five guys have combined to go 37-64, with no Cy Youngs (or even any Cy Young votes). Lincecum is 40-17, the first pitcher ever to win the Cy in his first two full seasons.
Oh, and some of those other guys have had trouble staying off the disabled list. Lincecum never misses a start.
Even one of the scouts I talked to Thursday acknowledged that Lincecum has indeed -- at least so far -- held up, while his Cy rival, Chris Carpenter, hasn't. Carpenter might well have taken the Cy away from Lincecum this year if not for an early-season trip to the DL, which cost him four starts and who knows how many votes.
"Carpenter's big and strong, and he's got that great delivery," the scout said. "And he's the one who broke down."
So why are we even asking the "Is he going to hold up" question about Lincecum?
Only because if he does hold up, he's on a career track that would send him to the Hall of Fame. Only because if there are no durability questions, then there are no questions at all about the Giants' 25-year-old ace.
"He's so good, and so deceptive," one of the scouts said. "He has such good stuff, as good as anyone in the league, and you never see the ball. It's like Juan Marichal."
It's like Marichal, a Hall of Famer, except that he never won one Cy Young Award, let alone two, back-to-back, by age 25.
"It's kind of like Pedro [Martinez] in Pedro's prime," another scout said. "When he was good, you very seldom saw hitters get back-to-back hits on him. He'd give up a few hits, but you could never put anything together, because his stuff was so good.
"Lincecum is like that."
Maybe Pedro is the best comparison. His delivery is nothing like Lincecum's, but like Lincecum, he's listed at 5-feet-11. The Giants list Lincecum at 170 pounds, which is what Martinez was listed at earlier in his career.
Martinez was 25 in 1997, when he won his first Cy Young with the Expos. A couple of years later, he won the first of two in a row with the Red Sox.
By then, Pedro was as good as any pitcher in the game, well past the "Is he going to hold up?" questions.
But if you remember, Pedro started his career with the Dodgers. He was traded to the Expos right after he turned 22, and the story always told was that Tommy Lasorda thought he was too small ... that he wouldn't hold up.
He did. Maybe Lincecum won't.
But right now, after two seasons of 220-plus innings, two brilliant seasons and two Cy Young Awards, you'd think the real question about Lincecum ought to be whether he's headed for the Hall of Fame.
It's probably not fair to ask that question, either, not of a pitcher who won't turn 26 until next June. Randy Johnson didn't pitch a full season in the big leagues until he was 26.
Johnson was Lincecum's teammate this year with the Giants, and the old left-hander gave the young right-hander some advice.
"He just said to never be content," Lincecum said. "Just keep getting better."
Johnson did keep getting better, at least through his late 30s.
But no one ever asked if he was going to hold up.