San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum has struggled this season. To put this in terms that we can all understand without going too far into the numbers: It’s possible to make an argument that Barry Zito has gotten better results on the mound than the one time Giants ace. And that’s hard pill to swallow for many fans in San Francisco because otherwise, their team is playing quite well, and if Lincecum was pitching like his former self, they’d probably be playing incredibly well, and not trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers by 4.5 games in the National League West.

Lincecum’s supposed downfall is probably somewhat overstated. Yes, his velocity has been on a serious decline through his last few years, and this is likely allowing batters to make better contact on his pitches.

Presumably, the loss of velocity is also causing a lack of confidence to challenge hitters as he did in the past. The result is fewer strike outs and more walks.

However, there is also an element of luck to it all. If we look at Lincecum’s fielding independent numbers, they’re not all that far off from his career norms. There are also other indicators that he’s had a lot of bad luck so far this season, with hits coming in bunches rather than being spread out. Consider his strand rate:

And his BABIP:

So, it makes sense that the Giants have yet to react too wildly to Lincecum’s disappointments. However, if Bruce Bochy is to be believed, they have considered a less laissez faire approach to dealing with the pitcher’s struggles.

The first picture that pops into my mind is Lincecum coming out of the bullpen to relieve Zito. It seems previously unfathomable. Personally, I’m glad the Giants have allowed Lincecum some rope here to work out the kinks. It’s true that he’s struggled, but not to the degree that his current 6.00 ERA suggests. As we’ve seen in the past, velocity is something that declines for all pitchers.

Lincecum is going to have to adapt to this. It makes sense that there are going to be some growing pains along the way. However, assuming that Lincecum’s drop in velocity has nothing to do with an injury (and it very well could considering all the talk of dropping the slider from his repertoire during Spring Training), extra days off or a trip to the bullpen seems counter productive. He should be out there as much as he can trying to adapt.

Of course, with the Giants in contention, that’s easier said than done, but in my mind, an effective Tim Lincecum later in the season is a reward worth the risk of struggles right now.

All charts are from FanGraphs.

And The Rest

With Alexi Ogando hitting the Disabled List, the Texas Rangers’ signing of Roy Oswalt appears to be a very smart move. However, Oswalt has continued to struggle as he attempts to get Major League ready. [Fox Sports Southwest]

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow will be placed on the Disabled List fo’ rilz. [Twitter]

The Phillie Phanatic is getting sued. []

Detroit Tigers pitcher Jose Valverde who was caught on video putting spit on a ball, told the media yesterday that he was just wiping his face. [HardBall Talk]

Roger Watters crashes a plane into Wrigley Field as part of bizarre ceremony that acts as a metaphor for the Cubs’ season. [Big League Stew]

Does Johan Santana belong in the Hall of Fame? [Baseball Past And Present]

Marlon Byrd was released by the Boston Red Sox, a team desperate for outfield depth. [Over The Monster]

Ozzie Guillen doesn’t want Carlos Zambrano swinging for the fences anymore. []

The vice president of umpiring talks about improving baseball through technology. [CBS Boston]

Alex Rodriguez hit his 23rd career grand slam last night, tying Lou Gehrig’s Major League record. [Business Week]

Mariano Rivera has finally had successful surgery on his knee. The rehab will begin soon. [Twitter]

How a scout scouts his son. [The Seattle Times]

Finally, more pictures of the Milwaukee Brewers being awesome. [LobShots]