Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 7/16/13

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 23: Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants pumps his fist against the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game on June 23, 2009 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

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Ever since his debut, Tim Lincecum has been the ultimate fan favorite in San Francisco. In two short years, The Freak had become the face of the Giants organization. Lincecum found massive success in 2008 and 2009, which culminated in two consecutive Cy Young Awards. The superstar quickly rose to the top of baseball’s elite. He fit the mold of a true ace and was consistently the Giants’ most dangerous weapon. Lincecum pitched four consecutive years of 200+ innings, 200+ strikeouts and 30+ starts. The superstar’s ceiling appeared limitless. The 2012 season reared its ugly head and all of a sudden Lincecum became mortal. Pitchers rarely experience this dynamic of a freefall in such a small amount of time.  His stat line was unacceptable even for a fifth starter. Lincecum finished the year with a miserable 5.18 ERA, -2.0 WAR, and 15 losses. He failed to reach the 200 innings and the 200-strikeouts plateau for the first time since his rookie season. It got to a low point when Lincecum was banished to the bullpen for the playoffs. It goes without question that Lincecum is a fighter. He pitched marvelously in the playoffs, while relishing his role as the team’s best bullpen option. Lincecum could provide something no other team could emulate; he was the Giants X-factor. He had the strikeout ability to pitch against a single batter and the stamina to come in for multiple innings. Lincecum was a crucial component that helped the Giants win the 2012 World Series. This late season bounce back gave the Giants hope that Lincecum could return to his former dominant self. Up until July 13th that optimism was beginning to dissipate. The Giants were struggling and coming into the All-Star break as the most disappointing team of the season. In what could prove to be the turning point of the year, Lincecum gave his clubhouse the spark it desperately needed. Against the Padres, in San Diego, Lincecum shocked the world by pitching this season’s second no-hitter. This performance was truly remarkable and reminded the league of Lincecum’s ability as a pitcher. In a vintage performance the right-hander struck out 13, while cementing himself in the history books. It took Lincecum 148 pitches to get the job done, which was one shy of Edwin Jackson’s 2010 no-hitter. Twenty-nine of his pitches caused swings-and-misses. This incredible feat was Lincecum’s career high and the second-most among all qualifying pitchers within the last five years. It was the most swings-and-misses of any no-hitter in the last century. This is a reminder of why Lincecum found immense success early in his career. The Freak possesses some of the nastiest stuff in the entire league; Lincecum’s best pitch, his changeup, was especially potent that night. The changeup is his bread and butter strikeout pitch. He punched out seven batters with it, which was the most since the 2011 season. It may have taken 148 pitches, but Lincecum gave one of the most dominating performances in no-hitter history. His stuff was electric and absolutely crushed the entire Padres lineup. Lincecum was the losing pitcher against Homer Bailey in this season’s first no-hitter; coming back and giving such a memorable performance speaks volumes about his skill, competitive drive, and intangibles as a pitcher. Lincecum gave the Giants exactly what the team needed before the All-Star break. This has the chance to be the catalyst that reignites the Giants’ championship fire. The Freak is poised for a triumphant return to his former self. The team is in desperate need of pitching stability and Lincecum might have just given the club exactly that. The righty now boasts two Cy Young Awards, two World Series Championship rings and a no-hitter. These are very impressive accomplishments that place him alongside baseball’s elite.
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