When the San Francisco Giants won two games in a row last week against the struggling San Diego Padres, a glimmer of hope seemed to appear amid the ugly nightmare of the 2013 season.
Then San Francisco Giants starter Tim Lincecum threw the 15th no-hitter in Giants franchise history Saturday against the Padres and callers flooded the local sports talk radio airwaves with the news that the team's troubles were over.
The next day San Diego not only scored 10 runs to win the last game before the All Star Break, they held San Francisco to a single run.
As so often happens, excited fans successfully resisted letting actual statistical data get in the way of their firmly held belief that the San Francisco Giants have really, really turned their year around.
And the pesky reality check this time?
In the thirteen July games played by Giants leading up to the All Star Game, the team went 4-9, scoring 46 runs– 3.53 runs per game. Opposing teams scored 61 runs– 4.69 per game. And, amazingly, that counts Lincecum's no-hitter and two games in which the Giants scored 10 and 9 runs consecutively!
This team isn't going to magically start scoring a lot of runs. The bullpen remains unsettled, and the return of Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 1.727 WHIP, 7.19 ERA) doesn't quite have the feel of something we need to notify the Baseball Hall of Fame about. (Although we do wish him a speedy recovery and good health.)
Which brings up Tim Lincecum's value. It will never be greater than it is at this exact moment. Which provides San Francisco Giants ownership the unexpected opportunity to trade a pitcher who will soon be a free agent, who is still owed around $9 million on his 2013 salary, and who has performed poorly over the past two years.
I understand the no-hitter against the Pads made everyone stop in their tracks– it was a beautifully crafted gem. Hopefully that historic game suggests Lincecum may have more to contribute to the right team in the right situation. But not to the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants should take the bold step of moving Lincecum very soon, with a specific goal of getting several actual prospects in return. This is a team that should currently be making a series of organizational needs assessments with an eye toward the 2014 season and beyond.
We're not talking full-out rebuilding mode– Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval, and Matt Cain provide a damn solid foundation, thank you. But there's a hell of a lot of remodeling that needs to get done. And quickly.