Is Tim Lincecum back? Well, you could say The Freak has never been better

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum throws in the first inning of their baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, July 11, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum throws in the first inning of their baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, July 11, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

All of the talk around San Francisco these days revolves around one question.

“Is Tim Lincecum back?”

After two Cy Young seasons and two world championship seasons, Giants fans want to know if The Freak is back to his form from 2008-11 after a very bumpy stretch since 2012.

Well, one way to answer that question is to say Tim Lincecum has, in fact, never been better.

After his past four starts since June 25, Tim Lincecum’s stats are as follows …

  • 4-0
  • 30.1 innings pitched
  • 10 hits allowed
  • 1 earned run
  • 9 walks
  • 24 strikeouts
  • 0.30 ERA

Now compare that to his best four-start stretches over his career.

July 16-Aug. 1, 2007: 2-0, 26.1 IP, 14 H, 4 ER, 13 BB, 26 K, 1.37 ERA

April 19-May 4, 2008: 2-1, 27.1 IP, 24 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 23 K, 0.99 ERA (3 scoreless outings out of four)

Aug. 12-27, 2008: 3-0, 27.2 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 12 BB, 35 K, 0.98 ERA

July 27-Aug. 12, 2009: 2-0, 32.2 IP, 21 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 37 K, 1.10 ERA

April 5-23, 2010: 4-0, 27 IP, 19 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 32 K, 1.00 ERA

May 4-21, 2011: 2-1, 29.2 IP, 21 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 30 K, 0.91 ERA (3 scoreless outings out of 4)

July 9-28, 2011: 3-1, 25 IP, 15 H, 3 ER, 15 BB, 26 K, 1.08 ERA

Aug. 7-24, 2011: 3-1, 29.2 IP, 18 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 29 K, 0.91 ERA

Clearly, he’s never had a four-game stretch that was as good as his current run in terms of run prevention. In fact, it’s not even close.

It’s also important to note that his strikeout rate on the current stretch is not as high as in his previous impressive stretches.

But also in only two of the previous stretches did Lincecum give up fewer walks than his current streak, and in none of his previous stretches did he allow fewer hits than his current one. Again, it’s not even close.

So is Tim Lincecum back to being the pitcher he was in 2008-11.

No. He’s a different pitcher. But he’s getting the results.

Now some folks out there are still a bit skeptical, and they take Lincecum’s recent run with a grain of salt.

Freak me once, shame on you. Freak me twice …

They’ll point out that with all of his recent success, his ERA still sits at 3.66. Lincecum hasn’t had an in-season ERA that low (after May 1) since the end of the 2011 season.

But consider this. If you remove Lincecum’s two worst starts of the season (April 9 vs. Arizona, 4 IP, 7 ER; June 3 vs. Cincinnati, 4.1 IP, 8 ER), and Lincecum’s ERA drops down to 2.86. That represents 17 of his 19 starts.

Also consider he has posted quality starts in six of his past seven starts (just missing one — 6 IP, 4 ER — vs. Arizona on June 20), and in nine of his past 12 starts. And one of those non-quality starts was when he was lifted after 96 pitches despite throwing five scoreless innings vs. the Cubs.

Yes, Lincecum still has a big home-road disparity in his numbers. But 9 of his last 12 starts at home. So it’s hard to tell if his recent success is due to pitching so often at home, or if his high road numbers are due to the fact that he made four road starts prior to May 8, and only three since, when he has started to figure out how to pitch without being overpowering.

So while the jury is still out for some, we are impressed and encouraged by Lincecum’s recent success.

Will he be the Cy Young-winning super stud of 2008-09?

Maybe not. But can he be a top-of-the-rotation quality starter?

We’re beginning to think “yes.”

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