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Q&A With Jonah Keri: Panic on Lincecum?

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On Wednesday night, Tim Lincecum got pantsed by the Rockies. It was the shortest outing of the Freak's career and, just like every time that Timmy gets killed by an opposing lineup, it's causing a bit of a panic.

Jonah Keri of Grantland.com (follow him on Twitter here) was at the game (he wrote about it here) and was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to chat with The Cove about whether or not Giants fans should freak out about Lincecum's performance. I also tricked him into answering some more general questions about the Giants current season and possible future moves with young players.

Oh, and if you like baseball and somehow haven't read Jonah's New York Times best-selling book "The Extra 2%," you should buy a copy, like, now. It's really quite good.

1. On a scale of 1-10, how concerned are you with Tim Lincecum right now and why?

4. I've already come to terms with the idea that he probably won't ever again be an 8-WAR Cy Young-level starter, given the drop in his velocity over the years. But he's still a very good pitcher who's just had a bit of a tough time with command and location for the first two starts of the season. Missing spots here and there is a very curable condition.

2. Would we be freaking out about him if he wasn't built like he is?

Well I'm not freaking out. But really the build thing is overblown, has been for years. I wrote about the "What's wrong with Tim Lincecum?" meme today for Grantland. People have been predicting his doom since college, when he ended up getting drafted after the likes of Brad Lincoln and Billy Rowell because he's skinny. Pedro was skinny. Maddux was a little bigger, but hardly built like Roger Clemens. Smallish pitchers can and do succeed, can and do stay healthy.

3. The Giants are second in runs per game in the National League and the only good starting pitching performance they've gotten this season is from Barry Zito. Is that a good or bad thing?

It's not really anything, because I don't see either trend lasting. Playing their first five games at Chase Field and Coors Field, arguably the two friendliest ballparks in the National League for offense, certainly helps, as does a small sample size. I still have serious concerns about their middle infield in particular, and a general lack of elite hitters elsewhere. As for Zito, you can't help but root for the guy, but there's too much evidence to the contrary to suggest he's suddenly going to return to the form he showed 10 years ago.

4. You recently wrote about contract extensions: do Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey strike you as guys worthy of consideration for extensions?

Sure, and I'm sure the Giants have had plenty of internal conversation about both. Please consider this more credit where credit's due and not a name-drop ... but I had the privilege of meeting Jon Miller for the first time last night, and he made an interesting point: If the Giants have the same payroll as some other team, they're really spending an extra $20 million or so a year to service stadium debt. It won't be long before the Giants' owners own their own stadium free and clear, which is a great advantage to have. But for now, it's slightly tougher to pay down the stadium, kick in to revenue sharing, and carry a top-level payroll. My hunch then is that they continue to invest internally as they have with Matt Cain and will try to do with Posey and Bumgarner, but stop short of many (any?) nine-figure bids for outside free agents, a la Jose Reyes.

5. If you were starting a team today and had to pick a Giants pitcher -- independent of salary -- to be your ace, who would you pick?

Bumgarner, because he's the youngest by far. All pitchers are built and wired differently, but I do believe each one only has so many bullets to fire before injury and/or decline kicks in. So that makes Bumgarner the clear choice for me.

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Related Topics Interviews, Giants, Tim Lincecum
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