But as much as Lincecum has transformed himself since the All-Star break, the Giants' lineup has morphed into one that is every bit as dangerous as the rest of those in the National League playoff field.
Don't think so? Here's a number that will surprise you: Since the All-Star break, the only NL team to score more runs and have a higher OPS than the Giants are the Brewers, who, unless they can bang their way in over the next two weeks, will be at home come October.
These aren't your 2010 Giants, who unexpectedly won a World Series behind dominant pitching, didn't hit much for average, didn't steal bases, but had the uncanny knack for the clutch hit, especially the big home run.
These Giants - with both sides of the equation coming together in a 40-23 second half - can't be playing much better as the postseason nears.
"You'd always like to think there's another level for a team,'' Matt Cain said after the Giants' win Wednesday. "We'll keep that in mind, and not just settle.''
|Brewers||710 (1st)||.763 (1st)|
|Cardinals||703 (2nd)||.759 (3rd)|
|Nationals||662 (4th)||.747 (4th)|
|Braves||660 (5th)||.716 (9th)|
|Giants||657 (6th)||.719 (7th)|
|Reds||636 (8th)||.737 (6th)|
|Dodgers||582 (13th)||.683 (14th)|
|Milwaukee||326 (1st)||.800 (1st)|
|San Francisco||319 (2nd)||.750 (3rd)|
|Washington||314 (3rd)||.770 (2nd)|
|Cincinnati||278 (7th)||.744 (6th)|
|St. Louis||277 (8th)||.737 (7th)|
|Atlanta||269 (9th)||.694 (11th)|
|Los Angeles||250 (13th)||.680 (13th)|
As illogical as it seems in light of removing a .346 hitter and likely batting champion from the lineup, the Giants are scoring more runs per game and winning at a higher percentage without Melky Cabrera.
After Cabrera's last game Aug. 14, the Giants and Dodgers were tied atop the NL West at 64-53. Through Thursday, the Giants' lead had grown to 10 games, and their magic number was down to four.
The odd thing is the Giants are doing it despite far and away the majors' lowest total of home runs at home: just 23, or 19 fewer than the Padres' total at Petco Park. Instead of the longball, this is an offense, in Hunter Pence's words, of "random rallies at some point. Just a bunch of good at-bats in a row. We don't know when, but we'll get you."
And here is the sequence of events that has propelled them up the NL offensive ladder:
- Buster Posey's MVP candidacy has taken off. Since the All-Star break, Posey has pushed his batting average to .330 with an extended near-.400 (.388) run accompanied by a .645 slugging percentage.
- Marco Scutaro has played 50 games with the Giants since being acquired from the Rockies in an under-the-radar deal July 28. In that time, he has exceeded his RBI total in the first 95 games with the Rockies, knocking in 32. Scutaro also is hitting .355 as a Giant.
- Pence's first game in a Giants uniform was July 31, and by his own admission, there have been, "a lot of bad swings, and then a good one once in a while." But his RBI total of 36 in 42 games despite a .230/.385/.688 line speaks as much about the top half of the Giants' lineup as anything.
- Which brings us to Angel Pagan, who is doing an impressive Melk Man impression in the leadoff spot. Pagan had a .342/.415/.588 month of August with an MLB-leading 32 runs scored.
- His September hasn't been as impressive, but he's still a .324 hitter with 45 runs scored over the past seven weeks. And don't forget breaking Willie Mays' franchise single-season record for triples with 14, plus 27 stolen bases.
- And how about Brandon Belt's .349 batting average and .411 on-base percentage in August, and .319 batting average with 22 RBI since Aug. 1?
- As for Lincecum, the numbers say 3-10-6.42 in the first half and 7-4-3.06 in the second. What's behind the turnaround?
The fastball velocity (averaging around 90 mph) still isn't what it used to be, and probably won't be again. But he's learned to be effective with a different mix - more sinkers, sliders and off-speed - and has found a better battery-mate fit in Hector Sanchez over Posey.
In the projected Giants' NLDS rotation, Lincecum lines up in the No. 3 spot, following Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.