Tim Lincecum's case shows why arbitration sucks

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Thumbnail image for tim lincecum cy young.jpgJon Heyman wonders how the Giants may make their arbitration case against Tim Lincecum in the event they don’t settle. After noting how easy it would be for Lincecum — two Cy Youngs, babies — he passes along a potential team strategy:

The Giants could claim Lincecum’s second Cy was a “fluke” (a word I heard yesterday to describe it by a management type) in that it was basically a crapshoot between him, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and aided by two stat guys thinking Javier Vazquez should be in the top three.

That’s your case, Giants? “Fluke” + Keith Law + Will Carroll = $8 million? I once had an arbitration panel enter a $3 million award against my
client, and it was on the strength of a case ten times better than
that.

But really, what else would they have? Not much, I’d say, especially considering that Lincecum really didn’t shoot the moon in his demand the way many expected him to.  I guess if I had to argue the team’s case I’d think about mentioning the inherent risk to a young pitcher’s health and hope to get some discount for that risk, but I don’t even know if that’s allowed under baseball’s arbitration rules. It’s almost always about the salary and achievements comparable players. In light of that, being the Giants if this thing goes to a hearing will be a total drag.

Speaking more generally, I’ve never met anyone in the game, on the side of management or on the side of the players, who likes arbitration, and it’s easy to see why.  It’s all about forcing something that isn’t a truly adversarial relationship into an adversarial process.  The law frowns on this because when people don’t have truly opposing views on things it leads to strange and unsatisfying results. Baseball people hate it because it pisses everyone off right at the time — spring — when people should be pulling together.

Here, while the Giants and Lincecum must, by virtue of the process, take different sides on salary, they don’t have truly opposing views either. They both love Timmy. They both want Timmy to be happy. To the extent they have to fight it’s going to be artificial and, if Heyman’s source is right, profoundly silly. Fluke. Please.

Heyman suspects that the case will settle, probably with a two-year deal.  For the Giants’ sake, one hopes so.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.