Tim Lincecum has a 3.06 ERA since the All-Star break

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Tim Lincecum isn’t quite back to being his old, Cy Young-winning self in terms of raw stuff or performance, but he’s bounced back from a terrible first half to quietly pitch very well for the past two months.

At the All-Star break Lincecum was 3-10 with a 6.42 ERA in 18 starts.

Since the All-Star break Lincecum is 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 13 starts.

He’s pitched better, no doubt, but it’s also worth noting that his secondary numbers in the first half weren’t nearly as bad as his ERA. For instance Lincecum struck out 104 batters in 98 innings before the break, which suggests he was anything but totally washed up and is actually a higher strikeout rate than he has in the second half.

Much of the difference in his performance came from the fact that Lincecum’s batting average on balls in play was .338 in the first half–which is very high–and is now .304 in the second half. In other words, when some of the bloopers stopped falling for hits and some of the line drives started finding gloves Lincecum magically ceased giving up runs in bunches.

You may want to attribute that to a change in luck or a change in approach or a change in the quality of his pitching, but whatever the case it’s nice to see Lincecum thriving again. And after 6.1 shutout innings against the Rockies last night his overall ERA is under 5.00 for the first time all season.

Imagining Theo Epstein in politics

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“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Or: “When Theo Epstein won World Series championships with the two most championship-starved franchises in baseball history, he got bored, and decided to run for the Senate or something.”

That latter bit is the premise of a Politico piece speculating that the Cubs president could go into politics one day. The story features an interview with former Obama chief strategist David Axlerod, who thinks Theo has what it takes. Mostly what he has is fame, popularity, good looks and money. No idea what his positions on issue are, but that other stuff goes a long way in politics these days.

Bonus: given what we just elected last fall, a guy who once had a little temper tantrum and dressed up in a gorilla suit is just as viable a candidate as anyone.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.