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San Francisco Giants begin to look a little thin in the rotation, announce Lincecum, Zito to start

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the cardinals will see both tim lincecum and barry zito in this homestand, as they are starting games 4 and 5 respectively. how does this change things for the cardinals?

Elsa - Getty Images

after winning a wet, low-scoring game in st. louis last night, the cardinals lead the series two games to one. the lohse-cain matchup widely figured to be the toughest in the whole series.

the question at the outset of the series was whether Barry Zito or recent bullpen-condemnee Tim Lincecum would be picking up the start at the back end of the rotation. in a surprise move, the giants have picked both of them.

after a game 1 blow-up, madison bumgarner will (at best) find himself pushed back a start, or possibly making no further appearances in the NLCS.

tim lincecum is at the wrong end of a long, slow fade from cy young quality. since 2009 his K rate has consistently declined year after year, his walk rate has consistently risen, and his fastball velocity has dropped 2 MPH. his K/BB has dropped from an elite 3.84 in 2009 to a pedestrian 2.11 in 2012. he's nowhere near what he once was.

that said, he's still a pretty okay pitcher. his 5.18 ERA is clearly influenced by a high home run to flyball ratio (14.5%) and a low left-on-base rate (67%). he has a 4.18 FIP, a 3.82 xFIP, and a 3.97 SIERA.

he has a better chance of giving us a hard time - all other things being equal - because he's right handed, and the cardinals hit significantly worse against RHP than LHP (.322 wOBA-against v. .338 wOBA-against). both zito and bumgarner are lefties.

barry zito, on the other hand, is really just stone cold terrible. he has a K/BB rate of 1.63, and hasn't achieved bad-lincecum levels on his K/BB rate since 2002. he has an FIP of 4.49, an xFIP of 4.92, and a SIERA of 4.89. that makes him the worst pitcher by xFIP (and i believe by any other advanced metric) to start a game in the 2012 postseason. it's embarrassing that anyone would let him start a playoff game.

having said that, we will now score 1 run over 8 innings pitched by barry zito in game 5, because playoffs. FWIW, the next worst pitcher by xFIP to pitch in the post season was ross detweiler, although he was more than half a run better.

the more i think about it, the more that decision bugs me: i'd really have to hate the way madison bumgarner looked on the mound in game 1 to think that he'd basically sunk below replacement value, as opposed to just having a bad game. it's hard for me to imagine how bad an above average pitcher like bumgarner would have to look for me to give zito a chance in what could be an elimination game.

weighing too heavily a few bad starts seems like a serious hazard for a manager; weighing a few bad starts too heavily and choosing barry zito over an otherwise good starter seems like a poor choice. let's hope i'm proved right tomorrow. tonight, we face lincecum, with a chance to take a big lead in the series.

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carlos beltran was taken out last night with a knee injury. derrick goold reports that beltran jammed his knee while running the bases. he was taken for an MRI last night and remains day-to-day, with at least some discussion that he may start game 4. beltran's knees have long been balky and the cause of much of his disabled list time. i hope we are talking about mere soreness, and not some larger issue that leaves him either unavailable or ineffective for the postseason.

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in other news, nobody likes us, everybody hates us, guess we'll go eat worms.

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last night - if you missed the waterlogged fun - kyle lohse did not look good at all, giving up FIVE WALKS and seven hits, though the giants turned his performance into only one run. rosenthal, mujica, and boggs made brief appearances (none threw even 10 pitches), and motte sealed the game with an outstanding 2-inning save, though he only threw 19 pitches. given the travel day, i'd imagine the bullpen is pretty freely available tonight, with maybe a question mark for motte.