He's not struggling. He's not scuffling. He's not unlucky.
And no longer can his ineffectiveness be blamed on momentary lapses.
Tim Lincecum has lost the magic that made him unique not only to baseball but to the landscape of major team sports in America.
Gone are the spectacular fantasy moments that made the Giants right-hander a shaggy-haired, physically unimposing baseball hero. So is the excellence that once was routine, along with the can-you-believe-this-dude stuff that made Lincecum so inspirational.
Though Lincecum, 28, still may find pieces of his former self and regain most of his old form, there was no real sign of it Sunday during the 5-0 spanking administered by the Texas Rangers before a heartbroken sellout crowd at AT&T Park.
How can Timmy's legend be resuscitated when he can't put the ball where he wants?
"I was just trying to come in and compete against a very good team, to try to right what I've been doing wrong the last 10 or so outings," Lincecum said after allowing five earned runs, nine hits and four walks over 52/3 innings. "I didn't do that."
Lincecum's latest attempt at recovery began with five consecutive strikes to retire the first two Rangers hitters. The third out came 25 pitches later, after he had walked three in a row.
He followed with a clean second inning, during which he struck out the side, by allowing a run in the third, two in the fourth and two more before
Lincecum (2-7) exited to polite applause that barely obscured the anxieties felt by Giants fans and those that surely must be descending upon the Giants as an organization. This was San Francisco's eighth consecutive loss in games started by Lincecum. The Giants this season are 2-11 in his starts, 32-16 when somebody else takes the ball.
The man who started on Opening Day is now the fifth-best starter in a five-man rotation. The unlikeliest pitching beast we ever saw command a major league mound is now a sub-mediocre pitcher merely hoping to put a pitch where he wants.
Yet he's Lincecum, if only in name. He's the most popular Giant since Barry Bonds. Upon announcement of the lineup Sunday, Lincecum received the loudest ovation of all. He won the N.L. Cy Young Award in each of his first two full seasons. He has an active streak of four consecutive All-Star games. The Giants wouldn't have reached, much less won, the only World Series title in San Francisco history without him.
But Lincecum's starts, once greeted like a Bay Area holiday, have become dreaded. All those opinions and explanations and rationalizations behind Barry Zito's failures have moved onto Lincecum.
"His game," Bochy said, "was similar to his previous games. He had his ups and downs."
Lincecum's "ups" were the first two batters of the game and the second inning. His downs were most everything else.
Though his fastball regularly registered in the low- and mid-90s, it too often strayed from the desired location. Lincecum missed often, and sometimes badly.
Trailing 3-0 with two out in the sixth, one out away from achieving his third "quality start" of the season, Lincecum faced Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, who whacked a two-run double to put the game out of reach against an abysmal Giants offense.
"Left a changeup up," Lincecum said ruefully.
Lincecum has earned a lot of rope. He deserves considerable patience, for during the best of times in San Francisco, he has been the face of the franchise.
During the relatively good times of 2012, however, Lincecum has been the weak link.
"We keep saying (Lincecum is) close," Bochy said. "I still believe that."
Depends on what your definition of "close." Lincecum may not be far from meeting the major league standard, but he's nowhere near the standard he has set for himself. His ERA has reached 6.00.
What, then, do the Giants do? Hug Timmy? Skip a start? Request that he visit a qualified professional who can "get inside" his mind?
They owe it to themselves, and to Lincecum, to try anything anyone thinks might have an even chance of working.
His next start is scheduled for Saturday at Seattle, where Lincecum has spent most of his life and still resides. It's his comfort zone. It's a place where he should be profoundly focused and exquisitely detailed. Give him the ball. See how he responds.
No matter how good he might be at Safeco Field or in any other start this season, Lincecum's veneer is stripped. His body may harbor a terrific pitcher, but boy wonder has vanished.