Nationally televised games don't count any more in the standings than your regular local-TV games, but when the Giants or A's are on Fox or ESPN, there are some broader implications.

Mostly, for the Giants, it's time under the spotlight the franchise openly yearns for and clearly deserves, and it's a chance to listen to national broadcasters talk about the players we hear about constantly on KNBR and Comcast SportsNet.

That's how we got to listen to ESPN's Curt Schilling -- and to a lesser extent John Kruk -- analyze Tim Lincecum's raggedy start Sunday against the Atlanta Braves (only two earned runs, but 11 baserunners in six innings), and also expound on the entirety of Lincecum's erratic last two seasons.

Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 16, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott
Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 16, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Schilling clearly had a theme right from the outset: Lincecum has a complicated delivery that wasn't going to hold up over time and that has caused his velocity drop from 2009 and he hasn't yet adjusted to that by relaxing, accepting the velocity drop, and turning into a finesse pitcher.

In fact, Lincecum probably has gone the other way -- he's expending massive energy trying to throw just as hard again, which gives him less command, he's still experiencing the dropped velocity, and when he does throw it over the plate, at 90-91, it's sitting there to get hit.

That makes his great changeup easier to lay off, that piles up his pitch-count, and the whole thing is a mess.


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The Lincecum Dilemma: More exertion to get lesser results. He's pitching like he wishes he could, instead of how he has to.

That of course is not groundbreaking commentary.

The whip-delivery/lost-velocity/no-adjustment thing is the actual standard commentary for the downward plummet of Lincecum's career arc since the 2010 postseason heyday, and I think it's correct, also.

Heck, the only people who really seem to disagree with the idea that Lincecum has to become a different pitcher once his fastball dropped below 93 mph was Lincecum, his father, and for most of the time, the Giants hierarchy and some of their strongest allies.

But to hear all this discussed on a national broadcast, in sync with Lincecum's patented eye-high fastballs for ball four, and that droopy look he gets when he doesn't know how the hell he's going to get somebody out . . . that was different.

And it was clarifying.

Watching Lincecum grind so hard to limit Atlanta to only two runs in six innings, you knew that any cheap praise for "gutting it out" and "keeping the Giants in it" and that Andres Torres' bumbling outfield play ruined what could have been a great outing was just over-gracious and missing the point.

Lincecum used to be great. He can be great every once in a while still . . . every fourth or fifth start. But that doesn't mean he's ever going to be great again for a sustained period.

It's not "inconsistent" when you can't produce solid performances more than once a month. That's just not good.

Really, Lincecum essentially has morphed into an upper-end Joe Blanton minus 20 or 30 pounds. Just another guy. An innings eater. Someone who might win if he's hot, but it's at best 50-50, because he's just not a great pitcher any more.

(Hey, don't yell: Lincecum and Blanton's WARs are identical. Both at -0.8 currently for 2013.)

Sorry, but Blanton is a good name to bring up here, because I think that will shock some of the Lincecum supporters. Does he want to be that guy for the next five years? I'm sure Lincecum doesn't.

In essence, the Blanton Alternative is what Schilling was proposing -- that Lincecum can possibly win 15 games again if he just adjusts to a more comfortable style, which, I presume, means, accepting the idea that he will get hit, but that he has to avoid all those walks IN FRONT of giving up those hits.

That's Blanton. Nothing special, kind of dull. Can win when he has a good day (and when his offense gives him a bunch of runs, but probably will get hit around several times a month, too.)

But I don't think Lincecum is ever going to look at it like that. . . . And when you've been as good as he was in 2008-2009-2010 postseason, I understand that.

His whole persona is to be dynamic, to be a star, to be electric om the mound, and that means to be the anti-Blanton.

Lincecum can't be that guy much as a starter any more, and I believe it's just going to get worse for him as the years and innings pile up.

If there's any electricity in his future, it's as a reliever, just as he showed last postseason.

I'm not saying Lincecum should be immediately pulled from the Giants' rotation and put into the bullpen. They just don't have the arms to replace him -- they didn't before Ryan Vogelsong got hurt, and they sure don't with Vogelsong out.

And Lincecum is coming up on his free agency, so he almost surely would want to stay in the rotation for as long as possible . . . and if he's just slightly better than Blanton for 20 more starts, then that's what's probably going to happen.

But again, I'm guessing that the last thing Lincecum wants to do is remind anybody of Joe Blanton.

And to avoid that, No. 55 has to be a reliever for the long-term.

Whether that's for the Giants next season (doubtful) or for another team that signs him as a high-powered relief arm (not likely) or for a team that signs him for a decent deal as a ticket-selling starter and then moves him to the bullpen by mid-2014 (most likely).

What the Giants cannot do is to pretend that Lincecum is still a big-time starter this offseason and pay him $10 million or more a year over the long term. Because, barring a dramatic mid-season turnaround, that's not who he is any more.

As we all saw -- Lincecum included -- coming out of the bullpen every other day or so, Lincecum can go all-out for 30 to 40 pitches without worrying about pacing himself for the later innings; heck, he rarely gets into the late innings as a starter any more anyway.

He can throw his slider as much as he want, which takes some toll on his arm. And most of all, Lincecum doesn't have to spend four days thinking about his next appearance, worrying about it, wondering if he has the stuff to beat people three or four times.

He just had to warm up (which he can do very quickly), throw as hard as he can for as long as he can, be dynamic in a brief spell, and then he's done.

It suits his random personality, it suits his stuff, it suits the rest of his career.

From the day before the World Series last year, Lincecum addressed the match of the bullpen and his mindset.

Said Lincecum: "Yeah, but I think that's kind of the way I am as a human being. I just kind of am oblivious to half the things going on and when I hear my name, I just go, 'Hey, let's go!'

"It kind of works for me that I'm in the bullpen, I suppose."

There are practical parts to this, too.

Lincecum just turned 29 . . . and he has thrown 1,296 career regular-season innings, which isn't a ton over a long career, but it's a lot for somebody who is so violent through his motion.

Plus, he is now 46 starts into this "slump," which we all know isn't really a slump any more but who Lincecum really is.

I think even the Giants won't dispute that publicly -- oh, how they've disputed it over the past two seasons, but I don't think they can or want to do it any more.

Lincecum, too, might agree eventually. A few weeks ago, he told CSN's Andy Baggarly that he's open to the idea, down the road.

He might not agree until he's done with free agency -- relievers get a fraction of what top-end starters get. But I think yes, Lincecum will accept a relief role, maybe by mid-2014 or earlier.

It's his way out of this, probably his only way.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.