Tim Lincecum Is Back

It seems like just yesterday Tim Lincecum, was one of baseball’s best pitchers with one of baseball’s craziest deliveries. At 25-years-old, Lincecum was a back-to-back Cy Young Award winner, and strikeout artist like no other. From 2008-2011,  he had an unbelievable pitch make up, a fastball that topped out at 100mph, and baseball’s deadliest changeup.

After 2011, things started to go downhill for Lincecum, he was no longer “The Freak.” He was losing velocity on his fastball, his changeup wasn’t what it used to be, he was walking more batters, strikeouts were going down, home runs per nine innings were going up – the wheels seemed to be coming off. In 2012, he had a career-high 15 losses, and a career worst 5.18 ERA, the next two seasons were better, but not much better, even with a mediocre ERA, was still able to throw two no-hitters in two seasons.

Something had to be done, two no-hitters in two seasons isn’t a fluke, Lincecum still had the ability but just couldn’t put it all together again. What made him great was his makeup – he was able to keep batters off-balance. They knew with two strikes, a changeup was coming and they still couldn’t hit it. Something had to be done to help fix Lincecum.

Back to basics.

Lincecum’s father, Chris Lincecum was very crucial to the development of his delivery, and before Spring Training, helped him fix what was broken.

The 2015 season has been good to Lincecum, so far. Through six games, he has a 3-2 record with a 2.00 ERA. But what has changed? Well, for starters, he’s not striking out as many batters as he used to. His K/9 is 7.0, compared the previous three seasons, where his K/9 was as high as 9.2. He’s giving up less hits per nine innings, this season it’s at 7.3, the last three seasons it went from 8.4-8.9. He still drives his pitch count through the roof, but he’s being much more productive, without having to strikeout as many batters.

The velocity on all of his pitches are down, the average speed of his fastball this season is 87.6 mph, compared to last season where it was 89.6 mph. If a pitcher has great makeup, he can adjust to the loss of velocity, and still be dominant. His changeup still remains the main strikeout pitch, but it’s obviously not as effective as it used to be.

It’s hard to believe that seven years ago, he was topping out at 100 mph, and he’s lost 10 mph on his fastball but, that’s life for most flamethrowers. What those pitchers do to adjust to an aging body is what separates them from pitchers that lose velocity and just flame out.

Can he get back to Cy Young award winning form? Probably not, but he’s been dominant in four of his six starts this season. He’s definitely not going to strikeout 265 batters again, but one thing is for certain, Tim Lincecum is back.

Lincecum will be an important piece of the puzzle if the Giants want to repeat as World Series champions. It starts during the regular season where fans catch get to AT&T Park with baseball’s No. 1 travel resource Hipmunk.com, which offers thousands of flights to San Francisco from a quick search. Along with flights, San Francisco hotels can be booked with a few clicks, including two options with rates under $100 per night.

3 Responses

  1. bb

    Don’t assume he’s back to quick. There’s no telling what Tim will do. He is very unpredictable. Tim is back at the moment is what the article should be titled.

    Reply
  2. obsessivegiantscompulsive

    I understand the reticience to say that Lincecum is back. Even as late as last season, he pitched well deep into July only to get dropped from the rotation soon afterward. So how does one know for certain? Well, there are no guarantees in life.

    Still, there are many different signs that he’s back as an effective pitcher. First off, even as last as last season, he was very effective for a long stretch of time, 21 starts before the wheels came off. So he’s been good, but just didn’t know how to get back to his happy mechanics when he got lost mechanically. That’s totally different than being a pitcher with the lousy ERA’s he’s had the past few years and being viewed as just plain bad, he has actually been good a lot, but lousy long enough to have lousy overall stats, which is all most analysts will look at to pronounce him gone.

    That gets to the second thing which is different this year, he worked with his Dad over the off-season. What was not mentioned in this article is that Lincecum has not worked with his Dad since 2009. So, yes, get back to basics is one way to put it, but now people have perspective as to why and when Lincecum started his downturn professionally.

    And this is important for another fact that Lincecum disclosed this off-season: he didn’t know what his mechanics are when he’s going good. This explains all his issues the past 5 seasons, he would be pitching well for a while, then he would suddenly lose it, and a key hit is given up, resulting in a crooked inning. For an example of what happens when a pitcher don’t know his mechanics when he’s going good, look at Bumgarner, he came into spring training one season showing loss of velocity, and Tidrow taught him the mechanics necessary to be effective, as Madison did not know what they were before. Now that his father, 1) not only helped him get back to basics, but 2) Tim has actually learned what they were instead of just relying on his father for tips and adjustments. This helps Tim immensely because instead of waiting to speak with his father to figure out what went wrong, after a start, he can diagnose himself in-game and, say, not give up a bunch of runs while his mechanics are off until he can speak to his father again.

    For all these reasons, I think Lincecum is back, but as noted, there is no telling what Tim will do until he does it. Last season, he lasted almost two-thirds of the season before driving his season into the ditch. In previous seasons, he was pretty good for the most part in the second half of the seasons. The only way to undo a negative like this is to pitch well for the entire season, then repeat. So far, so good for Timmy.

    Reply
    • Steve Benko

      Thank you so much for this comment. Very insightful – and you’re 100% right.

      Reply

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