When Tim Lincecum was called up to the major leagues in 2007, he was a 5’11, 170 pound 22-year-old pitcher out of the University of Washington. He had a fastball that topped out at 99 mph, a two seamer, a curveball, a changeup, a slider, all of which were pure nastiness. Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young Award winner, with two no-hitters, two World Series rings, and an MLB record most strikeouts in the first four seasons of a career; an impressive resume, in such a short amount of time. In his prime, The Freak was everything fans wanted to see in a pitcher.
Once he got to the MLB, he realized the major league hitters would eventually catch up to his heater, so he took some speed off of it, and then developed a devastatingly effective splitter. To be fair, his splitter and changeup look similar, (maybe it’s just a split-changeup) regardless, both were impossible to hit. He’s come pretty far from being that 4’11, 85 pound freshman at Liberty High School in Renton Washington. His freshman year of college he was just north of 130 lbs, eventually he gained weight, and left college at 155 lbs. That in itself is almost crazy to think, Lincecum was a 155 pound 22-year-old throwing just south of 100mph. Yes, he has done it all, but those aren’t the only reasons as to why Tim Lincecum is important to baseball.
There is a certain mystique about Lincecum, he had the long hair, the personality, the marijuana use, the unorthodox delivery, his nickname ‘ The Freak’ was very fitting; he was essentially a stick figure with long hair that went out and just tore opposing lineups apart. But everyone loved him, and for good reason, he was just fun to watch, and he was an all-around cool guy. In 2008 and 2009, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball, but there was something that set him apart from everyone else that wasn’t baseball related. Some of it has to do with the fact that he was always the smallest; so he had more to prove – the Pedro Martinez effect. In fact, he only made the varsity baseball team his junior year of high school. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 48th round of the 2003 MLB draft and was offered a $700,000 signing bonus. His father, Chris Lincecum, was largely responsible for molding him into the pitcher he eventually became, so by choosing to go back to school instead of signing, he held out until he was given a signing bonus large enough that his dad could retire from Boeing. The Giants drafted him 10th overall in the 2006 MLB Draft, and gave him a $2.025 million signing bonus, and his father retired. We as baseball fans love the sport for what it is but sometimes we overlook the story behind certain players.
It’s funny; there have been Cy Young Award winners in recent years that casual baseball fans have forgotten about, like Brandon Webb and Chris Carpenter. Tim Lincecum in less than two years became a baseball icon, his marketability was what made baseball fun to watch again, he was primetime television. However, he’s had a large fall from grace, since 2011 he hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00, but he’s shown signs that he can still be a factor in this league. At 30 years old, he still has a lot of gas left in the tank, two no-hitters in two seasons isn’t a coincidence. Sure, he’s lost velocity, maybe he isn’t as good as he used to be, but he’s still a guy that can win 15 games each year. He’s primed for a comeback, maybe not Cy Young caliber, but he can come back, he’s down, but not out. Lincecum is important to baseball for reasons that aren’t necessarily associated directly with baseball; he’s just plain old fun. He’s a regular guy, no ego, but still has playful banter – he is loved by his fans because he never got too big to interact with them. He’s laid back and personable, people feel they can relate to him, because he really is just a regular guy, who everyone loves. Oh, and he’s a big Hall and Oates fan, go figure. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Tim Lincecum, it’s that whenever he’s been counted out and overlooked, he has always surprised and delivered. However, even if we don’t ever see a dominant Lincecum again, the impact he’s had on baseball, its fans, and people everywhere is second to none, and that is very important.