Is Tim Lincecum Back?

After surrendering 16 runs across his first 13.2 innings, Tim Lincecum finally settled down and got good results, allowing one run through five innings of work.

The good:

  • Lincecum struck out eight of the 23 batters he faced, and had them whiffing on his fastballs. Of course, swing-and-miss stuff hasn’t really been the problem for Lincecum so far. Through his first three starts, he actually had a 23.2% strikeout rate; while that is the lowest he’s ever had in a season, it’s not a terribly significant dropoff.
  • One extra-base hit: a double. This, on the other hand, was a problem for Lincecum in his first three starts. In those previous 13.2 innings, he had allowed seven doubles, two triples, and two homers (that’s a .265 ISO!). That’s really been the root of his troubles this season — that he’s been hit hard. So it’s very nice to see this step in the right direction.
  • A strong first inning. Lincecum had allowed nine runs in three first-innings this season, so his not getting into a jam right away was a positive sign.

The bad:

  • Lincecum walked five of the 23 batters he faced. Control hasn’t been Lincecum’s problem in the early going — in fact, the 5.8% walk rate he brought into this start was a career-best  — but it’s slightly concerning to see him revert to these control issues. At the risk of jumping to conclusions, I wonder if this might suggest that he had been trading walks for hard contact — meaning this start constituted a change in his approach.
  • According to Brooks Baseball, Lincecum averaged 89.8 mph on his four-seamer, topping out at 91.9 mph. No improvement there.
  • 108 pitches. This is, of course, directly related to the high walk total.

So…is Lincecum back? Perhaps, inasmuch as he’ll be an effective pitcher from this point forward. I can’t say with any confidence, however, that Lincecum will finish 2012 with better numbers than 2011. I think this very well could be the worst season of his career. Is that a big deal? Not entirely. Pitchers tend to peak at a pretty early age, and it’s not at all atypical that Lincecum is experiencing a downward trend at this age. I’m becoming increasingly worried about the possibility of the Giants offering him a lucrative contract extension, though. It’s probably not going to be worth taking on that kind of risk, particularly given that they’ve already invested in Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain.

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One thought on “Is Tim Lincecum Back?

  1. Julian – You left this at Lefty’s a couple weeks back:

    Lincecum with two strikes…
    2012:
    .290.371.548Career: .142.206.218
    So, yes. HUGE difference.

    I didn’t see yesterday’s game but I monitored most of Timmy’s start on mlb/gameday. He is having a huge problem with those 2 strikes. The league has adjusted to him, the velocity lacking, the change up in the dirt… I don’t know the answer. But I think you’re onto something with that 2 strike stat (along with Lefty Malo)

    The other side is he just isn’t showing a lot of command, he’s not sharp. This could be adjusting to his playing weight and his footwork. He needs to continue to make adjustments. I think he will, he is a great athlete. Making a big deal about pitching to contact in spring training sticks out to me also. He hasn’t been able to get that contact with 2 strikes, or more importantly is getting the wrong kind of contact with 2 strikes as demonstrated by the stats above.

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