As most Giants fans know, the two-time Cy Young award winner, four-time all-star and dazzler on the mound known as Tim Lincecum has not been his self in 2012.
Not even close.
After yesterdays 5-0 loss to the Texas Rangers (all five runs earned by Lincecum), Lincecum’s ERA is now at an even 6.00 on the year. Before this season, his career ERA stood at an impressive 2.98. Yeah, he is pitching about half as well as he usually has – yikes!
We have seen him suffer since Opening Day in Arizona – two home runs in the first inning and an eventual 5-4 loss. Giants fans could live with that game as they knew he would bounce back.
San Francisco Giants' starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) talks to pitching coach Dave Righetti. ( Nhat V. Meyer )
“He just had the jitters that’s all…” we would say with our noses pointed toward the sky. Ha!
Now, over a third of the way through this season, Tim Lincecum has started in 13 games, while the Giants are 2-11 in those same games.
“Well wins aren’t a good stat to represent a pitchers abili-” You know what? Fine, I wont use wins. I can use his ERA like I did earlier (which is 6.00 need I remind you!), or perhaps the good ‘ol WHIP for good measure (oh by the way, it’s 1.58, .40 more than his career average)?
Let’s face it, there is something freaky going on with “The Freak” because he isn’t pitching like he has in the past. The amount of strikeouts isn’t concerning, he still has great strikeout stuff. He has struck out 77 batters in the 72 innings pitched thus far (roughly 9.6 per nine innings – well above league average and his normal pace).
One big standout from previous seasons is his 4.9 walks per nine innings compared to his career 3.3. He just had four walks yesterday making a grand total of six games with four or more walks. Granted, two of those games were rare wins where he earned one run or less, but you get my point.
I also have to recognize the glimpses of the old Lincecum we have seen this season. His eight inning, 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres on April 28. He allowed just three hits (four walks, blegh) and one run while striking out five to earn his second win of the year.
He hasn’t won since.
He came close about a month later against the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park. He lasted seven innings, gave up four hits, five walks(!!), one run and six strikeouts, but the Giants ended up losing that game 4 to 1.
So what has been the problem? Somehow the amount of walks he lets on haven’t been a problem (although I think he has been really lucky so far in this category), but I believe its the length in which he pitches in games that is ruining him.
Here is a chart on the amount of runs Lincecum has given up in each inning this season:
Okay, the fiirst thing that jumps out at me is his 8+ ERA in the first inning. Once he passes the first he is usually lights out until the fourth inning, where he tends to struggle as well. After the fourth though, he is very dominant in the fifth, having yet to allow a run in that inning.
Then we move into the sixth inning…
He holds a 16.19 ERA in the sixth inning, and has only made it out alive six times out of his 13 starts. In the sixth inning, his WHIP is also at a bloated 2.25 (welllllll above average). Batters are hitting .385 off of Lincecum in the sixth inning. To compare, the second highest batting average against in an inning is .298 in the fourth inning – which is by far his second worse inning.
The sad part about Lincecum’s starts is when he pitches really good one inning, and then completely falls apart the next. Take yesterday’s game for example: in the first inning he walks the bases loaded only to get out by the skin of his teeth; the second inning goes smoothly, striking out the side – no hits, no walks.
Giants fans are going: “Yes! Timmy is baaaaack <3 <3 !!” one inning, and then by the end of the night, I (somehow) listen to disgruntled fans call into KNBR post-game show telling Marty Laurie to trade Lincecum for Starlin Castro* or to demote Lincecum to AAA-Fresno.
Honestly, I don’t think that’s what he needs.
Disclaimer: I am not a pitching guru, nor am I a professional coach and/or athelete.
Lincecum needs to be babied. As much as I hate how managers keep close eyes on pitch counts and how much work they are making their starting pitchers do, I feel Lincecum is not in the peak physical condition to pitch seven to eight innings every night (let alone six).
Pitch him next outing for four innings, no matter the score or if he is pitching a two-hitter. If he complains, tell him to stop complaining. The outing after that, give him five innings, see how he does. After that, stretch it to six, and then seven until he reaches the level of comfort he once had.
I have no clue if this idea will work as it’s just an idea, but I feel like he loses his confidence after the fifth inning and gives up hanging curve balls which turn into four-run innings. He needs to build up his confidence again, as he has been a completely different pitcher ever since spring training began.
I’m sure everyone has their beliefs as so why Lincecum is pitching so poorly, and my guess is as good as yours (or Dave Righetti’s, or Bruce Bochy’s or even Tim Lincecum’s). One thing is for sure: Timmy needs to pitch like Timmy.
*Can we put this ridiculous “[blank] for Castro!” business to rest?? He will not be traded from Chicago anytime soon ever.