Originally, I was just going to comment on this piece written by Grant Bisbee from the San Francisco Giants blog McCovey Chronicles. But, the more I explored his theory, the more I saw this was morphing from a comment into another patented Dubsism-style breakdown.
Either way you slice it, the dominant Tim Lincecum that won two Cy Young awards has seemingly vanished into thin air. The reasons are complex, and not plainly obvious. I think Bisbee has nailed the best take on this, but I also think he’s missing one important factor. I intend to bring out that point as I walk through his points.
Say, here I am, after another dismal Tim Lincecum start! Boy golly howdy, this is fun. His FIP tonight was Walter Johnson riding a hippogriff and wielding a flaming scimitar made of testosterone and diamonds. His actual game was a shitstorm. Again.
There were four phases to tonight’s game [Lincecum's start against the Seattle Mariners last Saturday].
Phase 1: The Fanboyening
I didn’t give a damn about the home runs. Seriously. I didn’t have a here-we-go-again moment. I didn’t start throwing things and swearing. Lincecum’s problems this year haven’t been because of dingers. He missed a pitch to Casper Wells, and he paid for it, and I’m thinking that the Jesus Montero homer came on a not-great/not-egregious slider on the inner-half of the plate. But I’m so convinced that Lincecum’s problems are entirely due to problems with runners on — mechanical or mental — that I didn’t get into a funk.
When a pitcher is in a wretched stretch, how do you tell the garden-variety bad luck from the awful pitching? It’s impossible. And because I was so sure Lincecum’s problems had to do with stretch-related issues, I chalked up the homers to the it-happens gods.
I’m agree that giving up home runs isn’t the big problem, but the number of homers he’s served up so far this season is indicative of a problem. To this point in his career, an average Tim Lincecum season sees him allow 15 long balls in a season, assuming a full campaign of 34 starts. That breaks down to .4411 home runs per start, or essentially one every other game. However, this year, Lincecum has already allowed 8 home runs in 14 starts, or .5714 long balls per start. While that is an increase of 30%, it still really only means one homer every other game.
It the other ballooning number which should have Giants fans hitting the panic button. At the 14 start point in the 2012 season, Lincecum is 40% of the way through. But far too many of his other numbers are far above what you would expect. Look at what Lincecum’s numbers actually are in 2012 compared to what would be expected after completing 40% of the season.
- Expected: 5-4, 2.74
- Actual: 2-8, 6.19
- Expected: 31.6
- Actual: 55
- Expected: 74
- Actual: 80
- Expected: 97.2
- Actual: 83
- Expected: 34
- Actual: 41
Ponder what could make all of those numbers trend downward so soon after a Cy Young winning season as you consider Bisbee’s next phase.
Phase 2: Winston Wolf’s Sound Advice
Then Lincecum started mowing Mariners down. The change was crisp. The fastball was hopping. Say, said the jerkwad who hasn’t been paying attention for the last eight games, this looks like the old Lincecum. Wurp derp herp. I wasn’t buying it.
I was so convinced of the part up there in Phase 1, that I didn’t buy into Phase 2. Lincecum looked great. But he was so good that the Mariners weren’t getting him into the stretch. Three up, three down. Three up, three down. He looked good, but he wasn’t being tested in the stretch, so I couldn’t buy in completely.
In the immortal words of the aforementioned Winston Wolf, let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks quite yet. The reason is rather simple, and noted by Bigbee’s derp guy. See, even old Lincecum got shelled once in a while, and especially with runners on base. Welcome to Phase 3…
Phase 3: Tim Lincecum Gets in the Stretch and Screws Everything Up
This happened when Tim Lincecum got into the stretch and screwed everything up. It was so, so predictable. The fifth inning started with a leadoff single. This happens to the best pitchers, like Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, and Not-In-The-Stretch Tim Lincecum. And once that happened, cripes, everything went into the sewer. So predictable. So awful.
Hell, I don’t know. I refuse to play amateur psychologist or pitching coach from 800 miles away, so I’m not going to pretend that I know if the problem is mechanics or gray matter. But when Tim Lincecum has a runner on, he’s the worst pitcher in baseball. When the bases are empty, he’s Tim Lincecum. I don’t have the aptitude to run the numbers and found out how many extra runs a pitcher would give up if he just went from the windup with every pitch, allowing runners to steal willy-nilly, as if they were moving an AT&T U-verse receiver into the garage.
But it’s already at the point where I’m wondering about it. Tim Lincecum in the windup, regardless of the runners on base, is a much better option than this. At least that would give us an idea whether it was mental or mechanical. Let the single turn into a triple with two stolen bases. Don’t care anymore. At least give us some answers. What in the absolute hell is up with Lincecum when runners get on base? I’ve never seen anything like it.
I’ve never seen anything like it with Jamie Brewington, William VanLandingham, or Todd Wellemeyer. And I sure as heck didn’t expect to see it from the guy with two Cy Youngs and a World Series win.
So, why does the presence of a base runner turn Tim Lincecum into Marilyn Manson?
BECAUSE TIM LINCECUM IS COMPLETELY INCAPABLE OF PITCHING FROM THE STRETCH!!!
So that we clearly understand each other, I’m going to say that again.
TIM LINCECUM IS COMPLETELY INCAPABLE OF PITCHING FROM THE STRETCH!!!
Somewhere, at some horrible moment in history there was this skinny kid with a wild delivery which allowed him to hurl a baseball in a virtually unhittable manner. Then there was some dipshit pitching coach who told him that once he had a runner on base, he should alter that delivery in a manner that makes his pitches more hittable than Tina Turner after Ike had a few lines of blow.
That pitching coach should have his pee-hole welded shut so he can never reproduce.
I know there is the conventional wisdom which preaches about pitching from the “stretch” with runners on base. Ostensibly, this is done to shorten the pitcher’s delivery, thus making it harder for a runner to steal a base. The trouble is in Lincecum’s case, this takes his fastball from unhittable to bounding through the outfield, if not flying over it entirely.
The bottom line if you are the Giants is that Big Time Timmy Jim is now 2-8 with a 6.19 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP. That simply can’t continue. Many other pitchers were exiled to the bullpen by this point, and the Giants insist that won’t be the case here and manager Bruce Bochy says the team has no plans to skip Lincecum’s next turn in the rotation.
Either way, this needs to get figured out now. The whole key to this problem is velocity. Lincecum’s fastball has been coming in at an average of just over 90 miles per hour this season, but I’ve seen him still hitting 94 on occasion. He still has plenty of gas in his arm, and he knows how to tap into it when he needs it, but he seems either to feel pressure to not give up runs or just hasn’t the confidence to just cut loose. There’s a bigger baseball brains in the Giants dugout who can figure out the answers, but there’s one even I can see.
TIM LINCECUM IS COMPLETELY INCAPABLE OF PITCHING FROM THE STRETCH!!!