While he remains an utterly dominant starter, Tim Lincecum's control has slipped in recent years. The two-time Cy Young Award winner walked 7.5% of the batters he faced in 2009, 8.5% in 2010 and 9.6% this past year. To reverse that trend, The Freak is looking for more strikes with his fastball:
"I want to throw more strike ones," Lincecum said. "I want to get back to using my fastball to control the strike zone."
Lincecum said he will only throw fastballs and change-ups during his sessions "until I get my arm speed up to where it needs to be."
Over the past three years, Lincecum has thrown fewer fastballs in the strike zone. As a result, his strike percentage with the pitch has dropped to a few ticks below the big league average for starting pitchers:
|Year||Pct. In Strike Zone||Strike Pct.|
|2009-11 Avg. for SP||51.5||64.3|
The changes are even more dramatic to start off the at-bat. His first-pitch strike rate with the fastball has slumped from 59% in 2009 down to 53% in 2011, well below the 61% average for starters. The right-hander has gradually missed more to the arm side with his heater. Take a look at the frequency of Lincecum's fastball location in 2009, 2010 and 2011:
Lincecum's strike rate on fastballs thrown to the arm-side (the outer third to left-handed hitters, and inside to righties) has dropped from 60% in 2009 to 57% in 2010 and 56% in 2011. The average for righty starting pitchers is about 62%.
The 27-year-old's small stature, heavy workload and three-year increase in Fielding Independent Pitching (2.34 in 2009, 3.15 in 2010 and 3.17 in 2011) has some worried as Lincecum inches closer to free agency after the 2013 season. But, despite his issues with fastball control, it's important to remember that Lincecum's "decline" has taken him from best pitcher in baseball to merely among the game's greatest (his 2011 FIP was still in the top 20 among qualified starters). In other words, don't freak about The Freak.