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Entries in San Francisco Giants (49)

Wednesday
Aug142013

The Freak Getting Hitters to Chase 

While the San Francisco Giants won't have the chance to defend their World Series title this October, Tim Lincecum has plenty riding on the rest of the 2013 season.

The 29-year-old righty hits the free agent market this winter sporting two Cy Young Awards but also a combined 73 ERA+ over the 2012-13 seasons, worst among starting pitchers throwing at least 300 innings over that time frame. From 2007-11, by contrast, he had a 137 ERA+.  (An average ERA+ is 100, with a score over 100 indicating that a pitcher has performed better than the average, and a score below 100 pointing to below-average performance.) 

Lincecum's core stats -- strikeouts, walks, grounders -- suggest he deserves better than the middling 4.18 ERA that he carries into his Wednesday start against the Nationals as indicated by his fielding-independent ERA of 3.49 (FIP determines the quality of a pitcher's performance by eliminating plate appearance outcomes that involve defensive play. The basic pitcher-dependent outcomes are home runs, walks and strikeouts.). What's especially promising for Lincecum's 2014 free-agent prospects is how he has dramatically lowered his walk rate over the course of the season. 

Lincecum's declining walk rate

Lincecum issued a free pass to 13.2% of batters faced in April, well north of the 7.4% average for National League starting pitchers.

That walk rate has declined each month since then, however: 

  • 8.9% of batters faced in May
  • 7.9% in June
  • Just 6.6% in July-August. 

The Freak didn't suddenly start firing more pitches over the plate -- his percentage of pitches thrown within the strike zone has hovered around 50% most of the season, and is actually lower since the beginning of July (45%). Rather, Lincecum has induced more hitters to chase his stuff off the plate.

Check out his opponent chase rate by pitch location:

April

May

June

July-August

Lincecum got hitters to expand their strike zones just 21.4% of the time in April, a far cry from the 27% MLB average. His chase rate has steadily climbed since then: 24.6% in May, 25.9% in June, and 32% in July-August. With that, his batting average against has benefited dramatically because it's hard to get wood on pitches out of the zone. His BAA in May was .294, in June .263, in July .212, in August it's .140.

He's getting more chases with both his changeup and breaking stuff, and most of those wild swings are coming on pitches thrown at or below the knees.

In April, Lincecum had a 25.4% chase rate on pitches tossed to the lower third of the zone. That lower-third chase rate has soared: 26.8% in May, 35.3% in June, and 40.1% in July-August.

It remains to be seen as to whether his value in off-season will soar as well.

Sunday
Jul142013

Tim Lincecum's No-Hitter Heat Map & Nine to Know

The Jeopardy answer: Not bloody likely.

The Jeopardy question: Do you think that Tim Lincecum will throw his first no-hitter in 2013?

But, the Freak as he is lovingly called by his fans (you don't want to know what he is called by his detractors) threw 148 (!) pitches at the San Diego Padres who did not hit one of them for a base hit.

He struck out 13 and walked four and hit a batter in the 9-0 victory. His 148 pitches is the second most for a no-hitter exceeded only by Arizona's Edwin Jackson's 149 against the Rays on June 25, 2010.

Hunter Pence's Great Game and Great Catch

Hunter Pence drove in five runs with a groundball, a three-run triple and his 14th home run but even without his five RBI, the Giants would have won, but Lincecum would not have a no-hitter without his great catch. 

Lincecum said, “That was really special. To be honest with you I thought that was a hit off the bat. Hunter comes flying in out of nowhere and makes the Superman catch. It was hard not to feed off the excitement that that caused.”

Pablo Sandoval makes the play

Pence's brilliant catch became the web gem of the night only after Pablo Sandoval's great play at third to end the 7th when the Panda came up huge on a grounder to third.

Nine to Know

  1. Lincecum threw 148 pitches to 32 batters 96 were for strikes with 73 swings, 29 misses.
  2. The average velocity of his pitches were 84 mph, with a peak of 91.5.
  3. Batters fouled off 30 of his pitches, took 23 called strikes, and chased 36 pitches out of the zone.
  4. Lincecum mixed his pitches throwing 61 fastballs, 36 sliders, 29 curves, and 21 changeups.
  5. He produced 13 whiffs, two line drives, six fly balls, and six grounders.
  6. Lincecum went to three balls on nine batters, walking four and whiffing two.
  7. Lincecum went to two strikes on 25 batters, walking two and whiffing 13.
  8. Lincecum's 148 pitches were the most thrown this season exceeding Clayton Kershaw's 132 against the Nationals on May 14, and the 130 thrown by Yu Darvish (5/16) and Anibal Sanchez (5/24).
  9. Lincecum's previous high pitch game was September 13, 2008 when he four-hit, you guessed it, the Padres.
Monday
Jul012013

Posey, Molina, Miggy Among MLB's Best Junk Ball Hitters

In general, swinging at pitches thrown out of the strike zone is about as sound a strategy as playing in traffic. Batters are hitting a paltry .177 and slugging .238 this season when they go after stuff thrown off the plate -- not far off the .148 average and .195 slugging percentage that pitchers have managed when swinging themselves. Put another way, taking a cut at junk thrown out of the zone makes you about as effective a hitter as the man throwing the pitch.

While swinging at would-be balls is disastrous for most hitters, some still manage to do damage even when they go after pitches only Vlad Guerrero would think are strikes. Buster Posey and Yadier Molina aren't just the best catchers in baseball -- they're also the game's best bad-ball hitters in 2013. Miguel Cabrera, whose league-leading 203 OPS+ is highest for a Tigers hitter since Ty Cobb, has also been excellent when he goes fishing out of the strike zone. Posey, Molina and Miggy rank in the top five in slugging percentage when swinging at pitches thrown out of the zone.

Highest slugging percentage vs. out-of-zone pitches (through Friday's games)

Posey doesn't chase pitches all that often -- 21.9% of the time, which is well under the 27.3% MLB average. But when he does, he usually expands his zone horizontally and hammers pitches thrown in on the hands or off the outside corner.

Posey's slugging percentage by location against out-of-zone pitches

Molina, meanwhile, chases at a slightly higher than average clip (28.3%) and inflicts pain on pitchers who venture too far inside. Eight of his nine extra-base hits on stuff thrown out of the zone have come against inside pitches.

Molina's slugging percentage by location against out-of-zone pitches

Cabrera goes after more off-the-plate pitches than Posey or Molina (28.8%), but he's similar to San Francisco's All-Star backstop in that he crushes stuff thrown inside or off the outside corner. Miggy has four home runs on pitches thrown out of the strike zone, tying him with Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Davis and Adrian Gonzalez for the major league lead.

Cabrera's slugging percentage by location against out-of-zone pitches