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Entries in Tim Lincecum (17)

Friday
Feb242012

Lincecum Looking For More Strikes With Fastball

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:

YearPct. In Strike ZoneStrike Pct.
2009 53.5 64.4
2010 51.6 63.8
2011 49.4 62.7
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:

Frequency of Lincecum's fastball location, 2009

Frequency of Lincecum's fastball location, 2010

Frequency of Lincecum's fastball location, 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.

Sunday
Sep042011

Lincecum's Ups and Downs

Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants pitched a strange game on Saturday night, Sept 3, 2011.  Facing the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks with a division race on the line, Tim struck out seven batters in five innings.  A high strikeout rate like that usually leads to few hits, as strikeouts limit the number of balls in play that can go for hits.  The Diamondbacks, however, managed hits on nine of 16 balls in play against Tim.  How did Lincecum manage to pitch both poorly and well in the same game?

Tha answer lies in location.  Tim usually gets his strikeouts on pitches that batters chase low out of the strike zone:

Tim Lincecum, pitch frequency on strikeouts, 2011.Saturday night, Tim's strikeouts were up:

Tim Lincecum, pitch frequency on strikeouts, 2011-09-03.This was his problem throughout the night.  His pitches were up in the hittable part of the strike zone:

 Tim Lincecum, pitch frequency, 2011-09-03.

Compare that to his frequency for the year.

 

Tim Lincecum, pitch frequency, 2011.Tim moves a batter's eyes up and down in the zone.  On Saturday, he mostly kept his pitches in a single plane.  It's a credit to his ability that even when he didn't have his best stuff, Lincecum was able to strike out seven.  That wasn't enough to overcome the phat pitches he left in the strike zone, however.

Friday
Jul292011

Under the Weather, Lincecum Blanks Phillies

Tim Lincecum was scratched from scheduled starts against Philadelphia on Tuesday and Wednesday while battling a stomach illness. On Thursday, he returned to the mound and had Phillies hitters feeling nauseous. Lincecum went six scoreless innings, striking out six batters and walking four while surrendering three hits. Lincecum's fastball didn't have its typical zip, but he compensated by going to the soft stuff more often.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel summed up Lincecum's stuff, as well as his frustration with his offense:

"Tonight I saw 90 [mph] fastball, 92 at the best," Manuel said. "I saw a good changeup. I saw a breaking ball. I saw a cutter. Good pitching, but at the same time we can beat that."

Perhaps still feeling the effects of that stomach bug, Lincecum averaged 91.1 MPH with his fastball on Thursday, compared to his 92.4 MPH overall average this season. He went to that lower-octane heater less often than usual: Lincecum threw 42 fastballs in 101 pitches (41.6 percent), compared to his 55.4 percent average in 2011. Phillies hitters missed just one of the 17 fastballs that they swung at.

With his fastball not fooling hitters and his breaking stuff missing the mark (a little more than half were thrown for strikes), Lincecum called on his changeup often. He threw 33 on Thursday, with excellent results. Philly missed 10 of the 20 changeups swung at, flailing at the pitch as it tumbled out of the strike zone:

Location of Phillies hitters' swinging strikes against Lincecum's changeup Lincecum got four of his Ks with his changeup, all of them swinging.  Ryan Howard, Domonic Brown, Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley all fell victim to the change.

As his four walks and 11 first-pitch strikes in 25 batters faced suggest, Lincecum wasn't at his best on Thursday. But he adapted his approach, realizing that while his fastball wasn't as nasty as usual, he had a killer changeup that could shut down Phillies hitters.