What more can we really expect out of Tim Lincecum? I mean, the guy's started the All-Star game, won two Cy Young's and a World Series in his short tenure in the league. Still, Lincecum has created from himself and those who watch him a level of expectation, that even though he hasn't pitched incredibly terrible this season, he's been performing much lower than anyone could have expected, even him.
But no one, including Lincecum, can really put a finger on the root of the problem either, with every one coming up with some minor mechanical tweak or theory as to answer the question 'why?'
The Cove's Will Brinson took a look at Timmy's pitch F/X over the course of his 2012 starts, focusing on velocity. Lincecum was throwing above 90 consistently throughout the night on Wednesday, something he had been struggling with all season. He hit 93 on the radar for the first time all season, but overall his velocity ha steadily been declining since 2008, so maybe this should be such a surprise.
It was a better outing for sure, but it's not just his velocity, it's also his control, though he limited himself to just two walks last night. Still, Timmy couldn't get away from that one quagmire inning that sunk him:
"The outcome isn't what I wanted," Lincecum said. "I still had that one rough inning that kicked the team in the butt.
Before last night's start Lincecum had an 18.00 ERA in the first inning, though his explosion came in the fourth on Wednesday. CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly was more worried more about his mechanics than his velocity though, discussing what might be an interesting source of his recent slump.
Lincecum's mechanics are gymnastic. They require flexibility and body control. You don't see many Olympic gymnasts competing into their late 20s and beyond.
I like the way Baggarly phrases this, and he's right, most gymnasts aren't competing at the highest level much longer than their mid twenties. Timmy is a freak mechanically and is againg like the rest of us, but it works for him because of rhythm, timing, and fluidity; not to mention confidence. Baggs noted Timmy hasn't lost any spring in his step, but could be in tune for a bit of metamorphosis as a starting pitcher:
I do think that Lincecum feels he has to reinvent himself in a sense. His changeup remains a terrific pitch, but it's not as lethal as it used to be. He's hearing so much about pitching to contact, and yet his team isn't very good at catching the ball...It can't make him feel good to gaze upon the stat page. More than that, he knows his teammates rely on him to be the ace. And he's being paid like one, too...Those are all mental pockets of lightning sand he has to avoid.
There is still lots of season to turn it around and Lincecum certainly has many years ahead of him in the big leagues to make tweaks, though he is still showing signs that he never really left (41 K in 36.2 IP in 2012).
That dreaded 'bad inning' that has been following him almost every start now throws him completely off his rhythm, leaving him on the mound much longer than he should be, usually in the stretch. If he can avoid that, I think he'll be just fine. But if he can't (especially if it's the 1st inning) he's gonna have a bad time.