The diminutive right-handed starter for the San Francisco Giants has become quite accustomed to success during his 6-year career. Two Cy Young Awards in your first three years in the league will do that to you. Even in 2011, with a mediocre win total of 13-14, Lincecum was dominant, posting a 2.74 ERA and 220 strike-outs.
So when 2012 started, with Lincecum entering his prime at the age of 28-years-old, no one would have predicted the struggles he’s endured this season. Certainly, one could point to the fact that he has thrown an average of 220 innings over the last four seasons as a sign that he was due for a regression, but he had shown no evidence that the workload was wearing him down. Still, here we are, in the first weeks of September and Big Time Timmy Jim is leading the National League in two categories, losses (14) and wild pitches (15), all while posting only 8 wins and an ERA (5.21) that is more than double his average coming into this season.
Moreover, he has shown that during his 2012 campaign, he has been victimized not only by his higher walk total and lower velocity, but also sheer bad luck, as his BaBIP (.328) is currently 66 points higher than his actual opponents batting average (.262). That says nothing of the difference between his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP – 3.86) and his current ERA (5.21).
But all is not lost true believers! While the numbers are still ugly and Lincecum’s velocity is still sitting in the high-80′s, low-90′s, there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. Any good pitcher will tell you that the key to working out of a funk is continuing to take the mound and find your groove.
Lincecum appears to have found it.
Over his last 10 trips to the mound, dating back to a July 14th start against Houston, Lincecum has mustered a record of 5-4 with a 3.26 ERA and 58 strike-outs over 60.2 innings pitched. It is a small upgrade, but it certainly has shown the level of perseverance Lincecum has committed to in order to overcome his monstrous start to the season.
The Giants are going to hope that it is a sign of continued success as well. They have opened up a 4.5 game lead over the Dodgers heading into Tuesday’s games, riding the arms of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong while Lincecum worked his kinks out, but they will need him at the top of his game when the playoffs roll around.
As they’ve shown in the past, a stellar four-man staff is tough to beat in a short series and having Lincecum at the top of his game will give San Francisco the best staff in the postseason.
In addition to his work at Call to the Pen, Kyle can be found casting his thoughts on small market baseball on The Baseball Big Brother Project. You can also follow his other dribbles on twitter @BBallBigBrother