Two years ago, Tim Lincecum would be heading into the end of another tremendous season for the San Francisco Giants. The Freak as they call him, was one of baseball’s most lethal pitchers and someone that every manager wanted for the front of their rotation.
Fast forward to 2013, Lincecum is coming off of a career worst season in 2012 and is facing another one in 2013.
2013 has not been a kind year for Lincecum, though it’s been a lot less harsh than 2012 was. In fact, the one positive that Lincecum can take away from this season is his first career no-hitter that he threw on July 13 against the Padres in San Diego. Other than that, 2013 shows us again that Lincecum has become a vulnerable target for hitters and is seemingly getting tagged for multiple runs a game, sometimes even in the first inning. This trend that has started for the right-hander is one that we honestly can’t expect to see continue.
We all know Lincecum is a great pitcher, I mean they don’t just hand out back-to-back Cy Young Awards to any Joe Schmo who pitches in the majors. However, with his bloated 4.53 ERA on the season and a 6-13 record to boot, Lincecum is having a second year in a row where hitters have completely locked in on him. Last season, Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy tried another approach with the 29 year-old and that was have him pitch out of the bullpen, a role in which Lincecum seemed to flourish. The problem is however, Lincecum is simply not a reliever and he knows that, it’s just figuring out how to re-work his mechanics that has been the biggest hiccup for him.
A lot of people point to the fact that his fastball has lost some velocity to it, and that may be a big reason why he’s getting blasted. In 2008, Lincecum’s fastball had an average velocity of 94 mph, whereas in 2013, it’s nearly fallen by four to 90.2 mph. That’s a tremendous drop for a pitch that’s suppose to be the main weapon in the arsenal, so that very well could explain his struggles. Some people may point their fingers at his walks, but actually Lincecum’s walk percentage went down from 10.9 in 2012 to 9.1 this season, so he’s not giving away as many free passes.
Looking at it more closely, a lot of Lincecum’s stats aren’t nearly as high as last year’s, so clearly he’s avoided imploding like he did 2012. Still, 2013 has been unfriendly for him and pitching in one of the most notorious pitchers’ parks (AT&T Park) in the MLB, it’s really hard to imagine why he’s having such a rough go of things. If anything, Lincecum has seen a rise in K/9 from 2012 of 9.19 to 9.24 and a drop in HR/9 of 1.11 to 0.94.
Whatever the reason may be for Lincecum’s drastic change from 2011 to the present still remains at large. The velocity drop of his fastball may contribute to it, because a lot of his numbers such as hitters walked, BABIP and WHIP are down from last year, so what’s the reason for his decline? Maybe it’s premature to say Lincecum is in a decline, because you don’t seen many 29 year-old pitchers who were dominant for so long just fall off before they hit that turning point.
Perhaps a change of scenery would be best for the Freak, but he seems to have grown fond of San Francisco. After all, Lincecum won two World Series titles and two Cy Young Awards while in a Giants’ uniform, so maybe he’s going through a phase that needs to see the rust wear off. The only other place Lincecum may fit into would be the Seattle Mariners, from his home state of Washington.
The future for Lincecum remains a mystery even today. He seems to have many shaky starts anymore, but does well out of the bullpen and usually in long relief. Is a change of scenery in order since he will be a free-agent after this season, or will the Giants have a role for him? This situation for Timmy doesn’t have much of an answer at the moment.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs.