Tim Lincecum: At the Intersection of Up and Down


Sep 26, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants fans hold up signs starting pitcher Tim Lincecum during the fifth inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

You know Tim Lincecum has reached the ultimate heights in Celebrity-Ville when you see him referred to as Timmy, and everyone knows who you’re talking about. It’s kind of like another pitcher, who pitched in an earlier era, Sandy [Sandy Koufax]. The resemblance pretty much ends there, as Sandy was a southpaw and pitched for the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers his entire career, but they both experienced control issues that overshadowed their brilliance for extended periods of time while winning multiple Cy Young awards. Now Timmy is at the intersection of up versus down, and he’s been heavily affected by gravity for a couple of seasons now.

What does Timmy need to do to regain that intimidating presence, the one where feared batters flail away as that pitch tails away and down? Where down is a good thing? Timmy needs to make the inevitable transition from dominant to devious, which he has been dabbling in, and he needs to do it this season. To accomplish this, Timmy has about 17 things to do. I’m joking! I wouldn’t presume to tell Tim Lincecum what he should do. I might run five strategies up the flagpole, though, and see if he salutes any, but that’s as far as it goes.

You see, Timmy’s delivery is about as straightforward as Lombard Street. He has more moving parts than a Swiss watch, so if some component is out of synch, he’s likely to go into a time warp. He has already mastered several of the specialty pitches that keep batters off-balance, but Timmy has to learn that even the slightest variation on a theme produces movement on the ball, and leaves the batter guessing. Tim Hudson has a lot of experience which means he has a lot of secrets. So first off, Timmy needs to be a listener.

Sep 20, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning of a game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Now listening is all well and good, but it means nothing if you have a set mind. What Timmy needs to do is be open to suggestions, to consider them, mull them over and then experiment. He does not have to jump when Hudson says so, and it’s wise to hedge your bets, but you just don’t want to hold on to your cards when the stakes get too high, unless you’re certain. Hudson’s never had a sub-500 win/loss record for a season, and he’s the winningest pitcher in the bigs with 205 victories. Timmy has to recognize that there are others besides his dad/mentor who can guide him in his transition.

Thirdly, Timmy is as laid back as the Great Lebowski, but walking batters does not lead to tranquility; Timmy needs to regain control. It’s a confidence thing and we’re all aware that when the spotlight known as the world series focuses in on Timmy, it’s lights out for the opposing batters. He needs to gain control in spring training and take that with him into April, and maybe that glaring statistic about holding runners on, will lose its intensity. Fewer walks equate to fewer base stealing attempts.

It’s no secret that Timmy has been known to rank dead last in stolen base efficiency. Is it because he does have such confidence? That’s not confident-that’s cocky. A lot of folks think that because Timmy does not have a game-face like The Mad Hungarian, as they used to call Al Hrabosky, back in the seventies, and that Timmy’s game-face looks more like your grinning Uncle Bob, so that means it carries over to his game. Laid back doesn’t cut it on the mound. It’s laziness and the Timmy I know and respect is not lazy. So fourth on the flagpole is beef up the security, lad, before you lose the farm.

Finally, Timmy needs to abandon the northern part of home plate and think South. Keep your pitches low, Timmy, and revel in the fact that free-swingers Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence are on your team. The idea is to try an induce ground balls. Tim Hudson is a disciple of the low pitch and he’s had a lot of success. I know, weird, huh.

Maybe Timmy will be all ears and take in what is offered in the way of advice, or maybe he will grow his hair out again and block it out. Or maybe he will listen, grow his hair out and pitch the Giants to the playoffs again. He’s a talented fellow and I’m sure a little multi-tasking is within his grasp, so it all could result in another Cy Young trophy residing within the same grasp. After all, Sandy had three.