Inconsistencies: Why is Tim Lincecum struggling?


May 2, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher

Tim Lincecum

(55) pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Minutes after watching Tim Lincecum struggle through another start, one must ponder; why is Tim Lincecum so inconsistent? Personally, I was very optimistic about Lincecum’s chances of winning the rubber match of the series for the San Francisco Giants. Fresh off, of a couple of quality starts, Lincecum looked to have finally overcome his struggles and completed his transition into a back end starter. Nope, I was wrong, again.

There are a couple of key problems; some fixable, some not so fixable. First, the rather, let’s say complex, mechanics. Lincecum has one of the most complex wind-ups in the game, with lots of moving parts between setting up and releasing the ball. Naturally, when a pitcher is struggling for control, mechanics are the first thing to review. Lincecum’s are so complicated, it’s easier said than done to simply, iron out the problems in his mechanics.

However, mechanics aren’t the real issue. The wind-up that defines Lincecum has had so much success over his career, and even this season. We must simply place our faith into Lincecum and hope that he will be in top form and in full control of his mechanics.

Pitch selection is Lincecum’s biggest demon. After watching him pitch a mere five innings, his pitch selection genuinely shocked me. Given that I’m sitting at home watching the game, as opposed to sitting in the dugout with the team, it isn’t clear who the issue can be pinned on. Regardless, whether it’s Dave Righetti, the pitching coach, Hector Sanchez behind the plate or Lincecum himself, he needs to start selecting the right pitch.

The fastball, which averages 89 mph, was Lincecum’s primary pitch. He had total faith, and reliance in his fastball despite the complete lack of control with it. Throwing it on 0-2 counts, to try and paint the corners to get the strikeout just isn’t going to work, neither is using it on three ball counts when Timmy needs a strike.

Tell me if I’m wrong, but, surely on a 0-2 or 1-2 count – when Lincecum is struggling to control his pitches – he should utilize one of his many breaking balls, which are pretty effective, and send it into mother earth to see if the hitter will fish. One out, runner on second, Andrew McCutchen at the plate. Lincecum has done well to get the upper hand with a 0-2 count, so, what does Lincecum throw next? A breaking ball down and out of the strike zone to tempt McCutchen? Nope. He throws a hanging, off-speed pitch which McCutchen gratefully knocked to right field for the RBI.

All game long, when behind in the count, Lincecum opted for his failing fastball. To put it into perspective, Lincecum has a 13% strikeout percentage with his fastball, and a 13% walk rate with his fastball. His slider on the other hand, has a  30% strikeout percentage compared to a mere 3% walk percentage. Metrics don’t lie, Lincecum’s slider is his best pitch.

Batters have a 85% contact percentage against his fastball, whereas, batters only make contact on 62% of his sliders. I could keep going, but I hope you catch my drift.

So, what exactly was the point to my ‘rant?’ People need to get off Linecums back, rather, let’s get behind him. He has the stuff and potential to have a pretty great year, providing he fixes the one almighty error of pitch selection. Let’s just cross our fingers Buster Posey is putting down on the signs on Timmy’s next start, and is able to steer him away from the disastrous fastball.