Tagged: Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum –Prognostication Update

This is a
follow up on a piece I did prior to Lincecum being called up where I discussed erroneous
early assumptions on my part, his mechanics, and took a look to the future. At
one point I made reference to discussions on Lincecum with three professionals;
one of whom I made the reference “grinned like the
cat that ate the canary, hinted, but refused to share.” This was none other
than Will Carroll, who I’ve had dialogue with since he was exclusively with
Baseball Prospectus, me with Rotowire; the two baseball news organizations of
differing roots having had a relationship for years. At the time of our correspondence
Will had a contractual obligation to not say anything, a video piece for
MLB.com pending.

 

The piece is now out, found here, and discusses many of the issues
I touched upon, but going well beyond my little Blog entry. I love this work
for its simplicity; Will has taken the high-end topic and broken it down visually,
making it clear to every level of viewer. I personally like the time spent on
the hip turn as I’ve often drawn analogies to golf for generating force through
the turn, but mainly in reference to hitting; Lincecum’s extreme use a rarity
in a major league pitcher. The one problem area Will’s video illustrates clearly
is the strain on both the back and abdomen; my concern probably more to the
oblique muscles as the potential injury area short term.

 

My comparison to Sandy Koufax was also done better in the video,
later, Mr. Carroll threw a John Smoltz comp at me for a potential long term
career discussion. That’s a good topic for a later date, although it belongs in
an article more than a Blog post; mine are already too long. For now I’ll note
Smoltz as possibly the National League strikeout King in 2007 – the old guy
versus the young in Jake Peavy – but should yield the title to Lincecum in 2008
with the Big Unit finally showing his age and unlikely to make 34 starts a
season again. Despite this lofty view of his talent, Lincecum is unlikely to
win an ERA title or a CY Young award in the near future, the control issue at the
forefront of this projection. I’m still uncertain what the long-term future
holds; the injury issue still present in my mind, believing he won’t be able to
last as a starter into his 30s without re-inventing his mechanics to put a
little less stress on the right side of his trunk. For now, just enjoy the
ride, for he is the most exciting young pitcher to come up this decade, even if
he’s ultimately not the best. And I’m not known for tossing about this type of
accolade lightly.

Tim Lincecum – Changing My Mind On The Hour

For a myriad ofreasons I originally tagged Giants’ pitching prospect as a future
closer and prospect-ranked him behind Homer Bailey, Phillip Hughes,
Adam Miller, and Yovanni Gallardo. Not that there’s anything wrong with
being a Top-Five pitching prospect, but the results at the end of April
have forced further review.

 Bailey’s
early tenure in the Triple-A International League has gone as smooth as
one could hope, posting a 1-1 record through four starts with 1.69 ERA,
a 0.980 WHIP, and an opponents batting average of .167 through 21 and a
third innings. The only blemish statistically is a 13/9 K: BB rate;
good for a mediocre 5.48 strikeout-per-nine rate. But I’m still very
comfortable with his placement, my recently revamped method for
evaluating power pitchers still untested; will be until the current
crop has been major leaguers for a few years.

 I
feel the same way about Hughes; currently up for what will likely be a
short stay, and hit hard in first start, but unlikely to stick or fail
to improve as the season progresses. Miller has been impressive as
well, giving up a few too many hits in his first start – likely due to
inclement weather conditions – but hung tough netting a 2.88 ERA in
four starts with a 23/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 25 innings. The
Triple-A minor league test is often about facing adversity and Miller
passes the early trial. But Gallardo over in the Pacific Coast League
has been the most dominant of the four breezing through the trial with
a 3-21 record in four starts, complete with a 2.35 ERA — artificially
high due to a tough opening day outing – while his next three were pure
giving up two runs in total. A 33/8 K: BB ratio gives him a 12.91
strikeout average and a 0.910 WHIP.

Despite these four
outstanding early successes Lincecum is the talk of the high minors.
Including Sunday’s six-inning shutout performance in which he allowed
three hits and no walks while striking out 14, he’s now allowed one run
in five starts, that coming in his previous no-hit outing earlier in
the week where a bout of wildness had him walking a half-dozen. He
currently sits at 4-0 despite a lack of run support with a paltry 0.29
ERA, a 0.74 WHIP, an opponents batting average of .119 accompanied by a
13.35 strikeout rate.

Since
the minor league season began I’ve tracked these five with more gusto
than usual, viewing the starts when possible and looking at film. In
the case of Lincecum, one might argue I’ve virtually stalked him the
past 10 days, reading and processing everything I could lay my eyes
too. After Sunday’s start, I sat and watched his pitching motion
frame-by-frame for 90-plus minutes, looking for a mechanical
imperfection or some key to evaluating his future. While his motion is
recklessly fast and violent there are few flaws I noted, none seem
fatal. I’ve read interviews with him, his father Chris, his former
coaches, and reviewed his history, his makeup, his physical prowess,
and his perceived intangibles. I then corresponded with the few
professionals I know to see if they had any additional kernels of
wisdom on the issue; one grinned like the cat that ate the canary,
hinted, but refused to share, one turned the question back to me and
yet another hide behind old-school logic. I changed my mind a number of
times over the evening, but early this morning I eventually came to a
final conclusion, a shoe I found comfort in, but continue to hold the
right to change again should I find an expert opinion on one nagging
question.

 I
find my earlier analysis flawed, believing I put too much faith in the
hands of others, who knew as little as myself on this unique situation, and placed too much
emphasis on traditional thinking. Always look to history, remembering
the Dodgers blunder of trading promising pitching prospect Pedro
Martinez – and John Wetteland – for Delino DeShields, on the basis that
he was too small by the common scouting standard. Looking past
Lincecum’s petite stature, the volatile pitching motion he uses to
create the upper 90s velocity from the slight frame should be cause for
concern as a starter, especially while laboring in a long inning. But
the facts in evidence are he’s been doing it for a decade without
injury, he’s extremely strong for his size with gymnastic-type
athleticism, and he’s almost perfect through the motion. And he’s
thrown 110 pitches previously without incident.

 So
despite my original misgivings, he should be a starting pitcher, the
better use of his extreme and unusual talents. But also with an eye on
history comes one glaring concern. His father taught him to throw like
Sandy Koufax; a great, dominating pitcher for a short time before
succumbing to injury. If we assume everything noted is inline and he
can pitch long outings with the motion, it’s due largely to his
athleticism, buoyed of course by youth. What happens as he ages? Will
it be a short career, or a short career as a starter? Perhaps one of
the experts in this field will take up my cause and write a prognosis
that answers this question.