Starting the year 0-1 and with a 12.91 ERA isn’t a line that you’d expect from a perennial CY Young candidate such as Tim Lincecum. But yes, that is Lincecum’s line through his first two starts of the 2012 campaign.
The two-time Cy Young award winner is off to his worst start since entering the big leagues, and he’s far from Cy Young form. But the question is, should San Francisco Giants fans be concerned about their ace after just two poor starts?
Anyone who follows baseball knows that Tim Lincecum has some of the nastiest stuff in the game. From his changeup to his cutter, he can put batters away in a variety of fashions. Where has his stuff gone, though? It hasn’t gone anywhere. Lincecum has struck out ten and walked three batters in 7.2 innings pitched. His stuff isn’t giving him problems.
So, why did the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies absolutely pound Lincecum in his first two starts?
Location, location, location.
The former Cy Young award winner has been leaving hanging changeups and curveballs right in hitters’ happy zones. He’s just not hitting his spots and if you’re not hitting your spots, it doesn’t matter if you’re Nolan Ryan or a pitcher in single A; you’re going to get run right off the mound. Heck, it could even be the Giants’ 2011 historically worst offense, it really doesn’t matter.
A player who recently used location to be dominant is Lincecum’s own teammate, Barry Zito. Zito probably hit 85 MPH five times on Monday afternoon. The results? He tossed a complete game shutout at Coors Field.
How can a guy who barely throws 80 MPH consistently be successful in the altitude of Colorado? Zito was successful because he consistently changed speeds, used his nasty curveball to make his fastball look like it was 90 MPH, and often mixed his pitch locations. Whether it was high or low, inside or outside, batters on the Rockies didn’t know what was coming, yet he was nowhere near overpowering with his fastball.
Take note Mr.Lincecum…
Now, the speed of Lincecum’s fastball is what really has Giants fans in panic mode because they have grown accustomed to Lincecum throwing in the mid to high 90’s for the past five years. His average fastball speed in his first start against the Diamondbacks was a tick under 90 MPH—not even close to normal for Lincecum. He comes back in his second start and tops out at 92; should fans be concerned?
It’s worth noting that Lincecum’s fastball speed was also low in spring training. If you want to go by trends, Lincecum is often a slow starter. He usually struggles in spring training, which leads to a couple bad starts early in the season and it’s no coincidence that he has followed a similar trend in 2012.