Buster Posey

On Tim Lincecum, two-strike pitches and velocity differential

Because I’ve grown tired of writing about the superfecta of Tim Lincecum’s possible reasons for struggling — mechanics, health, mental state, and weight — I decided to go through yesterday’s 5-0 loss to the Texas Rangers and see if I could find any other patterns that could be contributing to his slow start.

On that note, I went through and diagrammed each pitch Lincecum made with two strikes on a Rangers hitter. That includes the speed, pitch type, location and result. Here’s what I found.

1st Inning

Situation: 0-2 to Ian Kinsler (bases empty)
Pitch: 85 mph changeup
Location: just above the belt
Result: strikeout (swinging)

Situation: 3-2 to Josh Hamilton (bases empty)
Pitch: 85 mph changeup
Location: low and inside
Result: walk

Situation: 2-2 to Adrian Beltre (runner on first)
Pitch: 85 mph changeup
Location: inside, in the dirt
Result: take

Situation: 3-2 to Beltre
Pitch: 92 mph fastball
Location: up and in
Result: walk

Situation: 2-2 to David Murphy (runners on first and second)
Pitch: 83 mph slider
Location: high
Result: take

Situation: 3-2 to Murphy
Pitch: 92 mph fastball
Location: outside corner at the belt
Result: fouled off to the left

Situation: 3-2 to Murphy
Pitch: 92 mph fastball
Location: inside corner below the belt
Result: fouled just out of play near Giants dugout

Situation: 3-2 to Murphy
Pitch: 91 mph fastball
Location: down the middle
Result: fouled off to the left

Situation: 3-2 to Murphy
Pitch: 84 mph changeup
Location: in the dirt
Result: walk

Situation: 1-2 to Mike Napoli (bases loaded)
Pitch: 84 mph changeup
Location: outside corner at the knees
Result: groundout to third (inning over)

2nd Inning

Situation: 1-2 to Mitch Moreland (bases empty)
Pitch: 85 mph slider
Location: inside
Result: strikeout (swinging)

Situation: 1-2 to Craig Gentry (bases empty)
Pitch: 92 mph fastball
Location: up and in
Result: strikeout (swinging)

Situation: 0-2 to Alexei Ogando (bases empty)
Pitch: 92 mph fastball
Location: up and away
Result: take

Situation: 1-2 to Ogando
Pitch: 80 mph curveball
Location: low
Result: check-swing

Situation: 2-2 to Ogando
Pitch: 91 mph fastball
Location: down the middle
Result: strikeout (swinging)

3rd Inning

Situation: 1-2 to Elvis Andrus (bases empty)
Pitch: 91 mph fastball
Location: outside corner
Result: fouled off to the right

Situation: 1-2 to Andrus
Pitch: 92 mph fastball
Location: middle at the belt (note: Buster Posey was setting up away)
Result: triple to right-center

Situation: 1-2 to Hamilton (runner on third)
Pitch: 91 mph fastball
Location: high and outside
Result: take

Situation: 2-2 to Hamilton
Pitch: 90 mph fastball
Location: high
Result: line drive out to second

4th Inning

Situation: 2-2 to Napoli (bases empty)
Pitch: 84 mph changeup
Location: inside
Result: take

Situation: 3-2 to Napoli
Pitch: 91 mph fastball
Location: high
Result: foul near the plate, caught by Brandon Belt

Situation: 1-2 to Gentry (runner on first)
Pitch: 91 mph fastball
Location: up and in
Result: fouled off to the left

Situation: 1-2 to Gentry
Pitch: 84 mph changeup
Location: wheelhouse
Result: infield hit to third

5th Inning

Situation: 0-2 to Moreland (bases empty)
Pitch: 81 mph slider
Location: at the knees
Result: strikeout (swinging)

6th Inning

Situation: 1-2 to Gentry (bases empty)
Pitch: 90 mph fastball
Location: wheelhouse
Result: base hit to center

Final Tally

Changeup: 4 balls, 3 strikes, 1 K, 2 BB, 1 groundout, 1 single (7 pitches)

Curveball: 1 ball (1 pitch)

Slider: 1 ball, 2 strikes, 2 K (3 pitches)

Fastball: 3 balls, 11 strikes, 1 K, 1 BB, 1 flyout, 1 triple, 1 single (14 pitches)

Slash line when Lincecum went to a two-strike count against the Rangers: .273/.429/.455.

Slash line on plate appearances where Rangers hitters didn’t get to two strikes against Lincecum: .400/.438/.600.

Conclusions

Tim Lincecum is predominantly a fastball/changeup pitcher (only 26% of his pitches have been either sliders or curveballs this season), and there are two problems with this. One, he has poor command on both of his favorite pitches, frequently either throwing the ball across the middle of the plate and/or away from the target set by Posey (and Lincecum’s pitches tend to be in a hitter’s “wheelhouse” more often as games wear on). Two, the difference in speeds between his fastball and changeup hasn’t been large enough.

From Joe Sheehan’s recent Sports Illustrated “Inside MLB” piece on Johan Santana after Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history:

Santana has lost something, however. A pitcher who once threw 93 mph is averaging 88 mph with his fastball this season. What Santana has managed to do, however, is modulate his changeup accordingly. The sweet spot for a pitcher is a 10-mph gap between his fastball and change. Santana, who at his peak paired his 93-mph heater with an 82-mph change, is now throwing his changeup at 78. For a fastball-changeup pitcher (four of every five deliveries from Santana are one or the other), velocity matters less than speed differentials, and Santana changes speeds just as effectively as he did when he was the best pitcher in baseball.

Check out Lincecum’s average velocities over the years for his fastball and changeup, according to Brooks Baseball.

Since Lincecum shows no signs of adding “pinpoint, Greg Maddux-like command” to his arsenal anytime soon, it would seem that the best way to dominate the only way he knows how (lots and lots of strikeouts) would be to figure out a way to widen the gap in velocity between his fastballs and changeups, like Santana. Easier said than done, but for now I’d rather focus on that than whether or not he’s eating too few cheeseburgers or if his dad needs to come down to San Francisco and “save” him.

12 Comments
12 comments
Stan
Stan

I can only imagine the response I would get BASG..if it was ME,saying that Lincecum's problems are that he forgot how to throw a baseball...or if I said "He doesn't concentrate when the bases are loaded" !! wow..It would be like I just broke out of the asylum and ran to the keyboard.

Stan
Stan

Remember Sabean is the same man who claimed Lincecum missed his first all star game from dehydration!....He was dehydrated but the real story was WHY?..that was never explained was it?

Stan
Stan

I just heard Sabean say "Its not a weight issue" then after the host He look's like he lost some weight..."No,he hasn't lost any weight since the season started" said Sabean. Sabean skipped over saying how much Lincecum weighs or that he lost so much in the offseason. And that I heard on BASG tapes Lincecum himself say in May he lost 10 more pounds since the season began..Sabean lies. That Sabean tried to pass off the falloff as "He's not concentrating"..bullshit. Two time Cy Young winner..forgets to concentrate and how to throw a baseball?..what a crackpot of lies. And also-so why does Lincecum look thinner?..Korzimor said so,Kate Scott had said so...Urban had said that. I would ask Sabean how the hell lack of concentration takes away stamina in what amounts to an hour or two's worth of pitching once a week for Lincecum? I think it just comes down to a stigma that their star pitcher has an illness that is usually seen in young woman. And if the Giants have to claim he needs more long toss,hamburgers and a more positive outlook?,-- they will..no matter how foolish they sound.

Stan
Stan

See, this how I see my Lincecum theorem and others theorys..all theirs end up at best coming back to mine. Its like a math formula that gets to the cause..all others are just "In addition".

Stan
Stan

I get what your saying..like as if he hurt his arm,then fall back on Zito like fool'em pitching. As long as he can throw strikes. But,I say he cant adjust to that while he's pitching on fumes. You ever get that low sugar feeling? kinda jittery..and don't feel right until you eat something? Tim's in sort of that mode all the time. Its not easy to explain why doesn't Tim just throw a slower off speed...but if he does I know it wont go where he wants and its T ball time for the hitters.

Sunset Boy
Sunset Boy

This is a really fascinating analysis, BASG. Thanks for doing the researching and making a very clear, compelling argument. Lincecum usually gets his K's on swing and miss of the changeup --its his bread and butter strikeout pitch. While I agree that the shrinking speed differential makes it more difficult for Lincecum to be effective, its only part of the problem. Command, and particularly command out of the stretch, is also a big issue, a bigger issue, I believe. Yes, increasing the difference between fastball/change up would help make up for the lack of command. But if you look at Lincecum's first batter, Kinsler, he struck him out with three amazing pitches. It was unhittable, and it was his 85mph changeup that produced a swinging K. He put those pitches exactly where he wanted them to be. Unfortunately, he was not able to have that command for the rest of the game, and he got himself in trouble once he was in the stretch. Snowleopard made a great point about Lincecums RISP stats, which, again, point to pitching out of the stretch problems.

bradley emden
bradley emden

I think more than velocity differential, lack of control has been the more detrimental factor. Despite all his K's he has much more trouble putting guys away when he has 0-2, 1-2, and 2-2 counts. His pitches per inning have skyrocketed. Most pitchers gain better control as they age. Not all, but most. Timmy has lost control.

SnowLeopard
SnowLeopard

Everything you wrote here BASG makes sense, however ... Lincecum has actually pitched OK this season without RISP: .235 / .298 / .400, with a 3.76 K/BB (career numbers without RISP before this year: .227 / .294 / .337, with a 3.12 K/BB). It's only *with* RISP that his numbers look really out of line: .337 / .463 / .542, with a 0.59 K/BB (contrast that with career numbers with RISP before this year - .212 / .290 / .321, with a 2.58 K/BB).

swimfaye
swimfaye

Damn ..your good BASG Damn good...I need a cold shower from all that... I can't even find a snappy comeback..damn stats are HOT....I don't know if I want more or not. Sheesh I made that rhyme or will Timmy find his pitch in just in time .... All the same SGL is one lucky lady because I am stunned you really did your work and that is awesome ... Now I think Tim needs a good girlfriend because the one he's got must have slept with Pat Burrell.

Stan
Stan

But if that's what your going to focus on..your making the same mistake as Lincecum. See,Tim's problem as I see it is..he doesn't see that he has a problem. Whats the first thing you learn in any problem you might have? You learn to admit you have that problem. Lincecum is trying to fix part two without fixing part one-that at 150 pounds,he CANNOT throw at 90+ with any control..or at least the Cy Young control he had at 170-197. No amount of positive thought or tinkering with mechanics will give him the stamina to still fire the ball in the 8th inning like he did in the first...as he did in his Cy years. Or if you want a visual example? Think of Monty Pythons Black Knight..."C'mon ya pansies!"..Still wanted to fight with no legs and one arm-lol. You see?

SnowLeopard
SnowLeopard

Thing of it is - Lincecum has actually been pitching like a Cy Young winner this year when there has been just a man on first (.209 / .244 / .279 w 6.50 K/BB, compared to pre-2012 levels of .213 / .259 / .334 and 4.02). And he's been at his absolute worst with the bases loaded or men on second and third (.467 / .476 / .933). All this, unfortunately, points to him having mental issues more than simply a problem pitching from the stretch.

swimfaye
swimfaye

totally serious though BASG ...really good job on the stats...Honest...

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