Those are nice enough subjects, but what is really interesting to me is how Lincecum plans on rebounding from the worst season of his career.
After a historic start to his career where he earned back-to-back Cy Young Awards and was the undisputed Ace of the Giants staff it was quite the shock to Giants fans to see him struggle so badly last year. Among pitchers who qualified for the ERA title no one had a higher ERA than Lincecum last season. It wasn’t all bad though, there was a bit of redemption with him excelling out of the bullpen during the postseason.
His job as a starter remains secure (at least to start the season), with both Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean confirming that is where they want and need him most. But if the Giants have aspirations of making the postseason again, Lincecum will probably need to be much more of the pitcher he was from 2009 to 2011 than he was last season.
In his effort to get back to that Lincecum decided to try a completely different method of getting ready for the season.
After years of just doing his own thing, Lincecum worked with a trainer to build “explosive and dynamic” strength. He also decided that he needed to get more serious with his diet, switching to more healthy ways of putting on a few pounds instead of just pigging out on In-N-Out burgers and Tacolicious like he had done previously.
He spent the offseason before 2011 adding weight to his frame in order to build endurance and add velocity. He pushed the scale to nearly 200 pounds. After not liking how the extra weight made him feel, especially his knees, he spent much of the offseason last year going in the opposite direction — shedding nearly 30 pounds. He spent a bunch of time in the pool and did his best to cut out the fast food.
This year it looks like he is shooting for the middle ground between the extremes of the last two years.
His trainers (who he was referred to by the Giants) built his workout routine around the way that he pitched. Lincecum has very unique mechanics which take all of his special athletic ability to be able to perform consistently. The workouts were designed specifically to help address the issues that he was having last season.
“Running, pushing sleds, pull-ups, all kinds of stuff, really. Those are the kinds of things I was doing to try to create the strength and dynamic explosion. Rubber bands. Jumping off the wall with them tied around my waist to create balance. Last year I didn’t feel like I was landing on my front foot very well, and I felt like I wasn’t even following through well. With that, the more stable my body is, the more I’ll be able to uphold my mechanics.”
It will be interesting to see if the new workouts are able to translate into a more repeatable delivery.
A more repeatable delivery should hopefully improve his ability to locate the ball and, as Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs pointed out, Lincecum was among the worst at pitching to the corners last year. His lack of command to the corners put him behind in the count, which is one of the reasons why his walk rate was the hightest of his career.
His lack of command to the corners also probably contributed to his abnormally high batting average on balls in play. With less command and far too many men on base, Linceum was forced to aim for the middle of the plate. No longer possessing an overpowering fastball, that was a recipe for disaster.
With this being his last year under team control with the Giants he will be pitching for a contract.
He showed in the postseason that when he is able to locate his pitches and that he doesn’t overthink things, his raw stuff is still good enough to get major league hitter out. The big question is whether he put together another season of 200 quality innings. His future payday and the Giants playoff hopes depend on it.