San Francisco Giants' Pitcher Tim Lincecum Is No Longer Elite

I don’t care if it’s April. I don’t care if he’s a two-time Cy Young winner. I don’t care if he is one of the highest paid pitchers in baseball. San Francisco Giants’ “ace” Tim Lincecum is finished, or at least finished being an elite pitcher that he once was. I have been a Tim Lincecum skeptic ever since 2010 when the Giants won the World Series. He pitched around 250 innings that season due to the playoff run, and there was no doubting that Lincecum was fantastic that season. However, more innings were put on the small, lanky right-hander’s arm.

The problem with Tim Lincecum is his shelf life is cut so significantly because of the way he is built, not to mention his mechanics can’t help the process. It’s one thing for guys like Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, etc. to throw 200 innings year in and year out. They are big strong dudes, unlike Tim Lincecum. All those guys are about 6″ tall and 200+ pounds, ergo, they can handle the workload.

It’s clear something is wrong with The Freak just by looking at his pitch chart and velocity for his fastball and changeup. In 2007, his rookie year, Lincecum threw 66% fastballs, averaging 94.2 MPH. In regards to his changeup, Lincecum threw it 13.4% of the time, with it averaging around 84 MPH. The 10 MPH difference on his fastball and changeup was a significant one. Lincecum could always get hitters off balance that way. Now, let’s look at the Tim Lincecum of today.

So far in 2012, Tim Lincecum’s fastball is barely above 90 MPH, and his changeup is at 83 MPH. So as you see, he’s lost almost 5 MPH in his fastball and 1 MPH in his changeup. The difference in changeup means nothing, but the change is fastball velocity is the reason he’s getting tattooed. It also doesn’t help that Lincecum has cut his fastball usage by 20% percent ever since he started using his slider. Tim Lincecum’s changeup is his best pitch, but it’s completely irrelevant if he lost his velocity as it appears.

If you want a comparsion to my theory on Lincecum, look no further than the former Rays’ ace Scott Kazmir. Kazmir was a little bigger than Lincecum, but was still a pretty small guy. Kazmir was a dominant lefty who threw pretty hard early in his career. But as the innings added up – especially after the Rays’ World Series run in 2008 – Kazmir started losing his velocity. Granted, Lincecum’s velocity drop isn’t as extreme as Kazmir’s, but in terms of stuff the comparison is there.

In closing, a pitcher’s arm is like a car. It depreciates over time, but you can decide which method of depreciation to use. There is straight-line, unit, and double-declining. While all those pitchers I mentioned above are straight-lines, Tim Lincecum is a double-declining. The Giants know that Tim Lincecum won’t be a successful long-term investment, which is why they gave Matt Cain the big extension instead.

Just wait until this winter, folks. We are going to see a two-time Cy Young winner get non-tendered if this keeps up.