Looking back over the last couple of seasons, Tim Lincecum has had some well documented struggles. A pitcher who won two Cy Young awards early in his career should not have had an under .500 record with an era that doubled from his career average. His career average for innings pitched before 2011 was just above 220, in 2011 he threw just 217. Even though he made all of his starts last year he only threw 186.
His era was 5.18 during the season which he spent entirely in the rotation. But look at how he did in the bullpen during last years postseason. He only had a record of one win and one loss but with an era of 2.55 and threw 17 and 2/3 innings in six games. His 20 strikeouts and .155 batting average against in the playoffs last postseason were amazing.
Part of this is because Lincecum decided to pitch out of the stretch whenever he came out of the pen. Throwing solely out of the stretch gives you less time to mess up your mechanics and with Lincecum’s ridiculous mechanics, it allowed him to repeat and throw strikes like his Cy Young years.
But what is more likely is that going the short innings allowed him to throw all-out, which allowed him to access his best pitches. This is normal with most pitchers, which is why you see closers with better “stuff” than starters. Starters need to pace themselves so they can throw many innings while relief pitchers only need to throw an inning, maybe two.
Lincecum could go out of the stretch as a starter like Yu Darvish did last year, but it is more likely that Lincecum will be able to access his best stuff from the pen. He has amazing pitches when he throws all out, but as a starter he has been slowly declining, and its reasonable that he has declined because of his mechanics.
This is in no way hating on Lincecum and saying he doesn’t deserve to be in the rotation. I just believe that he would be much better for the team if he pitches this season as a middle reliever in the San Francisco Giants bullpen.