Bad news, San Francisco Giants fans: Tim Lincecum didn’t just have a down year — you can pretty much call it a full-blown regression.
No, the former ace’s disastrous 2012 wasn’t Justin Verlander‘s 2008, and there aren’t likely to be a string of Cy Young-caliber seasons to come. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that the Freak has more than likely won his last piece of individual hardware, as fantastic as he’d been in his run as the league’s very best pitcher.
If the 186 innings from last season didn’t provide enough evidence of that, you need to look no further than the 65 that the righty has put up this season. Or the last 4.1, to be painfully precise about it.
Yes, I know — what about sample sizes, right? Every pitcher has a bad start every now then, so what’s so different about Lincecum’s latest disaster, this one coming on Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics? Well, it wasn’t so much that he had just one bad outing per se, but what it represents for the pitcher.
In this case, that would be rock bottom.
Lincecum has had worse starts than this, of course, but in a contract year where it was more important for him than ever to show that he can put last year’s struggles behind him, the 28-year-old lacked both control and stuff against the A’s, getting knocked around for five earned runs (six total) on seven hits and three walks (though one was intentional).
It marked the first time that the righty had failed to get out of the fifth inning in 11 starts this season, but perhaps more disheartening is the fact that it marks a disastrous month of May that saw the right-hander unable to follow what had been a somewhat promising (if not luck-fueled, thanks to a .260 BABIP) month of April (3.64/1.35 ERA/WHIP over 29.2 innings).
The strikeout ability is still there at a 9.42 K/9 rate, but overall, that picture is not looking too promising.
Lincecum’s BABIP continues to climb (.309 in 2012, .320 in 2013) thanks in part to an increased line drive rate (23.8 in 2012 to 25.1 in 2013). His control is at about the same spot as it was last season (4.29 BB/9 in 2013, 4.35 in 2012), and though luck certainly comes into play (his 65 percent strand rate is still rather low), the spike in his HR/FB rate has held steady (now at 14 percent) since its dramatic regression in 2012.
Most of that was on display on Wednesday in an emphatic suggestion that any sign he might have shown in April of working his way back to the top may have been a mirage.
The Freak may still have the stuff, and undoubtedly that will come out in the occasional quality start; but until he learns to pitch with reduced velocity, he’s going to have a difficult time climbing back to baseball relevance, let alone redemption.