The San Francisco Giants‘ formerly dominant pitching staff isn’t devoid of championship experience, but it was lacking a strong veteran presence before Tim Hudson arrived on scene in Scottsdale for Spring Training. The 15-year veteran was the most statistically competent free agent pitcher on the open market over the offseason.
He’s recorded 205 wins, tied for the most among active pitchers, with a 3.44 ERA in his career. He also averages 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, but frequently dominates the opposition because of his ability to induce ground balls. There’s no doubt that Hudson can produce at a high level for the Giants on the mound, but he’s also capable of providing leadership to other pitchers on the Giants’ staff, namely Tim Lincecum.
After two seasons that saw the two-time Cy Young Award winner struggle to remain competitive, Lincecum has begun paying close attention to Hudson’s ability to keep his pitches low in the strike zone. The Giants have been in camp for just one week, but Hudson is already making an impact on his new teammates.
Lincecum has relentlessly tried to force the ball down in the zone and away from the fat part of the bat. His efforts haven’t correlated to better numbers on the stat sheet, though. Lincecum finished the 2013 campaign with a 10-14 mark, posting a 4.37 ERA in 32 starts. Opposing hitters recorded a .300 batting average on balls in play against Lincecum. Approximately 32.5 percent of the outs Lincecum recorded in 2013 were via strikeout.
As the velocity on his fastball continues to diminish (90.2 mph), Lincecum needs to learn how to get hitters out on balls in play.
Hudson has already taken a step toward helping Lincecum increase his ability to induce ground balls. To this point, Hudson’s advice has simply been to aim low, a feat Lincecum hasn’t been able to consistently accomplish. At 29-years old, the “Freak” is ready to become a sinker ball pitcher. If he’s able force hitters to make bad contact, he has a chance to reassert himself as a dominant pitcher.
For Lincecum, the process is a learning curve. He needs to have better control of all of his pitches in order to effectively develop into a ground ball pitcher. He’s registered 28 wild pitches over the past two seasons. Lincecum can’t execute a new craft unless he’s able to gain better command.
Hudson is making a positive impact on how Lincecum prepares for the 2014 season, though. His veteran presence and reputation for prolonged success makes him a valuable component of a Giants team that believes it can contend for a World Series title in 2014.