Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum is erratic to the point of severe concern for the San Francisco Giants, who seldom have a chance to win when their former ace takes the mound. Lincecum is off to a somewhat predictably terrible start to the 2014 MLB season, allowing 11 earned runs and 15 hits, including a league-leading four home runs, in 10.0 innings against the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks.
Lincecum’s struggles don’t appear to be temporary, although being forced to start the first two games of his season against the same opponent certainly didn’t help his cause, especially considering the utter “ownage” slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt holds over his head. Goldschmidt raked an opposite field home run against Lincecum in the first inning of a 7-3 win for the D’Backs. It marked the second time Goldschmidt had taken Lincecum deep this season.
The Giants could be on the precipice of regret after inking Lincecum to a two-year, $35 million deal over the offseason — a contract which left most baseball executives scratching their heads. Lincecum simply isn’t that type of pitcher anymore. He doesn’t flaunt the velocity needed to blow fastballs past hitters. He also doesn’t showcase supreme command of his pitches, often leaving throws over the middle of the plate for hitters to rake.
San Francisco seemingly thought Lincecum had started to figure out how to best utilize his current repertoire of pitches toward the end of last season. The 29-year-old veteran posted a respectable 5-3 record over 11 starts in the season’s final two months. Moderate success hasn’t translated well at the start of this season, though, as Lincecum remains highly inconsistent. According to FanGraphs.com, Lincecum is using his fastball less than ever before. His used-to-be dominant four-seamer accounts for just 33.7 percent of his total pitches so far, down from 37.2 percent in 2013.
Lincecum has become more reliant upon his slider (26.6 percent) and changeup (20.1 percent) to get hitters out. The problem is that he’s not spotting his pitches, exposing the familiar issue of control. Lincecum was effectively wild when he was at the top of his game. It seemed as though there were times when he didn’t even know when his fastball would end up. All that mattered was that he could chuck it past hitters. Nobody could hit that pitch, even though they knew it was coming.
While Lincecum continues the prolonged battle of trying to figure out how to pitch without dominant velocity, he seldom gives the Giants a chance to win. It’s a serious problem that doesn’t appear to simply be a product of Goldschmidt. The four-time All-Star has been at a crossroads for two seasons but still hasn’t truly figured out how to pitch. Now he owns the security of a two-year deal toppling frontline money. Even though the Giants’ chances of winning are slim when Lincecum takes the bump, San Francisco will continue to run him out there and opposing hitters will continue to knock him around.