The San Francisco Giants don’t flaunt a dominant starting rotation, but boast five capable starters who are more than good enough to pitch the orange and black to a win on any given night. Former staff ace Tim Lincecum will never be the brand of pitcher that he was early on in his career, but he’s on the verge of reasserting himself as a formidable starter.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner made local headlines in the Bay Area during Spring Training, referencing his need to force hitters into “crappy contact” in order to keep his pitch count down and get easy outs. That strategy hasn’t exactly translated in the manner that Lincecum might have originally envisioned. The 29-year-old veteran has thrown at least 112 pitches in each of his last three starts while surpassing the sixth inning just once.
The former first-round draft pick is averaging 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings, a rate higher than what he was able to accomplish in 2013. So much for “crappy contact.” Lincecum has definitely improved, though. His new found success is attributed to his slider, which he now throws on 21.6 percent of his pitches. While his 4-3 record is encouraging, Lincecum’s 4.55 ERA through 10 starts remains relatively inefficient.
San Francisco needs Lincecum to continue progressing toward consistency in order to completely rely on their former long-haired trophy winner. Lincecum’s velocity is at an all-time low in 2014. His four-seam fastball averages just 89.7 MPH on the radar gun, a steady decline from his mark of 90.2 in 2013. Lincecum is allowing an incredibly high number of hitters to reach base (1.61 WHIP), but has been able to prevent teams from chalking crooked numbers on the scoreboard, which signifies vast improvement over the past two seasons.
Lincecum is on pace to allow nearly 90 earned runs in 2014, although that figure is inflated due to early season struggles. He allowed a league-leading 107 earned runs in 2012. After allowing 10 runs in his first two outings this season, Lincecum has surrendered three runs or fewer in eight consecutive starts. After earning a win in his most recent start, Lincecum has now registered three consecutive quality starts, a feat he accomplished just once in all of last season.
“Happy Lincecum Day” doesn’t appear bound for a comeback anytime soon, but Lincecum now gives the Giants a viable chance to win each time he takes the ball. After two seasons of continuous struggles, Lincecum is finally figuring out how to utilize his stuff as opposed to fully relying on velocity. As Lincecum’s velocity steadily declines, he’s continuously finding new ways to get guys out.