One of the biggest question marks for the San Francisco Giants while entering the 2015 season was how the starting rotation was going to perform.
Can Madison Bumgarner sustain his level of dominance with the amount of innings he threw last year? Can Matt Cain come back from injury and contribute? Is it possible for Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong to hold up throughout an entire season? Will Tim Lincecum ever return to the form the Giants and its fans know and love?
While some of those questions still need to be answered, Lincecum is the one pitcher on the staff who has put an end to the questions about his ability.
Lincecum had yet another great outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday night. Not only was it great, but it was dominant, allowing just three hits in seven innings pitched.
He is currently sitting at a record of 4-2 with an ERA of 2.08.
Those are the type of numbers Lincecum would put up during his four straight all-star selections and two straight Cy Young Award seasons, but he’s doing it in a completely different manner.
The Lincecum of old went up on the mound, went through his funky windup and slung fastballs by every hitter at the plate. He’d work in his nasty change-up/split-finger and the strike outs would rack up.
As his career has gone on, his velocity has dropped. Because his velocity has dropped, his change-up has much less of an affect on the hitter.
His struggles over the past few seasons have been widely talked about. The frustration among the Giants and its fans has built up so much that the recent success from Lincecum has let out a huge sigh of relief.
The pitcher is starting to realize that he isn’t going to blow hitters away any more. He is going through a natural progression which a lot of pitchers go through in their career.
They start their career throwing hard; fastballs reach 95-98 mph with regularity. As the years pass, the arm starts to the slow down, the strikeout numbers drop and they progressively give up more and more hits and runs.
Some can make the change and go from a flame thrower, to a command pitcher, but a lot of pitchers can’t evolve.
Lincecum looks like he is starting to make that change.
The command he has with every pitch is increasing, but the biggest difference is the command in his fastball.
His fastball is only coming in around 90 mph, but a well located 90 mph fastball can be a major key to success.
During his struggles in the past few seasons, his fastballs were frequently ending up high in the zone.
A pitcher can get away with high fastballs if they are throwing 98 mph, but Lincecum can’t do that anymore.
His ability to keep his fastballs low in the zone and then work his change-up is the biggest reason why his ERA is only 2.08.
He has only made 8 starts, so the season is still very young, but if he can sustain the command of his pitches, it would be a tremendous help to a rotation with a lot of question marks.
Lincecum is an absolute rock star for Giants fans. Although the long-haired flame throwing pitcher is gone, it is still “Lincecum Day” in San Francisco every five days.