Tim Lincecum: How He Will Return to Cy Young Form in 2013

Keely FlanaganContributor IIIJanuary 17, 2013

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 27:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants reacts after striking out Quintin Berry #52 of the Detroit Tigers to end the seventh inning during Game Three of the Major League Baseball World Series at Comerica Park on October 27, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Tim Lincecum, aka "The Freak," had a freakish season in 2012 for the San Francisco Giants. And not in a good way. 

In June of 2012, the former ace lamented to USA Today:

I've set the bar high for myself, and I know I'm not coming through. I've been wearing these (expletive) losses hard. Real hard. This game is my passion, and this is killing me. I know I'm going to come out of this eventually. I just wish I knew when.

The question on every San Francisco fan's mind going into the 2013 season is whether Lincecum can rebound from a dismal 2012.

If he can address the flaws in his mechanics, bulk up in order to build both strength and endurance, and work out the kinks in his pitcher-catcher relationship with superstar Buster Posey, the young right-hander will return to Cy Young form. 

In terms of mechanics, Lincecum is called "The Freak" in large part due to his off-kilter pitching motion. In order for this complex motion to work, a lot needs to go right in Lincecum's body movements: There is no room for error.  

At 5'11" (generously) and 167 pounds (again, generously), Lincecum relies on a long stride and whip-like arm rotation to add velocity to his fastball. He cannot depend on size and power—for Lincecum, it's all about mechanics. 

Over the course of 2012, the Giants staff worked to adjust Lincecum's motion. For instance, in an attempt to change his delivery, he began hiding the ball in his glove as opposed to holding the ball behind his back. But after each minor adjustment, Lincecum continued to struggle.  

It's hard to make major changes in a pitcher's mechanics between starts, especially when that pitcher is accustomed to success. In the offseason, Lincecum will have the time and energy to spend working through his unorthodox mechanics without the pressure of a looming start.  

After 2011, Lincecum's knees were giving him trouble and he responded by losing weight. This hurt the right-hander in the long run, as his already-slight build became slighter. As the 2012 season progressed, Lincecum put the weight back on and then some, and he began to experience more success on the mound. 

Rather than lose weight to aid in endurance, Lincecum should focus on increasing his arm strength.  

A rarely talked-about issue for Lincecum in 2012 was his "estrangement" from catcher Buster Posey. This is important for several reasons. For one, Lincecum throws a lot of pitches outside of the strike zone. This results in a lot of balls thrown into the dirt.  

Posey is a top-notch defensive catcher, a necessary attribute for anyone catching for Lincecum. Backup catcher Hector Sanchez is a decent replacement, but he does not possess the defensive prowess of Buster Posey.  

Posey also calls a brilliant game behind the plate consistently. Posey caught for pitcher Matt Cain during the right-hander's perfect game, and he is known for his intelligence and maturity. 

Then why did Lincecum switch to throwing to Hector Sanchez as opposed to Buster Posey? Manager Bruce Bochy has remained tight-lipped in regard to the Lincecum-Posey relationship. Both Lincecum and Posey have followed suit.  

However, if Lincecum wants to return to Cy Young form in 2013, he will need to work out whatever issues (or non-issues) he has with Posey. Brandon Belt is now the everyday first baseman, and Posey will need less breaks from working behind the plate going into 2013.  

Bochy wisely moved the catcher to first base in 2012, as Posey was returning from a serious injury. Next season, it will be hard to justify removing Posey from his leadership role as catcher.  

In a larger sense, Posey is the face of the Giants—the "Golden Boy" in San Francisco. He is a leader in the clubhouse and a respected member of the team.  

A huge part of the Giants' success is based on their unique chemistry and ability to get along and play as a team. The smallest hiccup in the clubhouse could spell disaster for San Francisco.

All is not doom and gloom in regard to Tim Lincecum. He improved drastically after the All-Star break last season, posting a 3.83 ERA in that span.

While the first half of 2012 was a nightmare for Lincecum, he ended the season on a good note. His innings of relief throughout the postseason aided tremendously in the Giants' successful quest to win their second World Series in three years. 

Although his velocity has decreased, this is a common occurrence as MLB pitchers begin to age. Even flame-throwers must learn an inevitable lesson: to pitch, not throw.  

A 100 mph fastball with no movement is merely going to be hit harder and further than the same pitch thrown at a lower velocity. Ultimately, Lincecum will need to adjust his strategy on the mound. He is remarkably intelligent and should be able to excel in this respect. 

After a long sabbatical, Tim Lincecum will report to spring training Feb. 12. He will return a new pitcher, and he will find new ways to win in 2013.