Tim Lincecum may no longer be “The Freak” he once was. His days of being the Giants frontline starter are long gone as Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have become the top two pitchers of the staff. Lincecum has struggled mightily the past two seasons, but he will resurrect his career and have a comeback year in 2014.
After finishing 2013 with a 10-14 record and a 4.37 ERA, Lincecum spent his offseason back home in Seattle where he rented out a warehouse and built a bullpen to work on mechanics. This was something new for Lincecum as he normally heads into spring training without throwing off a mound during the offseason.
“I just felt like more throwing would be the best thing I could do for myself,” said Lincecum per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, “not necessarily throwing hard, but getting good mechanics and the feel of that ball coming out of my hand from an earlier part of the offseason.”
Spending extra time on the mound and becoming comfortable with his mechanics is big for Lincecum. Over the past two seasons he has given up a total of 44 home runs, a mark that must improve in 2014.
Lincecum does not have the blazing fastball he once had as a young pup in the big leagues. In an effort to focus on command, Lincecum turned to veteran and fellow teammate Tim Hudson for advice.
“Hudson told him to divide the strike zone horizontally and focus throwing to the bottom half, relying on movement and not worrying if he can get hitters out higher in the zone,” said Schulman per the San Francisco Chronicle.
With a decreased velocity, Lincecum can no longer challenge hitters over the plate with his fastball. Instead, he has to be able to locate the fastball and effectively use his off-speed pitches.
During his no-hitter last season against the San Diego Padres, Lincecum produced 29 swing and misses while toying hitters with his change-up. This performance showed that Lincecum could still be a dominant pitcher. “Of his 148 pitches, Lincecum used his change a whopping 47 times,” according to fangraphs.com.
Lincecum has the ability to strikeout hitters with his off-speed pitches and should continue to lean on his change-up this year. Keeping the ball down and getting hitters to chase is how he will have a productive year.
By throwing bullpens during the offseason, Lincecum should not have to waste much time in getting comfortable back on the mound. If he can string together some quality starts in spring training, Timmy will be carrying a lot of confidence heading into the season.
How many wins do you think Lincecum will have in 2014?