After recovering from Memorial Day weekend — and eating way too much — I finally got back to watching some Giants baseball last night, when the Giants took on the division leading Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks have been great this season, winning with a mixture of rising young talent and experienced starting pitching in Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. The Giants countered with a rag tag group of scrapsters and pretty danged good young pitcher in Tim Lincecum.
Let me go on a quick Tim Lincecum tangent.
~ Lincecum is throwing the 4th fastest fastball in all of major league baseball among starters. On average his fastball is clocked at 94.2mph. Only Dustin McGowan, Josh Becket, and King Felix throw harder.
~ Lincecum has flip flopped his curve and changeup this year. Last year, other than his fastball, he threw his curve the second most at 19.7% and his changeup at 13.4%, but, this year he’s throwing the changeup 17.9% of the time and his curve 13.6% of the time. I’ve said it a bunch, but it’s amazing how fast he turned an ‘average’ pitch in his changeup into a definite weapon.
~ Lincecum’s K% — and remember, 16% is league average — is at 26.11%. Only Chad Billingsley (26.2%) and Edison Voquez (29.5%) have better K% rates. In 2007 when Jake Peavy won the Cy Young Award, he had a K% of 26.7%. It’s not the perfect comparison because Peavy’s control exceeds Lincecums right now, but it’s an interesting idea to think about. Lincecum’s next big step forward as a pitcher will be to improve his control, which he has gradually done this year when comparing to last year. He’s shaved almost 1% off his BB% in ’07 to ’08 and he’s moving closer to a league average BB% rate. That’s good news.
~ Lincecum is the league leader in FIP at 2.70 and in 6th place when going by xFIP with 3.47. xFIP is a little more skeptical of Lincecum because of his fly ball rate and the fact that he’s posting a very low HR/F rate right now at 5.2%. There’s a chance that his HR/F rate could move up a little towards the league average of 10-12% but a 3.47 ERA from your 24 year old starter is still nothing to sneeze at.
So, we know that Lincecum is doing a lot of stuff well right now. He’s slightly reduced his walks and is striking out slightly more hitters than last year.
In last nights win, he went 7.1 innings while giving up 7 hits, striking out 7, walking 3, and giving up 3ER — the most earned runs he has given up in a start this year. A couple of those runs came when Tyler Walker came in and immediately gave up a double and threw a wild pitch.
I still really don’t like the way Bochy is handling this staff at times. He put Lincecum back out in the 8th last night after he obviously starting to fatigue — hello arm injuries — and gave up two singles to start the inning. He finished the night at 119 pitches and I really wish Bochy would take his foot off the gas petal with both Lincecum and Cain. It’s only May, what’s the point?
Out of 10 Lincecum starts this year he’s thrown 110+ pitches in 5 of them, with a season high of 122 in April against the Padres. He’s currently 4th in the majors in Pitcher Abuse Points. Again, why ride him so hard? This is going to be a sticking point with me all year long. Bochy came to SF with a reputation of handling young pitching well, but I’ve really started to dislike his management of pitchers. He put significant mileage on Cain’s arm last year and we’ve seen Cain struggle some this year. Not saying they are definitely related but it could be a factor. Furthermore, the Giants had Monday off, so the bullpen was fresh. It seems like a poor choice to put Lincecum back out for the 8th after he had exceed 100 pitches and the bullpen was fresh.
It’s just a bizare way to continuously handle Lincecum — the rain delay fiasco included — after the Giants showed some restraint and shut him down early last year.
Quick Update: I also forgot to praise Bengie Molina and Brian Wilson. Molina is hitting like Tedd Williams and Wilson threw a clean inning in the 9th without walking anyone. Molina hit a three run HR that was the difference in last nights game and he’s currently in one of his patented Swing-at-Everything ™ modes with good results.
Stay hot, Bengie.