A thrilling start from Lincecum last night in which he just barely missed his first career complete game. Lincecum cruised through the game until he reached the 9th inning, hit some bumps, and had to be pulled because of pitch count. Lincecum has been and is still one of the biggest reasons to watch this Giants team. There’s nothing like staying up until 1AM to watch a team that’s 17 games under .500. It’s not something most normal people should do, but when Lincecum is on the mound, the Giants are watchable. And for this team, that’s saying a whole lot.
Lincecum’s final line of the night was: 8.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO, 2.54 ERA
Let’s check a couple of charts using PITCHf/x data.
Obviously, the first thing that pops out at you about this chart is the fact that Bruce Bochy left Lincecum in to throw 127 pitches in a September game against the D-Backs. Just two starts ago, Lincecum threw 132 pitches. That’s quite a large workload over three starts and even though his last start only lasted 92 pitches against Colorado, a good portion of that game included stress filled innings where Linecum was pitching out of the stretch and in Coors. Not the easiest of environments to work in.
If you want to defend the pitch count by stating reasons for trying to win the Cy Young Award or trying to get Linecum his first career game, I won’t stop you, but I’ll have a hard time agreeing with you. I’ve been waiting for the Giants to ease up on Lincecum for most of the year and it hasn’t happened. I much favor the long term outlook of keeping Lincecum healthy over the immediate short term rewards of a first career CG or a Cy Young Award, which even though Linecum is the best pitcher in the NL this year, he isn’t a lock to win the award.
In the Chron recap, Bochy was quoted as saying:
“He’s a human being, not a toy,” Bochy said. “We can’t keep running him out there.”
I wish I could say that his statement comforted me. It’s nice to hear but I have no doubt that next week we’ll see another 115+ pitch game from Lincecum. In fact, Baggs touches on some chatter that’s floating around on the possibility that the Giants could move Lincecum up in the rotation order to get him the last start of the year against the Dodgers.
There’s some chatter the Giants could have Lincecum pitch the season finale on three days of rest, but I just don’t believe it. Even if the Dodgers need to win on the final day to make the playoffs, can you imagine if Lincecum were to get hurt in that start?
I have a hard time believing it, too, but at this point it’s not far off from the “see how far we can bend him” mentality that the Giants have taken with Lincecum.
Back to the plot. Lincecum’s fastest pitch on the night was clocked at 95.3mph and his slowest was a 76.4mph curveball. You can see that Lincecum maintained most of his fastball velocity as the game progressed, he hit 93.8mph in the 9th. Lincecum was also getting some nice seperation from his fastball and his offspeed offerings. Most of his offspeed pitches hung around 85, that would be the change and the slider, and he had quite a few that hung around 80mph, that would be the curve. The separation in speed is good but Lincecum also sells his offspeed pitches extremely well, which when mixed in with his delivery and quality of his pitches, makes him very tough to hit.
Next, we’ll examine the pitch selection of Lincecum’s start.
In 2008, according to Fangraphs pitch data, Lincecum has thrown his fastball 66.7% of the time, his curveball 13.9% of the time, his changeup 17.3% of the time, and his slider 2% of the time. In last night’s game, Lincecum threw his fastball 65% of the time, his curveball 9% of the time, his changeup 12% of the time, and his slider 14% of the time. His use of the slider looks to have increased last night but it’s possible that PITCHf/x is grouping some of his curveballs into the slider category. He may have thrown more sliders than usual, but probably not 12% more than usual.
Here’s what happened when Lincecum threw the ball
36% of Lincecums pitches went for a ball — 33% of them were balls and another 3% were balls in the dirt. 47% of Lincecum pitches earned him a strike. I found it interesting that 20% of his strikes were the result of a called strike and another 19% were the result of fouled pitches. 8% of his strikes came from the swing and miss variety — 6% of them on the fly and 2% of them as blocked strikes. When the D-Backs hit the ball into play, 11% of the balls in play were turned into outs compared to the 6% that fell for hits.
Lincecum gave up 7 hits: 2 doubles and 5 singles. He struck out 9 hitters with 4 changeups, 3 sliders, 1 curveball, and 1 fastball. Though, remember, the slider and curveball numbers might need a little tweaking.
Great start from Tim. And yes, if you’re wondering, he deserves to win the CYA.
Update: I’ve included two bonus plots from the game last night. I still need to group and classify the pitches, but it should be pretty obvious as to what is what.
First up is a plot of the vertical and horizontal break on the pitches:
Click to huge-ify
And next is just the vertical break on Lincecum’s pitches from the game:
Click to huge-ify
Notice the break on Lincecum’s curve, very nice. The groupings are pretty distinct. The top grouping would be the fastball, the middle is the change, and the lower group — the one with the greatest vertical break — is the curveball.
I’ll be sure to post any updated versions that are better illustrated.
Other News and Notes
~ Emmanuel Burriss left the game in the 5th inning with the dreaded oblique strain. Because the season is almost done, he probably won’t be back this year. Omar and Ochoa should split time at SS with Velez being the most likely candidate to see more playing time at 2B. According to Sabes, Burriss will head into ’09 as the favorite to start at SS.
~ Hennessey will be starting on Wednesday in the D-Backs finale. The Giants want to give Correia a break from the rotation and Hennessey is on the verge of getting non-tendered, so they’ll take one last lookat him. The Giants are: “…curious to see whether they can receive an upgrade from Hennessey” which might not be too difficult to do since Correia has struggled all year. Don’t expect much from Brad.