Something recently caught my eye (ear?) after the series win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In a post-game interview with Jaymee Sire, Hector Sanchez stated that Tim Lincecum did a good job of keeping his pitches down in the zone. (Also, for fun, count how many times Hector says “you know.”) There’s not much to glean from the Sanchez interview, as it’s filled with the same clichés about confidence that we’ve all become accustomed to hearing from professional athletes. However, the idea of Lincecum keeping the ball down better against the Dodgers made me wonder if it was actually true.
So, here’s what I did: I took all of Lincecum’s pitches from 2012 and plotted them using density curves by vertical location (ie: how high, or low, they are in the strike zone). I also plotted a density curve of Lincecum’s start against the Dodgers to see if it was any different from his seasonal performance.
A brief caveat: I’ve included every pitched that Lincecum has thrown this year. Fastballs, curves, changeups, sliders … they’ve all been included. This is, admittedly, a very crude way to do things, as most pitchers will throw the hard stuff higher in the zone and the soft stuff lower in the zone. However, time is kind of short, and I can always go back and look at the data again.
(The dashed lines indicate the top and bottom of the strike zone.)
It turns out that Sanchez was right on the money – Lincecum did a better job of keeping the ball down in the zone in his start against the Dodgers. The question then becomes: “Is it a sign of better things to come?” And that’s something that we really can’t answer right now. Is it encouraging? Yes, it is. Lincecum has always been at his best when he’s kept his stuff down in the zone. The changeup, in particular, is a great pitch when it’s down in the zone. And, you’ve got to think, that for a guy with diminished velocity, pitching down in the zone is going to be key in order to succeed.
It’s one start, so reading too much into it is folly; but, for one start, Tim Lincecum looked very good. If the Giants can get Lincecum on track, things are going to look much, much better for the team’s outlook. It goes without saying, but an effective Lincecum would go a long way to keeping the Giants in contention this season.