Monday, May 07, 2007

Shoulda Seen It Coming: Lincecum's Debut

Well, his career didn't start out with a fairy tale complete game 2-hitter shut out with 15 strikeouts, but at least the offense did enough to prevent it from being an "L" on his record. I will give my impressions based on what I heard on the radio about the game (no cable, but a relative Tivoed it for me to view later) plus this very detailed analysis from a Twins fan who watched the game and broke it down in great detail, which is at his blog, Seth Speaks.

Shoulda Seen It Coming

First off, I "shoulda seen it coming!" The same thing happened in his first start in spring training. He was amped up, couldn't throw his breaking stuff, and major league hitters can hit pretty well when they know a fastball is coming up. Hopefully, he will right things in his next start, much like he did in spring training when he recovered from that poor first start to finish up well. But I was impressed that he came back from giving up a hit and 2 run homer to his first two batters faced to strike out the heart of the Phillies lineup, Utley, Howard, and Rowand.

Krukow's Comments on KNBR

Doing it from memory, best that I can. Kruk started by noting that Lincecum was amped up at the start, just like spring, and thus he lost his breaking pitches and that's why he went mostly with fast balls, since they weren't effective, and thus he was at the mercy of his fastball. He was wild high a lot. He also noted how the amped up adrenaline, could/would make your arm numb and, thus, you lose the feel of your pitches, which affects all your breaking pitches, makes it hard to throw them as there's less difference in speed between his fastball and breaking pitches. We'll see the real Lincecum when he calms down and things settle down.

In addition, he noted how the umpires seemed to haze him by making it tough on the rookie, plus the ump didn't give Lincecum any calls - basically called the crew one of the worse in the majors. Kruk noted that Lincecum had 9 pitches that were borderline but he got none of them. Too bad Lincecum had to be exposed to that in his first start.

I also heard Kruk say that Rags probably told Lincecum to dial it down later in the game in order to gain command of his pitches. So his drop in velocity during the game was not because necessarily because he was tired, but because he was trying to have more command over his pitches, though tiredness could be a factor. But it didn't help that the umpire crew was so incompetent.

Kruk said that he's "got rise" - which some say is physically impossible - and there are not many guys who have that. Reminds him of Gooden's fastball, but Gooden only had 2 pitches whereas Lincecum has 3: fastball, curve, changeup. So Lincecum is ahead of where Gooden was. Thinks that he probably has more speed than Cain does.

Kruk noted how important the curveball is to Lincecum. Huge part of his arsenal. Hitters weren't even hitting them for foul balls during spring training. He just needs to calm down and settle down. It didn't help that there was all the hype and then being on ESPN, with the interviews getting him amped up.

Murphy also noted that Ryan Howard was impressed with Lincecum. He noted, of course, the fastball, but then said that he has a great hammer with his curveball. He said once Lincecum learned how to put it all together and use them, he's going to be "deadly".

Lastly, Kruk noted that Lincecum is young, a thrower, and doesn't even know how to pitch yet. He has his fastball, anywhere from 93-97, with his great curve and then there's his changeup. With his repertoire of pitches he can be very successful and he still hasn't learned how to throw a number of other pitches that could help him even more, or how to pitch to situation, etc. He just knows how to strike out hitters right now and will get a whole lot better as he grows.

Seth Speaks: Analysis of Two Young Guns

Seth posted this on his blog, then linked to it at McCovey Chronicles. You can read it for all the details and stats, I'll try to provide some thoughts along the way.

First off, Lincecum was "wild" but as noted by Kruk, he wasn't getting any calls from the umpire. At 53 strikes out of 100 pitches, and the 9 calls he didn't get from the umpire, he could have had 62 strikes possibly - Seth noted that 67% is generally considered very good, so he could have had a good outing if the umpires were screwing with him.

Lincecum threw mainly fastballs but, as Kruk noted, the breaking pitches were not working. However, there was an oddity. There was a lot of separation between his breaking pitches and his fastball. Curveball was pretty consistently 10-14 MPH less, his changeup about 8-10 MPH less. I'm no expert on how this works, but I guess even with the speed difference, if you are unable to locate them accurately, then the breaking balls lose their effectiveness.

The speed distribution was amazing. Most of his pitches were in the 92-95 range, but then he had a secondary peak at 97 MPH and got three up to 98 MPH. Amazing!

Seth also broke things down by count (his stats details are amazing!) Lincecum was pitching from behind most of the game. Only 18 counts where he was ahead. 11 pitches with at least 3 balls in the count. Another 14 pitches with at least 2 balls where he was behind in the count. Another 15 with a 1-0 count.

Seth summarized with some good takeaways.
  1. First, obviously he can throw hard.
  2. Second, he has a great fastball that runs in on right-handed batters.
  3. He showed a good curveball, but little control over it (which reinforces Kruk's impression).
  4. He thinks Lincecum will be excellent once he relaxes, as it was his first outing.
  5. He also thinks the Roy Oswalt comparisons are apt.

Seth also liked Hamels a lot as well, thought I would mention that he was selected by the Phils before the Giants picked Cain that draft year.

Giants Thoughts

Obviously not the start we were all hoping for, not even close. Didn't help that the umpire was squeezing the strike zone, the broadcast crew was on that almost immediately. I think he will calm down for his second start and do better but it will probably not be a great indication of his skills yet either because it will be in Colorado, which even with the humidor is a weird place to pitch at.

I think the important takeaways is that Lincecum was not fazed by doing horrible with his first two batters, that he reared back and struck out the side after that. He still struck out 5 in 4.1 IP, despite the control problems and inability to throw his breaking pitches for strikes. And, the most important takeaway is this: he's now in the Giants starting rotation and probably not coming out.

I know I'm hyping this up, but I think that he can have the same impact on the Giants as Dontrelle Willis did for the Marlins when he came up in May (mid-to-late), his first MLB season. Not that he will necessarily pitch us to a World Series championship like D-train did for the Marlins, but that he will help us win a lot of games when all is said and done about this season.

If he can pitch to his capabilities, where does the opposing team rest, particularly in a playoff series? Zito, Cain, Lowry, Morris, and Lincecum. Each has their different strengths that they use to beat the other team. Zito and his curve. Cain and his "stuff". Lowry and his changeup. Morris and his vet savvy and pinpoint command and control. Lincecum with his high heat PLUS a plus curve and effective changeup. With them mixed and matched, opposing teams will be mixed up, going from Zito to Cain to Lowry to Morris to Lincecum to Zito again. Like I said, pennant worthy and potentially World Series worthy if they pitch to capabilities and the offense can just keep it going.

Flem Spit Up

Thought I should also note that Dave Fleming, whom I have lauded in previous posts, screwed up on the broadcast by noting what good control Lincecum has shown throughout his career, both professional and college, when this is clearly something that Lincecum has always struggled with. He was horrible with the walks in college, that's why he didn't sign the year before signing with us, because the bonus wasn't where he wanted it to be and he was told he needed to get his walks under control. He improved but he has never shown good control, like Flem noted.

Even during his short pro career, he's been a bit wild. I know he struck out a lot at San Jose last season, but he was walking too many guys there too, which he only got away with because of all the strikeouts and low hit rate. Basically, to me, he's been like Cain in the minors, a lot of walks, a lot of homers, few hits and a lot of strikeouts, only Lincecum has more of everything (more fewer hits :^).

2 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure that Lincecum also has a slider, although I didn't notice it last night. (He also has a knuckle ball that he no longer throws.)

    Last fall, there was an internet post that showed his pitch selection batter by batter, and I was struck by the very high number of breaking pitches that Lincecum threw--lots of first pitch curveballs for both called and swinging strikes, and a few at bats where he threw two or three breaking balls.

    We didn't see the same Lincecum last night--and clearly the loss of his curveball hurt him quite a bit.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your comments Barton, it is spot on from what I have been reading today.

    I read taht Lincecum relies greatly on his breaking pitches and is unafraid to throw them at any point in the count - when it is working. His curveball was considered a plus pitch even when he was still in college, and it was his development of his changeup, if I remember right, that allowed him to make the progress that he did in his last season in college.

    Unfortunately he was too amped up with adrenaline to be effective, hopefully he can adjust fast, before Ortiz has a chance to come back.

    ReplyDelete

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