Tim Lincecum Needs to Learn How to Pitch, Not Throw

Tim Lincecum‘s resume contains the following items: 2 time Cy Young award winner, 4 time All-Star and twice World Series Champion. With all the achievements over the last 5 seasons, he was relegated to a long relief once the Giants made the playoffs because he was no longer effective as a starter. Lincecum’s problem is he can no longer just throw the ball across the plate and hope a batter just swings and misses. If he wants any hope of returning to be the starter he once was, he now needs to learn how to pitch.

In the past, Lincecum could use his fastball to blow away hitters. The problem with Timmy is he has aged and his velocity is down. His strikeouts followed his velocity on the downward spiral

Season: Average Fastball Speed, K%
2007: 94.2, 24%
2008: 94.1, 29%
2009: 92.4, 29%
2010: 91.3, 26%
2011: 92.3, 24%
2012: 90.4, 23%

As he lost velocity, his confidence for throwing strikes deminished.

Season: Zone% (Pitchf/x)
2007: 49%
2008: 50%
2009: 49%
2010: 48%
2011: 45%
2012: 45%

Pitchers can be productive with a Zone% (formula here) around 45%. The key is to limit the amount of pitches right down the middle of the plate. A pitcher needs to throw at the inside and outside edges of the strike zone. Pitches near the edge of the plate are hard to hit solidly. By comparing Lincecum to three other pitchers, Yovani Gallardo, Hiroki Kuroda and Jeremy Hellickson, the differences in their approach at throwing pitches in the strike zone and their results can be seen.

The quartet had similar Zone% in 2012, but the other three had better results than Lincecum.

Name Team Zone% K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP
Hiroki Kuroda Yankees 46.6% 6.8 2.1 1.0 0.281 77.7% 3.32 3.86
Tim Lincecum Giants 45.2% 9.2 4.4 1.1 0.309 67.8% 5.18 4.18
Yovani Gallardo Brewers 45.2% 9.0 3.6 1.2 0.290 78.4% 3.66 3.94
Jeremy Hellickson Rays 43.4% 6.3 3.0 1.3 0.261 82.7% 3.10 4.60

All the players, besides Lincecum, had a low BABIP leading to a good LOB% and therefore an ERA lower than there FIP. The key difference between these pitchers, was that everyone, but Lincecum, threw a higher of percentage of pitches at the inside and outside part of the strike zone (I will call it Edge%, more on it in the Appendix)

Pitcher: Edge %
Tim Lincecum: 12.7%
Yovani Gallardo: 15.9%
Jeremy Hellickson: 16.0%
Hiroki Kuroda: 17.5%

Lincecum’s Edge% was the lowest among all pitchers who threw over 1400 pitches last season. He was not able to pitch to the edges of the plate. Instead he was just trying to throw it across the plate and hope no one hit it. The problem is batters did hit it. The difference may not seem like much, but his Edge% is 5% points lower compared to Kuroda’s Edge%. If BABIP was a percentage (.309 BABIP = 30.9%), they would have an almost 4% point difference. A few less meat balls a game can lead to significant improvements over the course of a season.

Besides looking at the difference numerically, here are each of the pitcher’s location heat maps vs. right-handed hitters.

It can be seen from the images how each pitcher works the zone against RHH. Kuroda pounds the inside part of the plate. Gallardo lives on the outside part. Hellickson goes both in and out. And Lincecum just throws in right down the middle. It is easy to guess who had the worst results.

Lincecum didn’t aways have as much of a problem throwing to the edge:

Season: Edge%
2012: 12.7%
2011: 12.9%
2010: 13.7%
2009: 14.7%
2008: 14.1%

He has gotten worse at putting the ball on the edges as he has aged, but he was never good at it. He has never been near the league average value which hovers around 16%.

If Lincecum is going to make it as a pitcher, he is going to have to figure out a way to pitch to the edges instead of just throwing across the plate. He no longer has the velocity to throw it past players. Besides helping his balled ball data, the new command could help him lower his high walk rate. It may be tough for him change the way he has pitched his whole life, but right now the old method is not working. If he is going to want to be a productive pitcher again, he is going to have to learn to pitch to the edges of the plate instead of throwing right down the middle.

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Appendix

The Edge% values are taken from two areas of the called strike zone, one on each side of the plate. To get the area, it is from the edge of the called strike zone (Zone%) and to the center of the plate 0.4 feet.

I looked at other measurements and found the .4 worked the best. Bill Petti (who has been working with me on this project) and/or I will come up with a more detailed analysis of what amount should the zone be moved in to find the Edge%, but this value will work for now. The rest of the strike zone I called the Heart(%). The pitch results in the heart are almost always strikes (94% of the time called strike) vice the edges where a pitch is called a strike 2/3 of the time. Pitches in the heart though are more like to go for hits.

Here are some details on the values.

League Averages

Season Edge % Heart% Outside %
2007 16.6% 33.7% 52.8%
2008 16.1% 33.6% 50.7%
2009 15.9% 33.9% 50.6%
2010 15.9% 33.8% 50.7%
2011 15.8% 33.6% 51.0%
2012 15.6% 33.2% 51.6%

Pitch Result Data

Stat Heart% Edge% Outside%
BABIP 0.310 0.289 0.273
HR/FB 14.0% 10.5% 8.1%
% Called Strikes vice Balls 93.6% 68.3% 7.9%

Leaderboards for Zone%
2012 Data
2011 Data
2010 Data
2009 Data
2008 Data




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


81 Responses to “Tim Lincecum Needs to Learn How to Pitch, Not Throw”

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  1. Brian says:

    “The pitch results in the heart are almost always strikes (94% of the time called strike) vice the edges where a pitch is called a strike 2/3 of the time. Pitches in the heart though are more like to go for hits.”

    Is this another concrete and measurable thing to refine BABIP with? I hope so — because it would reconcile a lot of what those who hate BABIP complain about.

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:

      Maybe, Maybe so. A little more work needs to be done, mainly nailing down the exact Edge Zone. Bill Petti will also be looking at this subject in the next couple days.

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      • Shao says:

        Could this explain why Zack Grenike have consistently had BABIP higher than league average? Before he’s traded to Angels I thought that is because his teams simply bad in defense. But then he sill had a terrible BABIP last year. If his Edge% is lower than league average, it might help in explaining something.

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      • Synovia says:

        Right. A pitcher who throws the ball down the middle is going to get a high percentage of his outs via K and walk very few guys.

        When he does get hit, hes going to get crushed.

        You’ll see high BABIP, high K, low BB, and assume its bad luck, when its not.

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  2. Ivan Grushenko says:

    This is awesome.

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  3. Cookierojas16 says:

    Good work, quantifying what became evident in the few starts of Lincecum’s that I saw last season. Makes me curious about his success in relief in the post season. Part of it was velocity increase, but now I want to look at Pitch fx game charts to see whether his location was finer too.

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  4. Scott says:

    I can’t overstate enough how significant having a stat that helps explain babip suppression could/would be. Look at the 2012 Edge % leaders among SP and you’ll see some guys who suppressed babip quite effectively in 2012: Lohse (18.9%), Price (18.9%), Buehrle (18.8%), Colon (19.2%), McCarthy (18.2%), Vargas (18.0%), Verlander (18.0%)

    I am really looking forward to seeing more work on this subject, correlations to babip, and repeatability of this skill year to year.

    +17 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Joe R says:

      Truth, and I’m sure you’ll see guys w/ constantly high edge % will also constantly have low-BABIP and outperform their peripherals.

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  5. Scott says:

    Also of note: Mike Fiers appears below Lincecum on the edge% leaderboard….not even sure what a “small sample” is with this metric or how long it takes to stabilize but a dude w/ an 89mph fastball that tends to find the edges at a below average rate doesn’t scream sustainable in 2013 to me……

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    • McAnderson says:

      However, Fiers did not excel due to a low BABIP, .320, but rather 9.5 K/9.

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      • Scott says:

        True enough but I would question his ability to keep the K-rate up w/ just a fairly average 8.3% swSTR rate….and if he’s hitting the edges at a below average rate then I don’t like his chances at maintaining a high called strike rate without serving up more meatballs. This of course all comes w/ the caveat that we do not yet know the predictive values of edge %….just pointing out another potential reason to be bearish on Fiers for ’13

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  6. Scott says:

    I would also love to see high/low pitches discussed through the lens of “Edge %”….i.e. would pitches in the upper and lower ~3″ of the zone show similar results to pitches on the horizontal edges?

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  7. CircleChange11 says:

    Sounds like Dave Duncan’s next project.

    Thye “formula” for Lincecum would be the same, focus on the 2-seamer. He needs a pitch that he can pound the strike zone with that moves AWAY from the barrel of a RHB (which would be the 2-seamer running in) and then do the same with a cutter facing LHBs.

    It goes without saying that you need to be able to throw the ball where you want it.

    Saying TL55 needs to learn how to pitch is like saying Mark Reynolds needs to make more contact. Easier said than done.

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    • Luke says:

      I think the only “project” Duncan will be working on this, or next season is trying to flirt with a cart girl at bushwood country club.

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  8. AK7007 says:

    Uh, I think Dave covered this already. It’s not that lincecum needs to learn how to pitch – he had it, and has lost it. I’d say that’s not learning as rediscovering who he already was:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/evolution-of-lincecum/

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    • Near says:

      Did you read the analysis, or just the title?

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      • Justin Whitlock says:

        Not sure the reasoning behind the snide reply. The article states that he often touched 100mph from day one and thus the draft pick used on him then goes on to say that ability had left him but he had found control. Unfortunately, the writer had jumped to conclusions and did this at a time his xFIP was 2.20 which led to Maddux comparisons.

        Nonetheless, he has shown the ability to use ability instead of stuff to be a stud arm. Therefore, I concur that this is more a rediscover journey for him.

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  9. El Vigilante says:

    Why the “if” when talking about BABIP as a percentage? It is a percentage.

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  10. Danny Knobgobbler says:

    Will part II address his indifference toward baserunners?

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  11. Jon Roegele says:

    This is fantastic, Jeff (and Bill). I remember seeing a tweet from Bill seeking feedback on a definition of “the black”, and so I figured something like this was in the works.

    I was actually thinking about looking into something somewhat similar, but you guys are miles ahead of me.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing more on this topic!

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  12. Jaker says:

    This is why I love baseball. Really interesting stuff. Has no one run a simple correlation between BABIP and Edge %?

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  13. Jon L. says:

    I feel like this is the beginning of vindicating the people who felt that saying pitchers cannot affect BABIP was oversimplifying reality. There are things other than home runs, strikeouts, and walks, and pitchers affect those outcomes in part by locating their pitches. Amazing work! Not great proofreading, but amazing work!

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  14. Wil says:

    This is awesome. This could really lead to a better understand of what exactly can drive BABIP outside of luck or variations. When guys lose effectiveness and their BABIP rises, if it correlates in any way to how they pitch in the zone.

    Really great article.

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  15. Paul Clarke says:

    Didn’t Mike Fast write something on BABIP and hitting the edges of the zone a while ago, or am I just suffering from the illusion that any interesting Pitch F/X analysis must have a Mike Fast article somewhere? Googling didn’t turn up what I was looking for, though I did find this by Dave Allen.

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  16. Me says:

    A correction is needed there. “Besides helping his balled ball data”
    Also may I suggest slowing down the heat map a bit so we can get a bit better look at it before it switches?

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    • Bip says:

      Right click on the image and select save as. Then you can look at each separately while still having the quick comparison to see the differences.

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  17. Table says:

    So what led to Linceum”s success out of the bullpen? Increased velocity? Luck? Or was it easier for him to focus in shorter stints?

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  18. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Watching Tim always makes me think he just lost his control, period. When he throws strikes he seesm to be effective because he still has a lot of movement on his pitchs. When he starts to walk hitters, he was done.

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    • Baltar says:

      Yes, those walks in relation to the other 4 pitchers are the one thing that stood out the most–more than the BABIP difference.

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  19. Noah says:

    This is great analysis. You guys have probable discussed this already, but it seems to me that location AND velocity, together, play a role. A high (have you done anything with upper and lower regions of the zone?) fastball is a much better pitch than a high change up.

    Also, is there any indication that a pitcher’s edge% in Year1 is predictive of edge% in Year 2 and so on? I would imagine it is predictive, but I would love to see the actual data to back that up.

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  20. J. Cross says:

    Agreed with above. This is awesome. Looking forward to tomorrow.

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  21. BurleighGrimes says:

    Awesome!!!!

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  22. dcs says:

    For the pitch result data, is it possible to give us an average Lwts scale overall value for Edge, Heart, and Outside?

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  23. dcs says:

    Plus, why should a pitch down the middle lateral-wise be called a “heart” pitch if it’s on the upper or lower end of the zone? Seems like you only go halfway here. Probably a problem in the lack of a fixed location for upper and lower. But an average of some sort would be much better than ignoring the vertical dimension of the strike zone.

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  24. Sonia H says:

    How arrogant! Telling a two time Cy Young winner to learn how to pitch.

    Timmy just needs to be more fit. He will be better prepared in 2013.

    His work coming from the bullpen was awesome because he did not get fatigued. His struggles in 2012 had more to do with lack of physical shape. It was clear he did not have the stamina, the guy was terribly skinny.

    Also, his mental state and motivation was very poor. Righetti doesn’t have a clue of what to do with Timmy. To me the Giants broke Lincecum, mental and physically. They mishandled him. Nobody takes a dive like that, without other factors coming in to play.

    Lincecum did not forget how to pitch from one season to another. Maybe some day we will find out what really happened in 2012, maybe when Timmy leaves SF we will find out.

    Anyway, I dont have faith that Lincecum can recover in SF, I believe he needs a change of scenary, a different catcher, better defense, he has two years receiving the worst run support in comparison to the other pitchers of the SF staff.

    Or you can listen to Keith Law: he believes Timmy cannot continue to be a starter because of his age and the mileage of his arm,plus the fact that he cannot repeat his delivery for a whole game. But he can still be a wonderful reliever, as we saw in the playoffs.

    So please, show more respect for a Cy Young.

    -25 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jsp2014 says:

      how rude! telling a 2 time Cy Young winner he needs to prepare more!

      +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • dafuq says:

      Randy Johnson didn’t seem to have many issues with stamina and skinniness. Wonder why you think that his being skinny has anything to do with his recent failure.

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      • The reason, as any Giants fan who follows the team closely would know, is that Timmy ill-advisedly packed on 30 pounds extra, mainly by just eating more food, for the 2011 season, then didn’t like how that felt, so he just dropped 30 pounds for the 2012 season. He had no guidance on doing that right nor with how to keep his body in shape given all the changes he put his body through.

        Thus that is why his being skinny has anything to do with his recent failure.

        And this makes sense. He started off the season unready and that preyed on his mind and he struggled. The ASB gave him time to regroup and he was actually the leading starter by ERA until his poor conditioning as the result of the rapid loss of weight caused him to be ineffective in his last couple of starts.

        That’s why he was able to pitch so well out of the bullpen, because he was able to get enough rest plus he didn’t pitch as many innings in-between appearances.

        If it was strictly the issues noted in this article, then he should not have been able to pitch so well after the ASB, nor pitch so well during the playoffs.

        Read this article plus listen to the video: http://www.csnbayarea.com/blog/andrew-baggarly/lincecum-i-definitely-feel-ahead-where-i-was-last-year

        This article, by another long-time Giants beat writer is also informative: http://blog.sfgate.com/giants/2013/02/13/tim-lincecum-more-than-a-hair-better-than-this-time-last-year/

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    • chuckb says:

      Is it just me or are there others who can’t tell if she’s being totally facetious here?

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  25. jsp2014 says:

    among SP (ones with enough pitches that I didn’t filter them out), best and worst Heart:Edge ratio (maybe Heart – Edge would be a better stat?):

    Worst:
    1. Fiers
    2. McDonald
    3. Dickey
    4. Johan
    5. Karstens
    6. Beachy
    7. Matusz
    8. McAllister
    9. Timmy
    10. Volquez

    Best:
    1. Buehrle
    2. Josh Johnson
    3. Kuroda
    4. Haren
    5. Leake
    6. Big Z
    7. Lyles
    8. Lohse
    9. Hellickson
    10. Milone
    11. Price
    12. Garza

    pretty clear distinction there. the top list is a lot of guys with electric stuff whose results don’t match the stuff. Dickey is an exception to all rules, but it’s interesting to see Beachy. not sure what to make of him since (A) he was effective at preventing runs, (B) he might have been pitching hurt for a period of time.

    the bottom list is mostly pitchers without great stuff who survive on hitting spots. Josh Johnson is an interesting exception. surprising to see Big Z on that list.

    good stuff. looking forward to tomorrow.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      I don’t think Big Z is surprising. He doesn’t “hit the corners” he “accidently misses and it just so happens to end up in a good spot”. I mean, 5.1 BB/9. It’s either that or Big Z tries to get too perfect which his pitches, which doesn’t really match his psyche.

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    • cthabeerman says:

      Beachy was interesting in that space. Without delving through the entire list (I did take a peek at most), I think a lot of it comes from the fact that he throws five pitches, four of which PITCHf/x rate above average (the fifth, his cutter, is just slightly below average).

      Basically three different velocity groups as well (fastball/cutter: 91mph, slider/changeup: 80mph, curve: 72mph), which I think explains, at least to some extent, how he’s able to stay over the plate but still keep hitters guessing.

      Most of the pitchers on the top list have four pitches, and throw them at various levels of success – but none with as much success as Beachy’s shown all-around. Beachy’s velocity groupings are also a little wider than most everyone else on the list.

      -C

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  26. chanelclemente says:

    Very nicely done. It validates a lot of speculation.

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  27. StatsNut83 says:

    Nice work guys. Gonna throw this out there without analyzing it but can you see any reason why his K% is still so close to career average?? This seems odd to me. Timmy often had one bad inning last year…Also, I love measuring things but we can’t forget how mental baseball is…no matter what a player is doing or what results are being achieved, most likely it’s because of something going on between the ears. Sonia probably has a point.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      It’s not likely fatigue, he had an ERA of 7.64 in the first inning, which is his second worst to the 6th. Obviously, you face the best hitters in the first inning and logically, the 2nd and probably 3rd innings would be easier. Then you have the survivor bias of innings 7-9 (has to be on his game to have been in that long).

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  28. pft says:

    I don’t think you lose that kind of velocity at age 28 unless you have arm problems. His first inning woes are typical of pitchers with shoulder problems.

    Not everyone with a shoulder issue needs surgery, but obviously he will need to learn to pitch with lower velocity. Unfortunately, shoulder problems also affect command. But maybe with better conditioning and strengthening he can get some of that back .

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    • Sonia H says:

      According to the theory here, he suddenly forgot how to pitch.

      Yeah right, he had an ERA of 2.74 in 2011, and suddenly he forgot how to pitch in 2012.

      His dive had to do with physical problems, at the the end it affected his mental state, he could not handle the pressure of losing so many games. He was better in the second half, but the damage was already done.

      Then came the bullpen, and suddenly he was good again. It was physical.

      It was reported one month ago that the Giants told him to gain weight in the offseason, and also, they mentioned some exercises for his shoulder that he should do.

      So yes, you may be correct.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Sam Samson says:

        The argument is he never pitched, he threw — but he could throw hard, and got away with it. Then physical decline took away that velocity, leading to bad results.

        This is where you come in. Your argument that “his dive had to do with physical problems” doesn’t refute the article. If anything it tends to support it. This article shows that although Lincecum got worse over time, he was always below average at painting the corners, or “Edge%”. If you wish to make the case that Timmy was a good pitcher not just a hard thrower before the physical decline, great — but you now have to make that argument, not merely resort to “he won awards, have some respect!”.

        Over to you.

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      • Sonia H says:

        This is where you come in. Your argument that “his dive had to do with physical problems” doesn’t refute the article. If anything it tends to support it.

        No, it doesnt. You are making that up.

        The article doesnt say a word about his physical struggles.

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      • bradley emden says:

        I think with a lower velocity, batters were not as easily fooled. They were able to lay off of pitches out of the strike zone and not worry as much when looking for the change-up that he would blaze a fastball right by them. Clearly an improvement of both velocity and control would be the best scenario.

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      • Synovia says:

        “The argument is he never pitched, he threw — but he could throw hard, and got away with it.”

        There are plenty of guys who throw as hard as Lincecum did. Most of them aren’t Cy Young winners.

        The idea that Lincecum never know how to pitch is a bit absurd.

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  29. jdm says:

    Where can I find edge % statistics?

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  30. slash12 says:

    me want edge% too! I think this could go a long way towards explaining some of the unexplained (BABIP and HR/FB%) in FIP.

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  31. SharksRog says:

    IMO there were a plethora of factors that affected what is may be the greatest decline of any live-ball pitcher entering a season with a sub-3.00 career ERA.

    . Never a pitcher who relied on command, suddenly he had even less of it, both outside the strike zone and outside it. He put more pitches in the hitting zone, and he no longer had as much speed on the fastball or the speed differential on his secondary pitches.

    . He had more release point problems than before, which perhaps made it easier to determine which pitch he was throwing.

    . His lack of command gave batters more of an opportunity to be patient with his pitches.

    . He had considerable difficulty placing his change up, often bouncing it in the dirt so early that batters who had swung it when it was in the dirt behind the plate had an easy time laying off. That is the pitch that had been Tim’s top strikeout pitch, but when not bounding it, he sometimes left the pitch up in a more hittable area.

    . Tim has a lot of moving parts, which has provided a delivery that is not only exciting, but had been immensely effective. It is also a delivery that is more difficult to repeat and perhaps to get back together, as well.

    . Tim was baffled by what was going wrong. He would have decent innings, followed by dominating innings, followed by innings in which he would get shelled. Try as hard as he could (and he was both honest about his bafflement and a hard worker to correct whatever he could come up with that might be wrong), he still couldn’t get out of his abyss until after the All-Star game.

    . After occasionally going to the stretch earlier in his career to correct command problems, he suddenly was highly ineffective with runners on base, allowing extra runs to score.

    . In the first half of the season he didn’t pitch in very good luck, particularly with some ineffective fielding keeping him from getting out of what turned out to be long innings. It left him out of the stretch more often and increased the length of innings, both of which were big negatives for him.

    . The long innings caused him to throw more pitches. He had a lot of 20+ pitch innings, putting extra stress on his arm.

    . Tim reportedly would have bullpens where the catcher scarcely had to move his glove — only to suffer a huge lack of command in the game itself.

    Tim has battled his entire pitching career, since he was very small growing up (something like 4 foot 11, 85 pounds in the 8th grade). The Giants have put together a winter program for him, and I expect him to come back strongly. His command did improve in the second half and especially in the postseason.

    He is endeavoring to return with more muscle, and he was already wiry strong. He felt he needed to increase his weight after he struggled in August of 2010. Then after 2011, he tried cutting his weight down. Hopefully this season he will have found the balance (both in his weight and in his delivery as well).

    It appeared to me that his command improved in the postseason in his relief appearances more than his velocity increased. He got his secondary pitches down more consistently, and his fastball was often high enough for hitters to have difficulty getting the bat up to match. He seemed to work the edges better. He allowed very few hits or walks, allowing him to reduce his number of pitches per inning.

    Tim’s arm is resiliant, and while it almost certainly won’t happen, he could have a lot of value as what I will term a “super reliever.” Mike Marshall won a Cy Young Award in such a role, and finished 3rd, 5th, 7th and 11th in MVP voting as well as 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 7th in the Cy Young.

    El Roy Face once went 18-1 in a lesser version of the “super reliever.” The closer has significant value in today’s game, but the earlier firemen put out more and bigger fires.

    In a “super reliever” role, Tim could achieve wins, holds and saves — as well as keeping the Giants in games that otherwise were appearing to get out of control.

    Won’t happen anytime soon, but it is a role I believe he would thrive in. He showed in the postseason that he was willing to put his ego aside in order to help the team.

    I doubt he would relish the role, but it is one in which I think he could add a variety of condiments to games.

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    • I was hoping that the Giants would put him through some sort of program, but never saw any word on that, thanks for that info. His up and down of 30 pounds without a physical therapist or trainer guiding him just screwed up his body, I’m glad he finally got some professional advice on how to get his body ready for the season.

      The super reliever role sounds like one made for him. Too bad the big money isn’t in doing that, else he might be interested.

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  32. Dave says:

    My problem with this article is it’s opening assertion that Lincecum has gotten by in the past by simply throwing the ball fast. Not only do we know that velocity, even extreme velocity without command is not enough to fool MLB hitters, we also know that Lincecum has an amazing change up that has been probably his best pitch. I feel like the article just comes to a false conclusion from the get go, then takes a bunch of facts and creates a meaning that fits the conclusion. Included in a grouping of players who supposedly have better results with similar Zone% is a pitcher who had a FIP half a run worse than Lincecum, but an ERA a full 2 points better. So, clearly, the key here is that Tim needs to be more lucky.

    I’m not sure that a conclusive statement about his or anyone elses problems of this nature can be gleaned solely from the numbers. We have no idea what his medical state is. It’s also basically insulting to suggest that Lincecum ‘doesn’t know how to pitch’, when he in fact did so astonishingly well four years in a row.

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    • SharksRog says:

      Some comments here:

      . Tim’s problems are complex. One had only to watch one or two of his post-game press conferences to glimpse the honesty and wonderment with which he viewed his seemingly unfathomable problems.

      . Virtually all the issues mentioned in the original analysis and the resulting comments played a part in the perhaps unprecedented collapse by Tim last season.

      . Tim certainly knows how to pitch and has become better at it over the years, even last year. It’s that he continues to lose the ability to put the ball where he wants it, as well as to throw it as hard. He KNOWS how to pitch; he simply is having increasing trouble excecuting his pitching.

      . Tim’s decrease in velocity doesn’t hurt just his fastball; it also hurts his secondary pitches, since the speed differential is less. With less of a fastball, hitters have a tiny bit more time to decide which pitch is being thrown. And with less of a differential in pitch speed, the deception is also slightly less. Put them together, and the effect can make a difference — especially on balls in the hitting zone.

      . Tim’s great pitching was based in significant part on getting two strikes on a batter and then, as you mentioned, putting him away with his change up or other secondary offering.

      . Tim DIDN’T have four straight great seasons. 2008 and 2009 were great seasons; 2010 and 2011 were very good ones.

      . He did have bad luck in the first half (and actually pretty decent luck in the second, in part accounting for his much better pitching despite a lower strikeout rate). But he was also hurt by an inability to pitch from the stretch.

      Even though he improved it in the second half, Tim had an .887 OPS against with RISP last season, compared to .666 over his career. I realize last season is a fairly small sample, but most of that difference wasn’t based on luck.

      . When Tim was drafted, many considered his curve ball to be the best pitch in the draft. And in his first minor league season, Tim pitched spectacularly with just his fastball and the curve. Before his rookie season, he added the change up, and by his two Cy Young seasons, he had also added a biting slider.

      . Tim relied on getting ahead of hitters enough to get them to swing at the change up out of the strike zone. Particularly in 2008, that pitch was devastating. Now he has a harder time getting strike one and strike two.

      The analysis here was excellent. When I read it, I said to myself that analytical Giants fans already knew the conclusion of the article. But what the analysis did was quantify the problem.

      Ask analytical Giants fans — and likely Tim himself — and they will tell you that indeed his loss of command has hurt him more than the loss of speed.

      Tim is enough of a pitcher to overcome much of the speed loss. But if can’t throw the ball where he wants it, misses so far out of the zone that the batter has an easy take, and leaves too many pitches in the hitting zone, he can’t take anything approaching full advantage of his pithcing knowledge.

      Turn Tim into a “strike one” pitcher, and he can then put his pitching knowledge — and his reportoire — to good advantage.

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    • Synovia says:

      Then the article says that as his velocity has decreased, his K rate has, when we see a weak correlation between the two (.3).

      There’s some good stuff in this article, but I really wish the author would stick to what his data is showing.

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  33. bradley emden says:

    I like to divide the strike zone into 9 zones. High strike, inside, middle and outside, (all strike zone) strike zone middle height, inside, middle, and outside of the plate. And, low strike inside, middle and outside. Clearly the zone in the middle both in height and width, for the most part has the highest BAPIP, and it goes down as the zones get further away from the middle. Individually some players are better on inside zones than others and vice verse. Timmy missed the edge zones by too much, throwing balls, and having batters just lay off those pitches. Control more than speed has been Timmy’s problem.

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  34. Nivra says:

    Where do you get all the data for these analyses?

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  35. skeptic11 says:

    Zimmerman needs to learn how to write. I found his writing boring and contrived, with such gems as “He has gotten worse at putting the ball on the edges as he has aged, but he was never good at it”. Take a writing or English lesson before you start criticizing Cy Young winners.

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  36. Justin Whitlock says:

    Can we say the horrid season Tim put up last year is both?

    Look, his HR/FB was absurd…that is plain and simple to see, unlucky. That will come down significantly and make a nice rebound to his performance. I will reach and say that this unlucky chain of events led to him reaching a bit and walking more people trying to pain the corners too much. But that is reach, he just plain and simple did not have his command last year.

    Did he not have his command because he no longer had the velocity to keep hitters off-balance? His BABIP was right inline with his career (.283, .304, .282, .310, .281, .309)…so I am not sure how we got onto this whole he cannot paint corners and thus people are smashing him for leaving it fat over the plate. That hit him just as well as they always have, except this year they got the fly balls to go over the fence.

    Look at all the projections for him ranging from 3.47-3.75 ERA and 3.14-3.58 FIP. He was mostly just flat out unlucky last year and is heavily predicted to regress to the mean. Despite all his shortcomings, weak fastball, inability to work the edges, he kept his 9+ K/9 (190Ks) so they are not exactly loving facing him. Get that LOB% and HR/FB ratio back into the norm and we will have the same pitcher we all though would be the 1st to get 200M.

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  37. One of the most compelling articles I read this year. Top-drawer. Very logical, yet advanced. Puts a new perspective with which to look at swing and miss % and compare it to location. Helps paint a picture of a pitchers ability by the numbers. Love it! Thanks guys.

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  38. Ian A. says:

    Now I’m curious to know how Barry Zito’s edge% looks vs Tim Lincecum’s since Barry has been having an improbably renaissance while Timmy has been replicating Zito’s fall to an eerie degree. It’s been a breathtaking cross-performance.

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  39. Matt says:

    Edge% should additionally contain lower portion and potentially a upper portion (based on bb results) of the heart of the plate. I think this would show how some pitchers gain success through that portion of the strike zone.

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  40. hobbes2d says:

    This basically supports what I’ve been telling friends and people on a few message boards regarding Lincecum. In the past his velocity masked his average (at best) command. Now that his velocity has decreased he’s not able to get away with the same location mistakes. His best chance going forward is probably as he was used in the playoffs. Unless he can figure out how to consistently have better command, but that’s always been an issue for him, even when he was a dominant pitcher.

    Here’s an interesting link to a John Sickels post back in 2008.

    http://www.minorleagueball.com/2008/2/10/175257/105

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  41. Jesus Mejia says:

    Guys dont forget that lincecum was a time bomb since he was drafted due his arm action and poor mechanics. Is going to be really hard for him to have a good command right know qith that delivery. With the fb getting lossing miles his changup losses quality too

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    • wut says:

      your expert knowledge of lincecum and the english language has been duly noted… or maybee jus passes me som dos XX pleaes

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