The defending NL Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum, is going through a rough stretch to start this season. Only eight and a third innings through two starts for Lincecum – who averaged closer to seven innings per appearance last season – and his ability stats are off. Sure, he’s struck 10 batters out, yet he’s also walked six with only one of those being of the intentional kind.
Lincecum’s batted ball data suggests not much of a change, he’s getting more infield flyballs than ever, and also allowing more homeruns with only a slight bump in the amount of flyballs given up. The most worrisome aspects for Lincecum are his downed velocity. His fastball is averaging 92.8 MPH, a mild drop from this 94.1 career average. Lincecum’s slider has also dropped about MPH, his curve has dropped by closer to three, and his change has remained static. It is worth noting that during Lincecum’s last start he did top out in the 96 MPH range.
This isn’t a Daniel Cabrera or Scott Olsen situation, but still, for a pitcher coming off a huge workload, people are going to start wondering and rumoring. Remember all of those whispers about Lincecum’s durability around draft day? If he has a few more rough starts, expect those to creep up again, albeit perhaps unfairly.
At this point, it looks like a command issue more than anything; only ~45% of Lincecum’s pitches are in the zone and he’s only registering 39% first-pitch strikes, copare that to career averages of 50% and 58% and there’s a world of difference. Whether it continues or not is something worth watching, but don’t be surprised if Lincecum fails to match his 2008 season this year, or any year in the future.