Friday, May 18, 2007

Third Start of the Lincecum Era: Wow

Here is where Lincecum is showing how he has more potential than even Matt Cain. His third start was against Houston, and they have some heavy guns in them with Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Hunter Pence. Throw in slugger Luke Scott, and while they are not Murderer's Row, they are pretty formidable. Oh, and throw in future Hall of Famer, Craig Biggio, and a bandbox of a stadium where homers can fly out easily along the lines.

His pitching line: 7.0 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K's.

This is his first MLB start with 10 or more strikeouts. And this time he kept the hits way down, unlike his other two starts. He also kept the walks down again. He went 7 innings but he only threw 95 pitches (60 for strikes), so he could have probably pitched another inning or two if Bochy wanted him too. That's very few pitches given that he struck out 10. That works out to about 4 pitches a batter, he was very economical with his pitches, particularly considering the high percentage of balls called.

His ERA is now down to 3.44 and this is his second straight 5 PQS game, another dominating start. There is almost no way Russ Ortiz is returning to the rotation, unless the Giants want to showcase him for a trade or something. I would rather put him in the bullpen and be a setup guy, perhaps the guy who only comes in to start the 7th or 8th if that is possible. He gives up a lot of walks but if there is nobody on when he is brought in, that's not as big a problem, he could be effective in those situations. He's already publicly acknowledge this and appears ready to take that role.

Even before Lincecum shut Houston down, the Giants had decided to give Ortiz two rehab starts, thus it meant that Lincecum would get another start. Given that the second start is against Houston again and just a few days later, though in SF, I think the Giants wanted to see how Lincecum would do against good hitters again so soon after facing them, as the hitters should have adjusted to him so this would be a good test to see if he can adjust back, and be a factor in whether the returned to AAA or not.

Given how well he pitched last night, though, I cannot imagine that he's ever going back down again. I feel a nice win streak coming up for the team, as they realize what gems they have in Cain and Lincecum, plus Zito and Lowry and Morris, and the hitters are going to feel the pressure to do good by them and get those runs they need to win, and not allow many 2-1 or 1-0 losses. Pride will drive them to do more, to rise to their pitchers's level.

16 comments:

  1. What a game, huh?

    The Franchise really showed he's the real thing, and I agree with you that he shows even more promise than Cain. That's saying alot, since several people have suggested Cain will be in the running for the Cy Young this year.

    I'm trying to think of a historical parallel--but can't really. I know the team pretty well back until the mid-60s and can't really think of a similar young duo.

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  2. Yep, what a game!

    Exactly, Cain is no chopped liver either, he's a threat for a no-hitter every time he starts, yet still, Lincecum seems to be even better. Any MLB team would be lucky to have a Matt Cain on their rotation, but now we also have someone even better, how good is that?

    There is no historical parallel on the Giants, particularly for young pitchers out of our farm system, that I know of. Maybe John Montefusco and Pete Falcone is the best pairing and Pete really didn't do much other than have an OK first season.

    Certainly not even for just one of them, the Count was the only fireballer strikeout pitcher out of the Giants farm system I'm aware of from the time I've followed them from 1971 to today. All the other pitchers were never that good at striking out people at the major league level.

    At best, we would have the one good prospect, Mark Grant, Mike Remlinger, Saloman Torres (never would believe he would resurrect his career the way he has, shows more fortitude than he did with us). Who would then fizzle out at some point.

    Oh, and of course, our recent brush with good pitching prospects, Ainsworth, Williams, and Foppert. I guess the old habit of saying a prospect "Fopperted" up the system has been replaced by "Lincecumed" up the system.

    I guess that's probably the closest we have gotten for a historical parallel, when Ainsworth, Williams, and Foppert were all on the cusp of joining the team, I guess really 2003 when they were all up and doing OK to pretty good, before it all went away in a broken collarbone and TJ surgery and too many kalua pork and spam musubi.

    Sidenote: can you believe Foppert will be 27 this year? I hope he can become the next Nathan for us.

    Forgot to mention Oswalt quotes on Lincecum in Merc: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_5916050?source=rss

    Here are some interesting bits since it isn't free after a week:

    * about Tim not icing after games: "He will after he throws 1,000 innings over four years". But then Baggarly notes that while they are compared because of size and the way they generate power with their legs and incredibly long strides, their mechanics are different, so maybe that won't come true. After all, you don't hear of Oswalt long tossing the day after a start.

    * But they were similarly derided for their unique mechanics, Oswalt: "I was told my mechanics were terrible and it was funny because in college and high school, I'd never been sore," said Oswalt, who didn't need to ice. "I heard kids complain their arms were hurting, but I could throw every other day." So maybe Lincecum is doing Oswalt one better, Tim can throw every day and not only that, but can long toss.

    * "They told me I was so fast toward the plate that my arm won't be quick enough to catch up, but it always would," Oswalt said. "When I was 19, 20 years old, I could be way out of whack and my arm would still catch up. Once you get 1,400 innings on your arm, though, 240 innings every year, it's not as quick as it used to be. I had to start slowing myself. You kind of make up for it. You learn stuff along the way."

    * Oswalt considers himself something of a swami when it comes to mechanics. Last season, he took one look at Minnesota Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano, a former Giants prospect, and knew the kid's arm was going to blow out.

    "I told the guys he's probably not going to last the whole year," said Oswalt, who was proven right. "He's actually twisting the ball when he throws the slider. There's just no way your arm can take that much torque."

    Well, that's it. Too bad there was no after game quotes from him, maybe next week when they come to SF to visit.

    I was listening to the Krukow morning show (what a trouper, he just flew in around 3-4AM this morning, yet took at call at 7:30AM) and Murph noted - and Kruk concurred - that Lincecum reminded them of Dwight Gooden when he came up, with his 95+ fastball and over the top curveball. Then Kruk noted that Lincecum also has a good changeup that he started dropping on the hitters late in the game for another look. He also noted that Lincecum was doing all this with a 2-seamer and hasn't even learned out to throw a 4-seamer (someone will have to explain the significance of this to me - perhaps Mr. Mechanics Carlos? - other than that it is another pitch for the batter to think about. Kruk always makes it seem so important to know/have; if so, he should teach Lincecum how to throw it soon, I want a no-hitter. :^)

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  3. Forgot to mention quotes in today's Merc:

    * Mike Lamb, Houston 3B: "He's unbelievable. The stuff he was throwing out there tonight, he was everything he was hyped up to be. He was 97 with movement and you just don't see that every day."

    * It was noted that "Lincecum might look like a teenage batboy, but he has proved he belongs." Then a quote from Randy Winn was added, which I think will be my signature for a while: "No batboy can throw a ball like that."

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  4. The main fastball I've seen Lincecum throw (the ESPN game, when he got called up) tails dramatically in on right handed batters. That's a two-seam fastball. Most four-seam fastballs (thrown with the fingers moving across all four seams) tend to rise.

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  5. One last comment:

    I found the historical parallel: 1964. Marichal's fourth year in the majors and Gaylord Perry's first year as a starting pitcher. Both had over 200 IP and ERA's of 2.48 and 2.75.

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  6. I'm no expert (like Carlos), but here is my take on the 4-seam fastball. In my experiences of watching pitchers pitch on TV (as my seats at a game are never close enough to get any good look at them), the two pitches (4-seamer and 2-seamer) act complete differently.

    [Obligatory disclaimer: now this is all just my opinion based on my observations. Anyone could (and should) point out of I'm wrong, as it'll only fortify my understanding of the game.]

    The 4-seamer is capable of traveling a lot faster. From what I've seen, a pitcher that can throw a 2-seamer in the low 90s can add an additional three to five MPH on the pitch via the 4-seamer.

    The problem with a 4-seamer is that it doesn't have the movement a 2-seamer does. The 4-seamer, if it does move, isn't a crisp or sharp as a 2-seamer. Krukow believes that the 4-seamer will "rise" when thrown high. I don't know if theres any truth to this, but I'm sure it could sure look like it's rising if it's coming faster than the other fastballs and is coming across the letters.

    The 2-seamer, while it may not come as fast as a 4-seamer, is a lot more unpredictable. Sinking, cutting, and all that extra movement that people see on a lot of fastballs seem to come from the 2-seam grip.

    Maybe Lincecum doesn't throw a 4-seamer because his 2-seamer is so effective. Maybe his dad didn't want him to depend so much on the additional MPH, but rather controlling (and harnessing) the movement that his 2-seamer provided him. Why throw the flatter ball for an extra 3 or so MPH when the impact of a two or three inch break could potentially be so much bigger?

    This is just my take. I'm interested in what others think about it. I've always been fascinated by the various fastballs that exist. Cutters and sinkers the most.

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  7. Thanks for the comments!

    Marichal and Perry were before my time, at least their coming up, I was unfortunately there for the trade of Perry, but that sounds like the best comparison we are going to get in SF unis, two Hall of Famers. Marichial had Lincecum's 3rd start in his first start, so Lincecum is a little behind him. :^)

    Thanks sfgfan, didn't mean to disparage other's knowledge, what you wrote makes lot of sense. Wow, so then if he learns this pitch, he could be in the low 100's? And potentially occassionally touching 105! Whew!

    So this is the "rising fastball" I always hear about. I've seen many explanations, mainly that it's an optical illusion, obviously, as gravity brings everything down, but the ball appears to rise because you are so used to the other pitch which dips down more that it is odd to your eyes when it does not drop like you expect it to. [And I disclaim all this too :^)]

    I'm no expert either, but at 100-105 MPH, I would imagine that you don't need the movement, you just fire it past the hitters. Plus you are looking for separation between your established fastball and your breaking pitches, and adding 3-5 MPH to the difference would be huge I would think. Again, not an expert.

    And just so that the naysayers know, I am aware of Prior and Wood, and that things don't always work out, but I think you have to enjoy the moment and dream a little of the future, else you become this bitter old fan always raging about how the Giants suck and how Sabean sucks and Magowan sucks, and cannot enjoy the winning seasons that Sabean gave to us earlier and hopefully give to us going forward.

    Here it was, the season we went to the World Series, and these guys on the board I was on were just too bitter to enjoy the season or the playoff run. There was this old cartoon, something like "Gulliver's Travels" or something related to Gulliver, around the early 1970's and there was this whiny short and stout Lilliputian, whose catch phrase was "It'll never work", said in fine high-pitched whine. They remind me of him. Nothings ever good enough for them and if the Giants ever win a World Series under Sabean, instead of enjoying it purely, they will instead harp on how he couldn't win with Bonds or couldn't win when he was younger or whatever their latest complaint about the Giants is.

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  8. >And just so that the naysayers know, I am aware of Prior and Wood, and that things don't always work out, but I think you have to enjoy the moment and dream a little of the future, else you become this bitter old fan always raging about how the Giants suck and how Sabean sucks and Magowan sucks, and cannot enjoy the winning seasons that Sabean gave to us earlier and hopefully give to us going forward.

    I know E (over at MCC) does it a lot of the time in good fun or only partially-serious, but that made me think of all of his comments.

    I didn't feel that you disparaged anyone's opinions/thoughts on pitches. I just wanted to make sure no one thinks I felt I knew it all with my answer.

    Back to the topic at hand. I think that it's possible that the 4-seamer has more inherent injury risks to it. I don't know exactly what makes it faster than the 2-seamer, other than the break, but I imagine that most pitchers that use it (especially in a two-strike count) throw it harder. That could throw their "normal" mechanics out of whack and possibly pose an injury risk, no?

    The one thing that boggles me about Lincecum is how he gets that much additional heat on his fastball. If he doesn't have a 4-seamer, does he just "hump up" and throw a harder two-seamer? If thats the case, I don't think its something he should do too often.

    I'm all for him broadening his pitching repertoire. If it's an injury risk pitch (like a slider vs. curve), I'd say shy away from it unless he NEEDS to learn it.

    Thats something I'm curious about as well. Does a slider have more inherent risk of injury compared to a curve? I'd imagine to force enough spin on a slider to create the sharp break, your arm probably whips kinda "voilently" as Roy Oswalt pointed out about Liriano.

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  9. Yeah, E I know he does a lot just for fun. There were a lot of seriously down people at the newsgroup board back 5 years ago. I couldn't convince any of them that 2003 was going to be a good season and a lot of them didn't seem to enjoy the 2002 season.

    Oh, if there is injury risks to it, more so than pitching itself is, then that would explain why Lincecum doesn't throw it, perhaps his dad discouraged it. Great point!

    My understanding about how he generates the speed is that he uses his legs a lot more than most pitchers and he's not really throwing with his arm, but I've read the description that his arm is along for the ride. And his mechanics have been tweaked by his dad over the years, to minimalize stress.

    Thinking about this, it makes a lot of sense that he didn't have any good breaking pitches when he went into college, his father probably didn't allow him to throw any while he was younger, I've read that it is best if pitchers don't learn to throw breaking pitches until they are more physically mature.

    I don't know how the slider works, but I do know that the screwball/fadeaway, really wrecks your arm, Carl Hubbell, Giants great HoFer, had his hand face outward in his post-playing days, when his arm just hung there, because of the torque on that pitch.

    So, excellent point, only add the pitch if there isn't any increased risk of injury, I just assumed (stupidly I admit) that it would be thrown in the same motion as the two-seamer and thus would not be of additional injury risk. Thanks.

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  10. I like this discussion. I never heard that belief that its better to teach a pitcher breaking pitches later in their development.

    I know that Tim generates much of his velocity from his legs. The thing that boggles me is his manipulation of the speed. If he needs more MPH, he could add a substantial amount more. He cruises around 92-94, usually. Then all of a sudden, 97/98, when he needs it. Thats a huge difference.

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  11. Oh, yeah, the thought is that the tender still developing arm of the pitchers is not mature enough to handle the stress of throwing breaking pitches until later. Don't remember off-hand at which age it is OK to start, but that's the thought that I can remember.

    Yeah, being able to move from the low 90's that most pitchers can throw to the high 90's is the equivalent of adding a turbo to the pitch, it takes it into a new realm that most pitchers cannot ever reach.

    And to think, he can still throw at that speed late in the game too! Some can only hump it up early in the game, but late in the game, 7th, 8th inning, that's like mid-game for him since he's used to throwing over 150 pitches when he was in college.

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  12. Nice post, Martin, good information and insights. I liked your comment about the youth in the pen. It is funny, the same people who complain about how old the team is also call the bullpen a disaster. Well, it is pretty hard to have a pen that is both young and elite. This happens to be a very good pen. It is just that we are in a division with two unbelieveably good pens (LA, SD). The Giants home site stated that for a one month period, roughly April 20 something to now the Giants pen had the 4th lowest ERA in the NL. And despite their youth, the pen as a whole has 4 blown saves. Good? Bad? Horrible? Here are the rest of the NLW: LA (3); SD (5); Az (5). To say the pen is killing or going to kill the season is just to show ones ignorance and spiteful negativism. And, as I pointed out in another post on your site, it is actually the starting pitching that, recently, is responsible for the bulk of our losses (I had evaluated the box and line scores for our recent spate of games, following the win streak where in we've gone 8-12. Of the 12 losses, I attribute 7 to SP, 3 to BP and 2 to the offense.
    Baseball is a tense game ,often being won based on inches or luck (see the 3 games in Houston, each could have gone either way, each largely effected by a couple of inches here or there: 1) the HR off the foul pole, 2) Scott's catch in RF, 3) Winn's base hit off the bag, 4) Molina's throw that ticked off Durham's glove, 5) Durham's decision not to try to score from 3b on and on and on. Every play can potentially be the difference maker, every pitch. We're just not going to win 103 games by 15-2 scores. People seem to NEED that. It seems like people are soooo anxious to call any performance just slightly less than elite as 'terrible' or 'he sucks.'

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  13. Thought I would note that the Merc reported today that Aurilia has been suffering from some sort of stiff neck since the beginning of May, which would explain his poor hitting in the month thus far.

    Gets Klesko some more starts, so maybe he can get a groove going.

    Ortmeier will get some starts with Bonds DHing too, gets him a good look too.

    Ugh, what an ugly start for Zito, he's not as zen as he makes himself to be, he was too ampped up for his first few starts and did poorly, now he gets ampped up facing the A's. Hopefully he won't have many more starts where nerves get in his way of pitching well.

    About the series, the Merc's been on this anti-Giants slant with their columnnists for a while, today knocking the Giants for signing Zito and praising the A's because of how well their pitchers are doing.

    But really, how long will Gaudin and Blanton continue to pitch at such an elite level?

    Gaudin is doing very well this season, but he had 42 BB in 64 IP vs. only 36 strikeouts last season - he gave up more walks than strikeouts! He's doing well this season but previous to this season he had 80 BB in 149.2 IP, only 101 K's. It is possible that at 24 Gaudin finally figured things out, but his control was so horrible last year that what he is doing now is waaay an outlier.

    Then there's Blanton. His K/BB is over 3 this year, when it was under 2 for his career. Plus, he never struck out so many, 107 in 194.1 IP last season, 116 in 201.1 IP the season before, now suddenly he strikes out 49 in 62.1 IP? How long will that last? Again, perhaps he suddenly got better, he's only 26, but that is a huge leap, suddenly striking out more people - a lot more.

    And with their starters doing so well above expectations, their team is still only around .500.

    Then the injuries. The Giants get knocked for getting older players who, theoretically get injured more, but then the A's actively acquire players who are injury prone, Harden, Bradley, Snelling, etc. How is that better than getting older players who a) are injured just as much, if not more, and b) have performances which are up and down versus a vet who is more steady in production?

    Bah, makes me leans towards stopping my subscription with the Merc again to save money, much as I love reading the newspaper, but I get tired of the media picking on Bonds, the columnist just had to stick in an anti-Bonds blurb into the column, they didn't have to given the topic of the column, but they just threw it in at the end, I guess to be petty and "support" their brethren with the Chron who was under the gun from the government for a while.

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  14. Should be "when they" not "who" when listing a) and b).

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  15. Lincecum is going to be a great one, that's for sure. I just feel a little hesitant to start the clock on the time he has left before arbitration and eventual eligbility for free agency, when we'll have to shell out BIG bucks to keep him in orange and black. But he's obviously ready for this level of competition, and given that he's nearly 23 I suppose it would be foolish to hold him back.

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  16. Thanks for the comment Kevin.

    I think the Giants will be working with his agent on a contract covering the years we have him under control before the season is over and there will be a contract sometime during the off-season.

    He's clearly motivated by money (not that that's bad), as evidenced by his insistence on a certain amount the year before we drafted him and the fact that we went above what his pick should get, based on what had been signed before and after him - he got what the #10 pick got the year before, not at the lower bonuses there were being paid his draft year. I recall based on bonuses his year, the bonus should have been like $1.8M but the Giants paid the $2.0M that the #10 would have expected based on the bonuses last year.

    However, I don't think he's so money hungry that he's going to try to get a lot more than he deserves, which a Boras client does, I think he just wants a fair amount based on how good he is. Hence the bonus was in line with the previous year and not something in line with a #1 pick, which is probably where he should have been picked, which a Boras client would have wanted.

    I expect him to get a contract laden with incentives, probably more than what Cain and Lowry got as the base too, which was around low $9M. I would think somewhere around $10M (round number, 8 digits, more than Cain) with that extra amount paid as bonus immediately plus incentives that if he is as good as he thinks he is, he's getting good money, but not every dime he might have gotten in arbitration if he pushed it to the max.

    I think he understands the Giants went out on a limb for him and that they value him greatly, so he is appreciate of that, much like Cain, who appreciates being a Giant.

    Plus the location is almost ideal for his dad to make games, perhaps without missing much time at work to do it, maybe take a half day off, fly down at lunch, take in a night game, then fly back, at least for home games. They are clearly very tight.

    I still think the Giants should hire him to help with pitching prospects' mechanics (Carlos Gomez too! :^). I don't think that it is just body type that allows Tim to throw so that a) he doesn't need to ice his arm after games and b) he can long toss the next day.

    Especially since the Giants appear to be an organization who converts a lot of their position players to pitchers, usually once they fail as a position player. Joe Nathan was a SS I think, and I forgot the others, but there has been at least 3-4 other players converted to pitchers. Have Tim's Dad work with these newbies since they are starting from scratch anyway, get the mechanics down perfect, like Tim's, then we can have an army of strong-armed throwers coming up the system. That allows the team to draft strong armed position players who are weak hitters later in the draft and develop them as pitchers.

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