Can Tim Lincecum Come Up Clutch In The Postseason?


August 5, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) reacts in the dugout during the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Giants won 8-3. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

In case you have been hiding under a rock for the past six months, I won’t be the only person to inform you that Tim Lincecum has limped through a disastrous 2012 campaign that has been weird on multiple levels.

The two-time Cy Young award winner has failed to find his Cy Young form at any point this year. He has had his good stretches and his bad stretches. One of his better, and probably best stretches of the year, was up to six solid outings before he hit a wall against Arizona on Tuesday night.

In six starts before Tuesday, he totaled a 2.78 ERA. He also went 4-1 during that span. For the Giants, who went 8-17 before he went on that mini streak, winning with Lincecum on the mound was a welcoming sight. A sight they haven’t seen much of since his Cy Young days, as they’ve ranged in the .500 area whenever he has taken the ball since those days.

However, it’s Tuesday’s start that raises the eyebrows. And it also stings a bit more too seeing that he came into the game with some recent success which had everyone thinking about the “real” Lincecum.

Rather than a liability he was beginning to become reliable again. More importantly, he was doing it at just the right time—before the postseason. But Tuesday’s outing where he coughed up seven runs in 4.2 innings to Arizona, put the reliable thoughts back to sleep.

While his wobbly performance on Tuesday probably won’t slam the door shut on his hopes of being in the postseason rotation, it certainly isn’t the type of note that Lincecum and the Giants wanted to enter the postseason on. Although he should have one more start to wipe the slate clean before the postseason. Well, not entirely clean.
The Oh So Dominant Change up. Not

Lincecum’s fastball speed and location have been two of the most talked about aspects of his ongoing struggles this year because, well, they’ve been the two most obvious observations.

Anyone could initially glance at the radar gun and infer that Lincecum is no longer the flamethrower that he once was. He’s not hitting 95 MPH on the radar gun anymore. And his fastball isn’t feared much at all. Whether that’s due to fatigue, a minor injury, or the fact that he’s aging, it’s relatively obvious to even the casual crowd.

What isn’t so obvious though, is the fact that his change up hasn’t merely been a pitch working in his favor this year. It’s been almost the exact opposite of beneficial. He has held opposing hitters to the tune of a .265 batting average, easily a career worst.

Simply put, few hitters have been able to touch his change up since 2009 which makes this year surprising. Of course, the success of his change up was large part due to a zipping fastball that he had to back it up, making him posses one of the best fastball-changeup combinations.

But 2012 has been an entirely different story.

As aforementioned, his fastball has taken a few big steps back. Both in speed and location. This has killed the effectiveness of his change up, represented by the value of this pitch for him which sits at -10.36. Now compare that number to his 2011 (8.54), 2010 (10.54), and 2009 (23.02) values. The drop off from even last year has been substantial. Forget about 2010 and 2011, as this year’s version of Lincecum can’t accurately be compared to the Lincecum of the past, but even the vast step he has taken back since last year has been mind-boggling.

While it’s practically impossible to fix a pitch within a matter of a couple weeks, Lincecum’s change up will surely be a factor in his success or failures in the playoffs.
1st Inning Chaos…

A whole bunch things could fall under this category–first inning walks, wildness, and overall a general sense of control to name a few. Or more simply put, no one has a clue as to how he will end the first inning. It could be quick or it could take half an hour. It’s just not something that can be predicted which obviously isn’t a good thing.

Further more, his 7.88 ERA in the first inning ultimately crosses the T’s and dots the I’s. Plus, his strikeout to walk ration in the first inning checks sin at 2.05K/BB. Take Tuesday night against the Diamondbacks for example. He walked the leadoff batter (Adam Eaton) on four pitches right out of the gate which instantly put him in a tough situation because he had to deal with the speed on the base-paths. This wasn’t just a one-time happening, however. It’s been a common theme since day one of the season. And ironically, seemingly all of his free passes come back to haunt him in one shape or form.

In the playoffs, these free passes will come back to bite him even more so. Every pitch counts in the short series. Where a walk in the regular season could be rubbed off, a walk in the playoffs could clear the way for a run, and a run could determine the outcome of the game. It’s that simple.

Can He Come Up Clutch In The Postseason?

That is the real question. He has a good track record in the postseason with a 2.43 ERA in five starts. He won the World Series’ clincher by outduelding Cliff Lee. He has two Cy Young awards to his name.

But is the Lincecum of the past gone?