Tim Lincecum‘s struggles this month continue with last night’s loss. He now owns a 7.94 ERA this month (9.49 ERA over the last 30 days) , as last night he couldn’t even escape the third inning (2 2/3 inning). It’s amazing to think that almost exactly two months ago (June 25th) Lincecum threw his second career no-hitter.
How do you explain Lincecum’s struggles since his no-hitter? Lincecum is leaving far too many pitches up in the zone to batters, especially his breaking balls. That is something you just cannot do without getting punished by opposing batters.
Since he does not have his over-powering fastball like he did in his first three seasons in the big leagues, Lincecum must rely on ball placement and pitching to the corners of the strike zone. For a few seasons now since loosing that dominating fastball, Lincecum has struggled to pitch the corners, resulting in a very high home run total (17 so far in 2014) and opposing batters’ slugger percentage (.630 over the past month).Pitch FX courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net
When we take a look at the results of pitches Lincecum threw last night, the majority of his pitches were belt-high or higher. Only three of those pitches to end an at-bat were knee-high or lower. For whatever the reason is, whether it be bad mechanics, just plain lack of command, or Lincecum’s lost his starting pitching mo-jo, Timmy just cannot seem to fool anyone, or most importantly, get his pitches down in the zone and at the corners.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about moving Tim Lincecum to the bullpen next season because of his continued bad starts over the last few seasons, especially over the last month. I think this would be a great move, but I don’t think the Giants should wait until next season. I think the Giants should make this move now.
With the Giants still very much in the playoff hunt (4.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West and one game up on the Braves in the NL Wild Card) the time to make some dramatic moves that will help the Giants make the playoffs is now.
Yusmeiro Petit is on another one of his late-season hot streaks and right now would be the perfect time to ride it and send Linceum into the bullpen for long relief. Maybe this will give Lincecum and the Giants’ pitching coaches time to figure out what exactly is wrong with Tim Lincecum. Perhaps it’s something fixable. We can only hope so at least.
Lincecum going to the bullpen also seems like a great idea for the fact that he’s had very good success in limited time pitching out of relief, especially in big situations.
During the 2012 playoffs he pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen and did great, posting a 2.55 ERA in 17.2 innings. This season Lincecum also earned his first career save after going two-thirds of an inning against the Phillies on July 22nd.
It’s probably unlikely we will see Bruce Bochy move Linceum to the bullpen during the rest of this season unless the Giants make the playoffs, but it makes a lot of sense to do it now with Tim Lincecum’s struggles and Petit being hot. At the least, we should see the Giants move Lincecum to the bullpen in 2015 and Brian Sabean search hard for a new starting pitcher either from within the organization or via a trade or free-agency in the winter.