Tim Lincecum has gone from the face of the San Francisco Giants franchise to somewhat of an afterthought in the past few years. Lincecum has struggled with command, consistency, and velocity, and he is now a completely different pitcher than he was back in 2008 and 2009 when he won back-to-back National League Cy Young Awards.
Now that pitchers and catchers have reported and Spring Training has offically begun, the Giants don’t have many areas that need to be addressed. One topic for debate heading into Spring Training though was whether Lincecum or Ryan Vogelsong would become the fifth starter for the Giants.
The Giants have a problem of too much starting pitching depth but still not many reliable starting pitchers behind Madison Bumgarner, as Matt Cain and Tim Hudson are recovering from surgery, and it’s unclear if Jake Peavy can be as effective this upcoming season as he was at the end of last season.
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Bruce Bochy proclaimed yesterday though that Lincecum will be in the starting rotation in 2015 and that Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit will pitch out of the bullpen and both be long relievers. The fifth starter job is Lincecum’s to lose, and he knows that there’s more pressure on him this year to step up than ever before.
It seems like people keep saying that year after year with Lincecum. “This is the year that he’ll bounce back.” “This is the year that he’ll salvage bits of the old Lincecum and evolve into a different but effective Lincecum.” Giants fans are yet to see this “comeback” from Lincecum, but maybe a family reunion will do the trick this year.
During the offseason, in the hopes of re-creating the magic and fixing his broken delivery, Lincecum sought the advice of his father, Chris Lincecum, who was the architect behind Tim’s freaky, yet effective delivery (effective in the early part of his career).
Tim and Chris had grown apart recently, but Tim decided that reuniting with his father and speaking to him about how to fix his mechanics might be just what he needed.
Alex Pavlovic of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area spoke with Tim yesterday about his emotional reunion with his father:
“That was tough,” Lincecum said, smiling. “It’s like saying, ‘I tried to do it on my own,’ and he’s there just to remind you that it’s never going to be that way. It’s obviously a ‘tail-between-my-legs’ type of thing but I needed that help. It was definitely freeing for me to be able to say that to him and him understanding where I’m coming from.”
Lincecum said he he had to apologize when he initiated the conversation, and his father reminded him that they got here together and must continue to stick together. It wasn’t long before the intense work started. By the middle of November, Lincecum was back on a throwing program, one that had him pitching off a mound or flat ground four to five times a week and usually at more than 90 percent effort. While most pitchers wait until late December or early January to pick up a ball, Lincecum said he threw about 50 times under the watchful eye of his father.
“He knows my mechanics better than me, even,” said Lincecum. “They’ve been out of whack for a while now. I think repetition is the big thing for me. Going out there and continuing to do the right mechanics and knowing why they’re doing it is another big thing for me. Growing up with my dad, we talked about how it was more that I listened to what he said as opposed to knowing what he meant, and I think this year I got a bigger understanding of my mechanics and why my body needs to be in certain positions.”
If Lincecum, who once again is sporting long hair, needs a refresher course this spring, help will be nearby. Chris arrived in Scottsdale on Tuesday and will stay about a month. After months of working side-by-side, Tim is looking forward to leaning on his father as he tries to recover from a season during which he was bounced from the rotation and made just one postseason appearance.
“We definitely had the same kind of relationship as we did when I was younger,” he said of the offseason sessions. “We’re both very stubborn individuals so those moments came out where he had to go take a smoke break — that happened quite a bit, but we learned to love each other regardless and just kind of move on knowing that we’re just kind of fighting for the same thing. I have that dying will in me that ‘I want to do it my way, I want to do it my way, dad.’ He’s just there to remind me that it’s not going to be that way.”
Lincecum also spoke with Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle about what he’s worked on with his father and what the process has been like:
The 30-year-old right-hander said he spent the offseason going over “bullet points” regarding his delivery with his father after years of a professional estangement. As Lincecum continued to struggle year after year, he admitted, he got tired of having to answer to Chris about what was going wrong. Until he realized that his dad was the best choice to try to get him back on track.
“It’s kind of like a kid with a bad report card,” Lincecum said. “You can’t hide it from (your parents) all summer, can you?”
Lincecum has been a Giants fan favorite since he joined the team, so fans want to see him do well. However, it seems like every offseason there’s a new reason why Lincecum will succeed this upcoming year, such as when he added on more muscle, which allowed him to repeat his delivery more consistently and not fatigue as quickly, or when he started to utilize scouting reports and video analysis more before his starts.
Lincecum hasn’t found the right combination or the right method to snap him back into his old form. Who knows if he will ever look like the old Lincecum. It seems doubtful given the fact that he’s 30 now and doesn’t have the same velocity. However, Giants fans should be somewhat hopeful of Lincecum at least gaining a little more consistency in his mechanics, as his father is the one that constructed Lincecum’s odd pitching form.
Just because his father helped tweak and improve his delivery this offseason, it doesn’t mean that Lincecum will go out every five days and execute the necessary improvements to his delivery to perfection. It’s still on Lincecum to execute and be effective, but if anything or anyone can help re-start Lincecum’s career, it would be his father.