Tim Lincecum to the DL; What’s Next for Him?


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The San Francisco Giants and their fans have seen it all with starting pitcher Tim Lincecum. From Cy Young Awards and World Series wins and no-hitters, to the most epic of falls from grace, they’ve been through it all.

Lincecum’s once-electric arm has been experiencing a shortage on power for more than three years now. Last Saturday, D.J. LeMahieu’s line drive back up the middle that struck Lincecum in his right arm, his pitching arm, was the blow that knocked the power out. The comebacker caused a contusion that has forced Lincecum onto the disabled list for the first time in his nine-year career, after 269 games, 1,643 innings, and 108 wins.

As the season progressed, Lincecum being removed from the rotation looked more and more inevitable as he struggled through start after start. After a tremendous beginning to the year, including a 3-2 record and 2.00 ERA after six starts, Lincecum has fallen back into old habits. After a start to the season that included Lincecum spotting his fastball like never before, and his breaking pitches having extreme life, like his Cy Young days, it became more of the same old, same old.

His ERA was over six in his past nine starts, and he had gone more than five innings just three times in that span. For the season, his 1.58 strikeouts-per-walk rate is the second-worst in baseball, and his strike percentage, the percentage of pitches thrown for a strike, is 61.4, is sixth-worst among pitchers who have thrown at least 1,300 pitches this year.

Even before the injury on Saturday, Lincecum was looking at a “changed role”, and manager Bruce Bochy was “concerned”. With a roster crunch looming as Matt Cain and Jake Peavy prepare to return from injury, the decision to shelve Lincecum for the time being makes things a bit easier to sort out. So with his rotation spot gone, and for the time being, his roster spot as well, what’s next for him?

Have we seen the last Lincecum start in a San Francisco Giants uniform? If the five members of the rotation hold up like the team hopes, which is far from a given at this point, then yes, we likely have seen the last start in orange and black for Lincecum. A spot in the bullpen seems like the best spot for him at this point.

The bullpen could be the jumpstart that Lincecum’s career needs. It would allow him to crank up his fastball, going harder for a shorter period of time to add some miles to the fastball without having to worry about conserving energy for later in the game. Lincecum is known for his “rubber arm” and quick warmup times, so Lincecum’s most likely destination seems to be the bullpen.

But whether he’s a starter or a reliever, Lincecum needs to command his pitches better. Now that he throws 87 instead of 97, he can’t get away with missing his spots like he could early in his career. He needs to spot his fastball perfectly, or he will continue to get hurt. His offspeed pitches aren’t much better lately. All too often, he leaves his breaking balls too far up, and they get crushed as a result. It doesn’t matter if Lincecum is throwing to Buster Posey, Andrew Susac, Hector Sanchez, or even the best defensive catcher in baseball Yadier Molina, no catcher can help him when Lincecum can’t help himself.

With Lincecum’s contract set to run out after the 2015 season, the sands in his San Francisco hourglass may be nearing their end. He’s no longer an ace, he’s no longer a reliable starter, and for right now, he’s no longer a starter at all. Where he goes from here, no one really knows.

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