San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum had another rough outing last night going six innings and allowing five runs on eight hits and one walk. What’s even worse is that this was his best outing of the season.
Lincecum currently owns a 10.54 ERA with 16 runs allowed in 13.2 innings on 22 hits. Sure, you can chalk some of this up to luck with a BABIP of .426, 43.1% stranded runner rate, and an inflated HR/FB rate of 16.7%, none of which will last. But it’s more than bad luck that has hampered the start of Lincecum’s 2012 season.
The first thing I noticed was that his velocity was down. Yes, a lot of pitchers are still below their normal velocity in April but Lincecum is a full 2 mph below his 2011 velocity and is sitting at 90.3 mph. His velocity at this exact time last year was 92.1 mph.
Lincecum is also missing the plate a heckuva lot with 38% of all of his pitches being called balls and leaving the ball up when it is in the zone. And although he is getting a good amount of swinging strikes at 11.7%, he is allowing a lot of hard contact with a 29.2% line-drive rate.
Lincecum’s change-up is getting hit hard with a -5.6 wCH, which is far and away the worst value his change-up has ever had. Lincecum has never had a season with a wCH below +5.3 and his career wCH was +71 coming into the 2012 season. I think this is where some of the bad luck is coming from since his change-up is mostly down in the zone or out of the zone.
Lincecum’s fastball, though, has been on the decline since his first full season in 2008. Take a look at his wFB values from 2008-2012:
Thanks to the decline in velocity and the fact that he leaves his 4-seam fastball up in the zone there is little doubt why he is getting hit so hard and his fastball values are on the decline.
Like I mentioned earlier, Lincecum is still missing bats and has a 10.54 K/9 in the early season and his FIP of 3.32, xFIP of 2.64, and 3.04 SIERA are all a far cry from his 10.54 ERA and his BB/9 of 2.63, if sustained, would be the best mark of his career.
Lincecum has had some bad luck in the early going, especially against his change-up, but the drop in fastball velocity and yearly decline in his fastball value does leave me a bit concerned. Although it is not quite time to worry about Tim Lincecum I would definitely keep a close eye on him and his declining fastball.
-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and the Florida Marlins at ESPN’s SweetSpot site Marlins Daily. You can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert. Be sure to follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt