Fixing The Freak: Tim Lincecum Could Learn From His Predecessors

Tim Lincecum's recent strugglesTim Lincecum used to be the most dominant pitcher in all of baseball.  He rose to dominance when in his first two full professional seasons, he won back to back Cy Young Awards.  He has become a mythological figure, a David vs. Goliath.  Lincecum’s delivery is anything short of iconic and his stuff used to be overwhelmingly shocking for a man of his stature.  You couldn’t help but to deem him a “FREAK”.    At  just 5’11 170lbs,  Lincecum  grew his fame by defying the odds of a prototypical power pitcher and solidified his reputation by his performances on the field.

Just two years ago, Tim Lincecum’s future was bright, but now it’s looking dimmer.  Lincecum is experiencing a prolonged period of failure, especially by the standard of excellence he set forth early in his career.  As he approaches 30, what lies ahead for the former Cy Young Award Winner?  Can he regain his dominance?  Is he destined for the bullpen?  How many years can he continue to beat the odds?

The game of baseball catches up to us all as Father Time is undefeated.  But the game of baseball is also about making adjustments and Tim Lincecum can make adjustments by learning from his predecessors.

The purpose of this case study was to find patterns in Tim Lincecum’s mechanics over the years and compare his patterns to former power pitchers who remained competitive over a long period of time.  The results can be found in the video below.

FIXING THE FREAK:  A Baseball Rebellion Film (30 min)

THE NUMBERS

Lincecum Old vs. New

A table highlighting Tim Lincecum’s statistics from (2007-2011) compared to his last two years (2012-2013).

Predecessors vs. Lincecum

A table comparing Tim Lincecum’s statistics from the age of 23 to 29 compared to his predecessors during the same periods.

Pred:end of career

The predecessors statistics from 30 years of age to the end of their career.

If we take a closer look at the numbers above, we can begin to formulate a clear picture of the positive and negative aspects of Tim Lincecum’s delivery.

  • His unique delivery allowed him to consistently dominate hitters over a 5 year span (2nd in K/9, 2nd in H/9)  but the delivery also yielded a higher BB/9 ratio compared to his predecessors over the same period.
  • Lincecum could get away with less command in the strike zone due to the deception and FB Velocity he produced early in his career.  Only David Cone had a similar BB/9 ratio.
  • The increased BB/9 forced him to pitch less IP/YR.

Every pitcher will ultimately experience a decrease in their AVG FB MPH as they get older.  Nature catches up with us all, and given Tim Lincecum’s small frame, nature has caught up with him sooner than later.  When Tim Lincecum’s AVG FB MPH began to diminish in 2012 his numbers began to drastically decrease as a result.  The velocity plays a major role, but more importantly, the pattern of Lincecum’s delivery NEEDS  and relies on a quick arm.  He was able to get away with mechanical deficiencies early in his career, but now they staring him in the face.

  •  As evident in the film and backed by the numbers above,  ALL  of predecessors numbers BB/9 ratio remain consistent throughout the entire duration of their career.  It’s no coincidence they all exhibited similar aspects in their mechanical patterns which produced consistent results.  They stared nature in the face by stepping to the mound which an efficient and repeatable delivery.  A delivery that allowed each predecessor to pitch well into their 30′s.

Tim Lincecum has always had critics, skeptics, fans, and advocates of his unique delivery.   However you slice it, his delivery has given him the opportunity to excel at every level of baseball in his life.  Lincecum’s mechanics can still allow him to be successful, he just needs to make a few adjustments if he wants to pitch another 10 years.

Best of luck to Tim “The Freak” Lincecum!

Justin Orenduff, Leader of the Baseball Pitching Rebellion

About the Author

Justin was a Freshman All-American at GW University and then transferred to VCU where he earned all American Honors. In the summer of 2003 Justin was selected to the USA National Team where he pitched alongside Jared Weaver and Justin Verlander. He was then drafted 33rd overall by the LA Dodgers. After retiring from the Dodgers in 2009, Justin returned to VCU where he earned his B.S. in Business Management. Justin has dedicated himself to educating the masses about the pitfalls and dangers of misguided and misinformed training techniques and create efficient, sustainable, and healthy deliveries for all ages. He authors Baseball Rebellions Pitching Blog and is the lead pitching instructor at ITS Baseball, Baseball Rebellions research facility.

5 Comments on "Fixing The Freak: Tim Lincecum Could Learn From His Predecessors"

  1. Caleb D July 1, 2013 at 9:05 am · Reply

    Justin,

    I believe all the adjustments you see Tim needs to make are great and fully within reach for him. I do have a question though about his predecessors…I know you are against up-down-&-out approach to pitching, but don’t all of his predecessors have/use those mechanics? Also, in the stride alignment aspect of the video I was only able to see the Clemens part and the Seaver part, the other pitchers’ feet were blacked out. (I’m viewing it from a tablet though so not sure if that makes a difference). Great article and keep educating the masses.

    Thanks

    • Justin Orenduff July 2, 2013 at 8:47 am · Reply

      Caleb,

      As always, thanks for reading bud.

      It may have been harder to get a full sense of all of the predecessors mechanics from the view I used within the film. Although they may not look like the style I teach, they were able to create healthy and repeatable movements in their respective deliveries. You may not see the large degree of hips getting out in front of the body, but they all moved their hips to some degree towards the plate.

      Yea, I know on a few of the clips the bottom of the video was getting cut off by power chalk but I still had enough room to showcase the stride alignment of each pitcher.

      Thanks,

  2. James July 1, 2013 at 9:19 am · Reply

    Do you think Tim does what he does to try maintain his velocity? With the exception of pedro, the guys you compared him to are very large guys in comparison to Tim. Do you think that contributed more to their longevity?

    • Justin Orenduff July 2, 2013 at 8:30 am · Reply

      James,

      Great Questions.

      Lincecum himself says one of his biggest motivators growing up was the fear of not being able to play with guys that were bigger than he was. Which could have also shaped aspects of his delivery to use his body and rely less on weight. He may always have the mentality of being aggressive on the mound, which is why I wanted to find aspects of his delivery that he could change to allow a consistent release point.

      Mass can play a large role in helping the body absorb more force. But, if you have a flawed mechanical pattern it doesn’t matter how big you are, you will breakdown. Lincecum’s has stayed healthy over the years and has had very little if any arm issues. He, more than others, needs to ensure he keeps his strength and weight up the entire length of the season and commit to his body over the course of an offseason.

      I’m not sure how much he throws in between starts (bullpens/long toss) but I were to advise him, I would decrease his amount of throws between starts and work more to strengthen the individual components of the body to keep him working towards peak performance.

  3. Don Ervin October 31, 2013 at 3:25 pm · Reply

    If and when Lincecum decides that some and what adjustments need to be made within his repertoire he will have to make them without help from Righetti or anyone else from the Giants org as Zito had to do when he ventured through his what looked to be an end to his career.
    In Zito’s case it was obvious that he was and is far ahead of Righetti and the rest of the Giants so called experts who actually are as the rest of the so called experts are, which is stuck in the baseball worlds old conventional box of out dated, opinionated, robotic methods.
    Lincecum needs to get with Zito and also go back and view his past video clips of himself showing the difference between his most successful pitching and consistent outings verses his present outings.Zito done so and spent a whole off season getting back to doing what he previously had done and still does best, do not get me wrong, I do see where Zito could make some adjustments for the better. then during spring training Righetti tells him that he couldn’t pitch like that, the rest speaks for itself in a huge way.
    Come on Righetti get off of the {SHRIMP BOAT}.

    During your comparison video clips of Lincecum his poor hip to shoulder separation at stride foot/leg set, plant down which carries momentum built up from the first {HIP} movement leaving the rubber on up through the body’s {KINETIC} chain and on out through the arm,hand to ball release point is a detriment to body rhythm, timing and velocity etc.
    As far back as I can remember Tim’s arm has never been close to the cocked position at stride foot touch, plant down due to the fact that he holds on to the ball so long, At stride foot touch, plant down his hand and ball are still dangling down at his side below his knee which creates a desperate need to to execute super fast body momentum to super fast arm speed to hopefully catch up to good timing.
    Your sizing up body, stride foot, leg, drive foot heel line up is is very informative as is your whole article.
    When I talk about lining up to the target I like to mention {HIP} to {SHOULDER SEPARATION} and {TOE DRAG} alignment also.
    The execution of proper initial body momentum followed by the body’s proper series of sequenced chained reactive movements down and up the body’s{ Kinetic} chain is what creates explosive velocity.

    Poor initial momentum, to Poor stabilized stride foot touch, plant down, to poor Hip to shoulder separation creates a huge detriment to great explosive velocity.
    Good Baseball -N
    Don Ervin

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