Tim Lincecum went through a brief rough patch earlier this season, which he recovered from to go 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA and 53/19 K/BB ratio over an eight-start span.
That stretch ended with a complete-game shutout of the Mets on July 15, but since then Lincecum is 1-3 with a 6.15 ERA in six starts.
Yesterday he lost his third straight start, failing to make it out of the fourth inning and needing 93 pitches to record just 11 outs against the Padres.
And afterward the reigning back-to-back Cy Young winner seemed at a loss to explain his struggles:
I’ve become a big thinker. That’s just the way I am. Brain never stops working. You start focusing on the wrong things, or the negatives and they start to manifest and build up on each other. I can’t keep searching. I’ve just gotta go out and pitch. … You get frustrated when things don’t go your way. You just gotta come to the field every day working with a purpose until it comes back and that’s what I’m trying to get to.
Much has been made of Lincecum’s decreased fastball velocity, as he’s gone from averaging 94.1 miles per hour with the pitch in 2008 to 92.4 mph last season and 91.3 mph this year. However, he seems to think locating the fastball has been a bigger problem than anything related to velocity:
I want to throw strikes, quality strikes, where I want to throw them. The fastball is kind of all over the place right now. But just hitting that down and away fastball. That’s what I’ve got to get back. I just gotta simplify and do what I’ve got to do.
No doubt true, although it’s also a lot easier to get away with not locating a pitch well when it’s 95 mph instead of 90 mph.
Lincecum has already allowed a career-high 13 homers and during his current six-start slump he’s served up five long balls while opponents hit .321, but the good news is that he’s still missing plenty of bats with 33 strikeouts in 33.2 innings.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.