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.