The 98 mph fastball. The knee-buckling curveball. The leap off the mound. The electric arm.
Based on readers’ comments and repeated emails about Lincecum, I don’t need to say much more. Check out the sickest curveball you’ll see this side of Josh Beckett after the break.
But first, a preview
Disgusting. More on that later.
I won’t spend too much time on this, since people primarily want to see his mechanics, but it’s worth noting a few things. Lincecum is 8-1 with a 1.99 ERA. Over 90.2 IP, he has 92 strikeouts, 35 walks, and only 3 HR allowed. His FIP is 2.57 which indicates he’s getting somewhat lucky on batted balls in play, but then again, most starters with a sub-2 ERA are going to be lucky. His rate stats are outstanding - K/9 of 9.13, BB/9 of 3.47, good for a K/BB ratio of 2.63. He is holding batters to a .310 SLG, which is laughably low. His BABIP is .308, but his eBABIP based on the formula .763LD% + .265GB% + .131FB%, his BABIP should be around .321 (data pulled from Fangraphs, as always), which confirms our initial suspicion of his luck on batted balls. 20.9% of batted balls off Lincecum are line drives, which is very high - last year he allowed 15.4% line drives.
Basically, Lincecum has the components of a great pitcher - high strikeout rate, manageable (and dropping) walk rate, and ability to depress XBH. Somehow I doubt you needed me to tell you that, though.
Let’s check out his stuff: (pulled from Josh Kalk’s player cards)
|Type||Movement in x (in.)||Movement in z (in.)||Initial Speed (MPH)||Number Thrown||Percent||Versus RHB||Percent||Versus LHB||Percent|
As most right-handed pitchers attack batters, Lincecum utilizes his curveball against RHB more than LHB while using his changeup more frequently against LHB. (James Shields is an exception to this rule.) Though he doesn’t throw many sliders, he mixes it in there as a show-me pitch, which is a great way to keep hitters off-balance the third time through the lineup. His fastball is blistering with an average velocity of 95 mph and tons of backspin.
Lincecum’s release point is consistent amongst his pitches:
Though it varies a reasonable amount, all of his pitches are equally represented in the spread with the possible exception of fastballs released in the top left quadrant. That being said, it wouldn’t be something batters could pick up, especially given his windup and delivery.
On to his mechanics…
The Good Stuff - Mechanical Analysis
I’ve been fortunate enough to see Lincecum pitch for the University of Washington (I live in Seattle). He was absolutely dominating hitters at the college level, and at the time I thought his delivery was very weird (I didn’t know much about mechanics then). I wondered how his body would hold up to a long season despite his obvious focus on conditioning and training. Here’s what he looked like back then:
He looks pretty much the same these days, of course - replete with huge stride and lightning-fast arm.
After analyzing his mechanics a bit closer, I noticed that he has a bit of an L-arm in his delivery:
Fortunately at footstrike, his arm is up and on time:
He doesn’t suffer from a timing problem in this regard.
Lincecum is 18-19 frames from maximal leg lift to footstrike. Excellent.
Lincecum reverse-rotates his shoulders a bit more than I’d like, but again, his timing at footstrike does not suffer as a result, so it’s not that big of a deal. He does show the ball behind his back, however, so it’s easier for the batter to pick up the arm path. That being said, Lincecum also does a good job of hiding the ball as it comes up past his body by keeping his shoulders closed as long as possible and yanking his head out of the way at the last possible minute as he releases the ball from a very high 3/4 arm slot (which I like). Lincecum exhibits major horizontal abduction of the shoulder but keeps the elbow in line with or below the acromial line, so I can’t find fault there. His arm is lightning-fast, obviously. I give him a Very Good - Excellent grade - right on the border, since I question the L-arm and his significant horizontal abduction, but only slightly.
Ball Release / Followthrough
Lincecum gets on top of the ball as he throws from that high arm slot, and though I see signs of pronating his curveball through release, it’s impossible to tell for sure on 30 FPS video. What we can see is that he points the PAS shoulder at the target and keeps his momentum moving forward, brings his leg around, and has a good initial glove position, setting himself up for a solid followthrough phase. Excellent ball release phase.
In the followthrough phase, he decelerates his arm uniformly across his body and against a firm glove side - his left elbow only yanks back after the pitching arm slaps against his back. Note how the glove finishes at the shoulder after release? Perfect. He has serious intent to throw the ball hard, which is great, but he also keeps his eye on the target and is able to watch for comebackers in case he has to field a bunt or defend himself against line drives. Excellent.
Lincecum’s mechanics are basically perfect. His stuff is ridiculous. Here are the nine teams that picked over him and who they took instead:
- Royals: Luke Hochevar. The Boras holdout doesn’t even come close.
- Rockies: Gregory Reynolds. A control pitcher who strikes out few and is very hittable. Pass.
- Rays: Evan Longoria. Can’t complain here.
- Pirates: Brad Lincoln. Derailed by arm surgery, he’s having a decent year at Low-A. At age 23.
- Mariners: Brandon Morrow. Ignoring that they totally mishandled him (and continue to do so), he is not as good as Lincecum, though he is having a good year.
- Tigers: Andrew Miller. Terrible mechanics, poor performance.
- Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw. This might be the only pitcher that could outperform Lincecum, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
- Reds: Drew Stubbs. .786 OPS in A+ at age 23? No thanks.
- Orioles: William Rowell. Hahahhahahahahaha.
When I see this list and look at Lincecum, I am reminded of this line from Moneyball:
“What gets me really excited about a guy is when he has warts, and everyone knows he has warts, and the warts just don’t matter.” -Paul DePodesta
Some teams need to remember that it’s not always what you could be. It is what you have done.
For more in-depth analysis of pitchers and hitters, check out Driveline Mechanics.