Tim Lincecum and the Strike Zone

I'm the absolute worst with graphs in Excel. Can't even label them right half of the time. When I do things like this, usually I have to Photoshop the labels and titles in. That's how bad I am.

So here's something I didn't get to last night, but wanted to. This is a graph of Tim Lincecum's game-by-game strike-zone percentages over the years:


The data is courtesy FanGraphs, though I think the cat might have walked across the keyboard in the middle of the night, but I don't care. It looks like a real graph! And it has one of them regressal lines! So fancy. Let's just stare at it for a while.

It isn't a graph with a lot of good news, of course. I cropped out the right side of the graph, which was a picture of William VanLandingham looking nervous and flipping cards into a derby hat. Lincecum is throwing fewer strikes, and he's been doing this for a while.

You might think this is because swinging strikes are counted as "in the strike zone", and hitters are laying off of the pitches out of the strike zone more. But that's not the case -- Lincecum is getting hitters to chase about as much as he ever did. Hitters are making contact more than they ever have on pitches Lincecum throws out of the zone, but that isn't going to affect the count of strikes thrown. A swing is counted as a strike, regardless if it's fair, foul, or missed.

This corresponds neatly with what David Schoenfield found with the use of some awesome heat maps over on ESPN.com. Those findings: Lincecum doesn't really know where in the hell the ball is going. Or, at least, he's missing his targets by more than he has in the past.

Here's where you're expecting me to analyze this. How cute! No, I spent the morning making that stupid graph, plus you know I'm woefully under-qualified to analyze PITCHf/x stuff. I'm more qualified to analyze Tim Lincecum's seasons by comparing them to Led Zeppelin albums.

2007: Led Zeppelin I
2008: Led Zeppelin II
2009: Led Zeppelin III
2010: Led Zeppelin IV
2011: Houses of the Holy
2012: Some Drunk Guy Signing Songs From 'Coda' and Playing a Thumb Piano While Urinating on Your Only Copy of 'Physical Graffiti'

That's all I can do here. As to the strike-zone mystery? Could be mechanics. Could be a natural progression that comes with his reduced velocity, which indicates reduced arm strength. Could be that hitters are more used to his change-ups than they were in 2008 and 2009. Could be anything.

But it's real. And a little freaky.

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