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The Greatest Pitch in the World

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Ain't nothin' gonna breaka my stride. I'm running and I won't touch ground, oh no.
Ain't nothin' gonna breaka my stride. I'm running and I won't touch ground, oh no.

The pre-draft scouting report for Tim Lincecum, from MLB.com:

An undersized right-hander, turned down going pro as a draft-eligible sophomore and it's paid off. He's skyrocketed to the top of the first round thanks to a dominating junior season. The PAC-10 career leader in strikeouts, he has an unorthodox delivery, leading some to worry about durability. He's got a plus fastball and plus, plus curve, leading some to compare him to Roy Oswalt. If put in the pen, he could help a big league club out this season.

Pretty much the standard rap on BTTJ before the draft. Throws hard, small, funky delivery, great curve. Other scouty types said similar things, though there were always differing opinions about his durability. Here’s a post-draft snippet from Keith Law:

Potential ace reliever. Love his durability. Not sure he can go through a lineup twice; hitters will lay off that curve, and Lincecum can't throw it for strikes. He has one of the weirdest (and most entertaining) deliveries I've ever seen - it's like a trebuchet.

There’s a little bit more detail there. Lincecum was a fastball/curveball guy without the best command, so you can understand where Law was coming from.

Then something happened. I’ve whittled down exactly what that was into two possible scenarios:

 

 

Scenario A:

One morning, Tim Lincecum woke up. He had a glass of orange juice, a banana, and two eggs over easy. He stretched, yawned, and learned a changeup. Now Tim Lincecum was the best pitcher on the planet. He was also full of energy from his nutritious breakfast.

 

Scenario B:

The full moon was silver, shimmering, making the lake seem as if it were on fire. Tim Lincecum lay under the banyan tree, weary from his day’s journey. He dropped his gourd and closed his eyes for what seemed like the first time in months.

In his dream, Hecate came to him in a youthful form. She gripped a baseball between her pointer and middle fingers, and the ball howled in pain. Even Hecate could not put the ball at ease. She said to Tim, "A gift. But be warned the baseball is tormented by this painful grip, which presses on its very soul. The ball will dart from your hands as soon as you release it, but it will slowly fade into nothingness as it approaches its destination, dying before it reaches home plate."

When Tim Lincecum woke up, he struck Zeus out on three straight changeups, then turned into a swan and slept with Zeus’s wife just because he could. Also, Tim Lincecum was now the best pitcher on the planet.

Probably Scenario B, but I want to hedge my bets. Also, I saw Scenario B open for Raekwon a few years back. His flows were sick.

So consider this a tribute to the changeup, the greatest pitch in baseball. It turns great young prospects into otherworldly Cy Young winners. It turns nondescript veteran pitchers into pitchers who get robbed of Cy Youngs. It allows pitchers who once sacked Carthage able to continue getting hitters out long past the point when other pitchers fade away.

To the changeup! The greatest pitch in baseball, and the biggest reason Giants fans get to watch the best pitcher in baseball. My only regret is that everyone in the organization can’t throw one with perfection like Lincecum can.