A one hour, twelve minute rain delay could not delay the inevitable beat down of Tim Lincecum by the bats of the Washington Nationals. In his past seven starts, he's been pummeled for 48 hits in 32.2 innings pitched. He's been terrible, historically, versus the Nationals and he's been mostly terrible over the past calendar month (since August 25th coming into today: a 9.00 ERA with 35 hits allowed in 22 innings pitched).
Someday soon, a desperate programmer or venture capitalist will figure out a way to make an industry out of analyzing how Tim Lincecum became so completely terrible and a drain on life for the Giants, but until then, people like me will continue to write up our own analysis absent any promise of tech money or lucrative vertical integration or whatever people in Silicon Valley say to get a round of funding.
Oh, and if you think my opening line is hacky, don't blame me. There's only so many ways we can spin Tim Lincecum being unable to command his pitches or control them within the strike zone or have a fastball or look anything like a major league-quality starting pitcher. Sure, you might be able to cobble together some kind of defense that had Pablo Sandoval not airmailed a throw or Angel Pagan had fielded a single cleanly or had Hunter Pence somehow prevented Span's ball to the wall from getting away from him turning a double into a triple that the outing might've gone a *bit* differently, and I can certainly accept that to some degree, but it's a real sycophant routine to argue that three defensive plays going differently would've made a bad pitcher who had nothing going from pitch one today suddenly pitch well.
Seriously. No fastball command. That pitch drifted to the same spot virtually every time he threw it, regardless of the hitter: what would be belt high to a right-hander. It's why Jayson Werth had no trouble with his RBI single. It was right to his sweet spot. It's why lefties were smoking pitches. It was a fastball just barely away from the middle of the plate.
And Lincecum's secondary pitches? Practically nonexistent. The curveball was pathetic, the changeup was nonexistent, and if he threw a slider I missed it because I was too busy laughing at how bad he looked.
I was laughing because I have a theory -- a strong, kooky, straw hat-esque theory -- that the reason for Lincecum's struggles are similar to what mine would be were I a major league pitcher.
NO SERIOUSLY WAIT COME BACK I'M BEING SUPER SERIOUS.
My theory is that without a plus fastball, Tim Lincecum can't pitch effectively in the major leagues anymore because he's too short. That's right. Too. Short. Without leverage, without that sweet spot of a pitching angle, his limp fastball is just too easy to square up. And when the stuff on his secondary pitches doesn't join him on the mound, there's literally nothing he can do to get out major league hitters with any consistency.
I had a medical condition which caused me to hit puberty at an early age. I had my growth spurt before the other kids, I had the deep voice and the facial hair before any of the other guys. By 14 I was a swarthy demigod. By 16, I was the scrawniest, shortest little dweeb who ever lived (and remain so until this day). But for two years, I had the stuff, I had the power to be at the top of my particular peer group. I was the freak of the 14 year olds. Then everybody caught up with me and my body was done puking out hormones incorrectly and then I was stuck and powerless to do anything else. I stopped growing and now my life's earning potential will always be artificially deflated because of my height.
"Boo-hoo, Bryan, but I don't care! "
You're right not to care, I say! But I am tying this into Tim Lincecum's situation directly and even more directly with his obvious struggles against the Nationals. One thing that's always struck me about them is how they, as a team, always look HUGE standing in the box. They literally look like giants against the Giants. Just a bigger, more imposing team. Today's lineup with height:
… facing off against
We know that's a generous 5-11 and we can assume that some of those measurements for the Nats are, likewise, generous. Still, on average, they are all much taller than him. On average, most hitters are taller than Tim Lincecum. But when 6-2 Jordan Zimmerman makes a mistake, hitters don't consistently square them up and crush them like they do Lincecum's mistakes. And when Lincecum's fastball just doesn't do anything and lacks any sort of movement, I think the height/leverage argument has as much credibility as any other. We're all throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks when it comes to analyzing baseball, anyway. The numbers tell us that he's bad and they tell us *how* he's bad, but they very often cannot truly help us to understand *why*.
Even though Zimmerman was throwing 95 in the eighth and had command of all his secondary pitches, that wasn't really the difference in performance with Lincecum. Lincecum had nothing. He was only throwing balls and mistakes. His stuff was nonexistent. Meanwhile, 6-1 Yusmeiro Petit threw 4.1 perfect innings and struck out five while throwing a fastball at 88-89 mph and with basically a curveball as his sole secondary pitch. He had command of those two pitches, of course, and we already know you don't *need* a plus fastball to compete in the majors if you have location, but I still drift back to the notion that Lincecum's height still makes it difficult for him to keep the ball down and, as his stuff falls away, his pitches will naturally just drift up out of the zone or right smack dab into any major league hitter's hot zone/batting practice zone.
In conclusion, Tim Lincecum is under contract for another season and we will have plenty of opportunities to watch him soar and watch him crash, the latter of which he has done with far more frequency since 2012. Most of us will claim to know why he's so bad. We might all be right, we might all be wrong, but the key thing to remember is that we are powerless to do anything about it. And so is Tim Lincecum.
I have no idea how Hunter Pence hit that pitch for a home run, but I'm sure glad I got to see that. It was pretty cool.