Monday, March 14, 2011

Is this the year Tim Lincecum finally breaks down?

When Tim Lincecum was drafted, there were numerous questions about his ability to stay healthy and to maintain his awesome raw ability for a sustained amount of time at the Major League level. This knocked him down in the draft considering his awesome raw ability and freakishly high ceiling. It was a great benefit to the Giants, who got the two time Pac-10 pitcher of the year with the 10th overall pick, a steal.

Here is what the Oriole scouts saw when they were preparing their draft board:
There was a feeling that he was short, not a real physical kid, and mechanically he was going to break down, that there was enough stress on his arm, elbow and shoulder. Our scouting department kind of pushed him down because of the medical aspect.
Even after two Cy Young's and a World Series championship, Lincecum has been unable to shake the notion that he is fragile and wont be able to keep this up. To a certain extent, it does feel like the inevitable injury is just around the corner.

Pitching is a hard and dangerous thing. The human body is not really built to throw a baseball 90 mph over and over again. Sometimes it just breaks down. If you look at some of his stats, you can understand the reason for concern.

His velocity has dropped from 94.0 in 2008 to 92.4 in 2009 to 91.3 last season. He has also thrown 11,364 pitches in the last four seasons over 811 innings. This is the fourth most pitches thrown in MLB since 2008.

I am already on record saying that I expect Lincecum to have another great season, even Cy Young worthy, but sometimes young pitchers just get hurt. The comparable player that makes me savor every pitch thrown by a healthy Lincecum is John Montefusco. He was excellent his first two full seasons before battling injuries that derailed a very bright career.

There are reports that Lincecum took conditioning much more serious this offseason and he appears to be pitching well, but the clock on a pitcher's arm is a fickle thing and you never know when it will strike midnight. This could be the year he breaks down, so take in every moment you can of him pitching at an elite level.

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