Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tim Lincecum learns to pitch to contact

Tim Lincecum’s calling card has always been his elite strikeout ability. Since he broke into the majors he has never failed to strikeout at least 23% of the batters that he has faced. From 2007 to 2013 no other starting pitcher has a higher strikeout percentage. Only Justin Verlander has more strikeouts, but Verlander has an extra 13 starts and just a 30-strikeout lead.

Yet this spring the strikeouts have just about disappeared.
It is tough to read too much into spring stats, but the drop in strikeouts is very noticeable. With strikeout rate being one of the first pitching stats to stabilize, his change in approach is interesting and a stark departure from his career numbers or even his previous spring training stats.
For comparison I went back and calculated his strikeout rates from springs past:
2013: 21.1%
2012: 14.7%
2011: 28.0%
2010: 25.4%
2009: 23.3%
2008: 21.6%
2007: 23.3%
The only real departure was in 2012, when his strikeouts dipped below 20%. But he still managed a K/9 above six during that spring, more than twice what he has done this spring. In general he has produced a lower strikeout rate in the spring than the regular season, but never has it been close to this low.
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1 comment:

  1. I'm not too worried about Lincecum's spring. The key phrase I would note is that in a recent interview, he said he might go for the strikeout if it's there, but mostly he's pitching to contact.

    This spring was about him learning to that, learning to embrace it. He wanted the hitters to hit his offering and see what happens. That's pitching to contact.

    And in spring, you do different things that you normally would not do in the regular season, which is continuing to pitch to contact even when you have two strikes.

    Much like Romo's practicing with his changeup and not using his slider. That would not happen in the regular season. Same with Lincecum, I think.

    Otherwise, that would be a stark, steep drop in his K/9.