Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lincecum not complacent

There should be quite a few exciting storylines in Giants camp this spring and that’s leaving aside the most obvious one: it’s their first as defending champs (as San Francisco Giants). One of the most exciting among them will be the progress of a promising young first baseman named Brandon Belt. I say first baseman knowing that his road to the big leagues might be left field, though if I had my way, given the plus first baseman that he is, I might stick him at first and push Aubrey Huff to left. If you have not heard of Belt yet… where have you been?

Another story that’s likely to get plenty of play is that of the husky third baseman, Pablo Sandoval. Panda has been snapping pictures of himself all winter and showing off his slimmer figure; this is wonderful news for Giants fans to be sure. Whether or not that translates into on-field results remains to be seen. My gut feeling is that he is going to have a big year and will once again be a serviceable third baseman defensively. I won’t say a .330 average and near .400 weight on-base average (wOBA) is necessarily in the cards, but I think it’s a safe bet he recaptures some of that promise he catapulted onto the seen with in 2008 and 2009.

After the jump, here’s my favorite piece of info from camp so far, via Extra Baggs:

Bruce Bochy officially named Tim Lincecum as his opening-day starter. That was the obvious part of the story. The interesting part is that Lincecum was throwing bullets in the first mound session of the spring, and had some pretty soul-baring things to say about his lack of preparation last year. He’s dealt with doubters his whole life because of his size, and he’ll never be able to change that. But hearing doubts about his work ethic really stuck with him, and he’s bent on making sure he never has to answer those questions again….

Bochy said he also wouldn’t be afraid to go with Lincecum and Matt Cain as his 1-2 starters, and pitch his three lefties in a row after that. He said that’s a viable option because Sanchez, Bumgarner and Zito have different styles.
No, not that Lincecum will be the opening-day starter; that should be obvious, as Baggs notes. The “best shape of his life” cliché is much-maligned in the blogging community, and should be. While this is similar, I have reason to believe in this case it should stick.

Lincecum appears to have rededicated himself to maintaining a rigorous conditioning regimen and I cannot stress enough how important this is. If you want proof, you need look no further than his sporadic velocity and shoddy results last August. Then, take a look at his velocity after he started running stadium stairs and the results of the added work. That it carried over into the offseason is great news – it turns out he wasn’t just buying a condo in downtown Seattle.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret, assuming you’re not already in the club: pitchers don’t throw with their arms, they throw with their legs. At least the ones that are successful and healthy for a long time, anyway. I don’t think it’s a great stretch either to say that leg strength and conditioning for Lincecum, coming in at about 5’10” and 165 pounds soaking wet, becomes doubly important. This kid has to produce a tremendous amount of torque and drive to produce the whip-like motion he does. His core strength and elasticity, especially as he leaves his mid-twenties and gets older, is vital to his remaining an elite major league pitcher.

Nolan Ryan is a monster truck of a man and he spent hours on a stationary bike before and after games throughout his career. This is how he threw 100 mile an hour fastballs into his forties; it was not just because he was born with a golden Howitzer attached to his torso.

Timmy Terrific has been proving people wrong his entire career. He’ll have to continue to do that to be successful and that chip on his shoulder gives him an edge. I believed he would do everything possible to return to his 2008 and 2009 Cy Young form in 2011. This is why, along with that wicked slider he picked up from Cain in September, I have Lincecum as my early favorite to re-claim his thrown as Mr. Cy Young in 2011.

There had to be some reluctance by management (there was for me) to be completely at ease about Timmy. Some part of Bochy and Sabean had to be worried, even if just a smidge, that the World Series would render the Franchise complacent. All indications, at least for now, are that it has not.

Other stuff: I just wrote a piece for the Hardball Times about whether or not Grady Sizemore can save Cleveland. Hint: maybe, but the Cavs sure can’t.


  1. I'm really excited about Lincecum in 2011 as well. Particularly because of that slider of his, I'm thinking sub-2 ERA would not be a surprise, but definitely a return to his Cy Young level efforts in 2008-9, at minimum, is in the cards.

    But that slider is key, because now he has pitches that he can throw to either handed hitter and get the batter out. The slider paired with the changeup gives him that, and if he can master the curve, which he says he's working on this season, I think a Bob Gibson-type historic season is the limit.

    This is why I'm hoping the Giants try to sign him to a long-term contract this spring, because if he does as well as I hope he does, his salary will go through the roof even more than it has already.

  2. I like the optimism, but don't see a way in which a sub-two ERA wouldn't be a surprise. The slider is the key to having a true strikeout pitch for righties (to pair with the change for lefties) though. Agreed.