Update on Tim Lincecum's 3/12/08 Start

I mentioned in my original post on Tim's start that there was a limit to what one can learn from listening to a start on the radio.

Fortunately I am now in Arizona for the first time in many years and was fortunate enough to sit near a couple of guys who witnessed Tim's Wednesday start first-hand.  Here is what I learned (and it's all good).

First of all, despite giving up six hits in two innings, Tim wasn't hit hard.  In fact, the guys said that his first inning, the one in which he yielded all eight of his runs, was a defensive farce.  In particular they cited the key blow of the inning, a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double to center field.

Apparently Aaron Rowand, who even today didn't look at all like a Gold Glove center fielder and seems to be having a hard time adjusting to the high sky of Arizona, froze on the double and was unable to get back on it despite it's falling "10 or 15 feet" short of the warning track.

There was a double over Rowand's head today -- one which was a legitimate double but which Rowand twisted and turned on and conceivably MIGHT have had with a better route.  I asked if the double off Tim was similar.  They said no, that the double off Tim was a much easier play, that Rowand just seemed to freeze, presumedly losing the ball in the high sky.

So Tim wasn't really hit hard.  It sounded as if as few as one of the six hits was hard-hit and a legitimate hit.

Secondly, as I later reported, Tim WAS trying out his slider -- and apparently leaving it up where it could be hit.  In the words of these guys, it seemed as if Tim was frequently getting hitters 0-2 and then experimenting with the slider.  They were particularly impressed with Tim's change up, which they said was really dropping off.

According to PITCH/fx, Tim's fastball and change have very similar horizontal movement -- but the change up drops quite a bit more.  When I chart Tim without a speed gun, I rely on the late drop of the pitch (as well as the batter's swing) to know if it is a fastball or a change up.

I mentioned in a previous post that Tim's control in the game was very intermittent.  Perhaps his experimenting with the slider had a fair amount to do with that.

Now the bad news is that it sounds as if Tim's new slider definitely isn't where he wants it to be.  But the good news is that he apparently pitched MUCH better than the four runs, six hits, two walks and one hit batsman would initially indicate.

It sounds more as if he pitched closer to what his four strikeouts in two innings might have shown.

Tim likely has three more starts.  His next one is Monday.  Although I will still be in Arizona until the early evening, the game is a ways away in Tucson, so I will likely see if I can get a late check out and watch it on  I will likely be able to see his pitches better that way than if I were to go to Tucson, unless I got very lucky with my ticket.

Tim's next three starts will obviously be more important than his first three.  My guess is that his pitch-count limits will be 70, 80 and 90, respectively.

I have no idea what Tim's focus will be in the final three starts, but clearly the end objective will be to be ready for the opening of the regular season.  It appears Tim will open the Giants' second series (Padres?)and that the Giants will use only four starters the first time or two around, given the off-days that are available.

What I WOULD focus on if I were Tim would be control, particularly of his first pitch, something he seems to indeed have improved on, and on deciding how he should be using or not using his new slider.

Clearly having another pitch would be a bonus, as long as is at least a plus pitch.  But with what I would consider to be three plus-plus pitches already, I think all Tim needs to be an outstanding pitcher is control -- and that all he needs (besides health, of course) to become an all-time great is command.

Of course, NEITHER good control nor especially good command is a certainty.  But I think Giants' fans will like what they see from Tim this season -- a LOT.  Maybe even enough to take their minds off how many years back one will have to go to find a team that has scored as few runs as the Giants are likely to score.

As an aside, it appeared to me that barring a collapse, Eugenio Velez made the Giants' roster with his outstanding game today.  I don't think he'll hit, but the guy can flat-out fly.