Sorry about the title. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. :)
One of our posters asked how Tim Lincecum pitched from behind. Here is how he fared last season:
BA SLG K BB
After 1-0 .236 .377 53 49
After 2-0 .311 .492 13 35
After 2-1 .288 .442 28 24
After 3-0 .286 .286 3 29
After 3-1 .344 .562 7 30
After 3-2 .148 .241 23 27
Tim was still a pretty good pitcher after a first-pitch ball (as the opponents' battting average of only .236 would indicate), but once he got behind 2-0 he wasn't very effective. When he got behind 3-0, he mostly walked the batter -- although they didn't hit him well on the few occasions when he did come in.
Note that at 3-2, Tim walked slightly more than he struck out, but batters didn't hit him much at all (only a 148 batting average and a .241 SLG).
Looking at when Tim got ahead with his first pitch, batters hit only .211against him and slugged only .342. He went on to strike out 97 while walking only 16! Amazingly when he got two strikes on a batter, regardless of the number of balls involved, batters hit only .130 and slugged just .225 against Tim. He struck out 150 while walking just 27.
Once Tim got two strikes on a hitter last season, he may have been the best starting pitcher in baseball.
As a hitter, the key is to get ahead of Tim 2-0. For Tim, the key is throwing a first-pitch strike (which he has done much better this spring) and particularly getting two strikes on the hitter.
Last season Tim got two strikes on 311 batters that resulted in an at bat or a walk. He struck out 150 of them, or 48%. Only 64 of them reached base (or 21%). If Tim can maintain that level of dominance and improve his control just a bit, it will darn near be all over once Tim gets two strikes on a batter -- even at 3-2.
In Tim's great start Friday night, he didn't face a very strong lineup. Still, he didn't throw enough first-pitch strikes (just half of his 16 first pitches were strikes). And of the eight hitters he got behind with the first pitch, he went to 2-0 on five of them. But Tim clearly could throw a strike when he most needed it, walking only one of the four batters he got behind 3-2, while striking out the other three.
I know this will shock the regular readers here, but I am picking Tim as the NL's breakout player of the year. While the Giants are unlikely to score many runs for Tim (or any of their other pitchers), Tim has focused from when he was a small boy (and he was smaller than most!) on pitching well REGARDLESS of the score.
Incidentally, there is a baseball card of the young Tim (14, I believe) that shows him at 4-foot-10 and 78 pounds. Tim has always been the little guy, which may be part of what has given him his competitive edge.
Brandon Morrow, who has had shoulder problems this spring, has been sent down by the Mariners. Seattle isn't looking too good for not having taken the hometown boy two summers ago. Instead they took a pitcher half a foot taller.
I think it is safe to say that if they could do it all over again, the Mariners would have stuck much closer to home. In fact, with the possible exception of Evan Longoria and the conceivable choice of the younger Clayton Kershaw, is there anyone who should have been drafted ahead of Tim?