In 2012, if you were to look at Tim Lincecum from the point of view of a biomechanical engineer and have been following his progress up to this season, it would leave you scratching your head.
Questions are flying everywhere and the well-kept secrecy of Tim Lincecum’s continual failures is nothing new to the baseball scene but it is new to Tim. This article will take a closer look into what could be wrong from both a biomechanical standpoint as well as a pitcher’s view as we try to answer some pertinent questions related to one of the most puzzling figures in Major League Baseball right now.
During his career, Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants has pitched like an absolute monster. He has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the National League if not all of baseball, utilizing his talent to rack up wins and reach sabermetric benchmarks with nominal effort. Now I don't see any of that changing in the near future, but I think 2012 has clearly been a down year for him. With that in mind, he has been declining in a few areas over the past few seasons.
In 2008 and 2009, Lincecum stood among the most elite pitchers in the game. He compiled over 260 strikeouts and an ERA+ over 160 for both seasons. That came along with leading the National League in various pitching categories. Lincecum dropped off somewhat in 2010 (114 ERA+) with a noticeably weaker performance, which did not prevent him from winning plenty of games and continuing to dominate batters. He proceeded to improve upon those numbers in 2011 (130 ERA+), though some of his statistics were much lower than 2008 and 2009. You would think that the biomechanical stresses that are applied to his 160-lb frame would be detrimental to his physical makeup. A biomechanical engineer would answer yes; he is tired and probably burned out from overwork. It happened to me after throwing 15,000 pitches from my debut in rookie league into my first full MLB season and I was a lot bigger than Tim by a good 45 pounds with harder stuff.
One of the major problems can be seen in the video below. You will notice his landing or leading leg is pointing toward third base and not toward home where it should be. All of his apparent weight and force to develop the torque he generates are pronounced on his left landing leg. You can literally see the wave of energy vibrating through the leg moving up through his body. The balance and linear direction or forward movement is essential to minimal stresses on that important part of his leg. Remember, Tim has suffered left knee problems before and I'll bet that these issues are escalating, major concerns that I see are problematic to Tim’s loss in velocity as well as consistently keeping the ball down in the strike zone with good location.
A second issue I find extremely concerning is that he brings his sweeping left leg (or "leading leg") way past the rubber or past the zero mark in the linear plane and places his left leg in that plane pointing it toward second base and leaving it there as he begins to move forward in the linear plane X while his leg sweeps into the Y or the rotational plane which releases energy toward third base and toward home where obviously you really need it to go.
Each segment of the body is an important element for the distribution of energy and acceleration from one segment to another while increasing those velocities to the point of foot plant, while blocking the energy created by these segments and shooting that energy through the body to the end result, his pitching arm and the ball.
Tim Lincecum is out of sync, his segments are not in sync and he's putting stress on his labrum (shoulder) that is playing catch up but most of all that continuous pounding on his knee and left hip is the main cause of his problem, which I believe can be fixed rather easily. Segmental velocities in the pitching motion are rather important to any pitcher and Tim is facing these problems head-on.
The other problem is that the last time I was told, Tim’s Dad, Chris Lincecum, was his actual pitching coach and even San Francisco Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti is not allowed to speak with Tim about his motion. From my view, it looks though the creator of Tim's motion, his Dad, is simply unable to solve his son's problem or alleviate the pain being generated to his knee. Sort of a sticky wicket, if you ask me.
If I am paying someone $15 Million to pitch for my team and I have a rather experienced and successful major league pitcher who is my coach, the longtime coach of the staff, the only coach the pitcher has ever known at the major-league level, then Chris should allow Righetti to help out. The Lincecums really keep it close to the vest, which in my opinion can only lead to disaster.
None of these issues will ruin Tim or change the course of his career, if they are addressed now. Neglect may cause a major injury and set him back to some degree. However, you can expect him to strike out fewer batters, allow more free passes, and flash less power than in seasons past. A pitcher does not need God-like stuff to blank opposing lineups and win ballgames. The lack of a consistent changeup, however, will eventually add to his woes when it comes to getting out the elite hitters and teams that he will have to face going forward in 2012…The major questions remain. Is it too late to fix Timmy’s woes before the playoffs begin? More important, will he seek the proper help to analyze his motion and correct the problem? These are the issues that I see.
I feel so strongly because I experienced this during my career in San Francisco. In 1975, I had just come off a great year, won the National League Rookie Pitcher of the Year Award, then right out of the gate proceeded to lose velocity and effectiveness - lost four of my first six starts before i found out that I had severed my ulnar collateral ligament…During the first month and a half of the '75 season, I didn’t want to tell anyone I was hurt until I couldn’t throw the ball anymore and required surgery.
Problems can be fixed if you catch them before they create larger, long-term issues. No, this will not become a trend for Lincecum in the coming seasons. I simply believe he will have a somewhat down year in 2012 according to a few key measurements. An increase in walks allowed and a lower number of strikeouts could be an alarming event and also loss of his velocity which could indicate an injury is present or beginning somewhere in his body. My three areas of focus are the left knee, hip and labrum. We will see how this plays out; but being a former Giants Pitcher and supporter of the ball club, I hope they figure this problem out fast for Tim’s sake.
Photo Credit: Slgckgc
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