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Tim Lincecum's Fastball

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What’s the deal with Tim Lincecum? In a bit of a recovery start last week, Lincecum gave up 2 earned runs over 8 innings at home against Oakland. Fine, yes, but against Oakland. Prior to that Lincecum wasn’t necessarily struggling, but certainly wasn’t the Tim Lincecum of 2009 or 2008. His walks are up and his strikeouts are a little down. His ERA is in the low 3s right now, which is fine, but like I said earlier, it isn’t the Tim Lincecum you paid for.

Fantasy owners have always been a little wary of Lincecum. His unorthodox delivery has had many worried that he will get hurt, if only because there are so few pitchers’ against whom Lincecum’s windup can be compared to.

In spring training there was some murmuring that the velocity on Lincecum’s fastball had gone down. Has it carried into the season?

In short, yes.

In 2008, Lincecum’s average velocity on his four-seam fastball was 94.0 mph. In 2009, that fell to 92.4, and now in 2010 he is averaging 91.2.

More interesting, however, is the movement on his fastball. In 2008 his four-seamer had an average horizontal movement of -2.6 inches, and then -3.1 in 2009. 2010? Just -.2. Lincecum has also seen a slight decrease in the vertical movement on his fastball as well. All in all, the Freak is throwing his fastball a lot straighter and a little bit slower. Not good.

It is important to note that Lincecum started throwing a two-seamer this year, something his barely did in 2009. That two-seamer is coming at nearly the same speed as the four-seam fastball, but with much more movement. While Pitch Values on FanGraphs doesn’t separate the pitches, my guess is that the two-seamer is helping to compensate for the four-seamer in terms of value. Lincecum his throwing his four-seam fastball roughly 39% of the time and his two-seamer 13%.

Where does that place Lincecum? He’s still one of the league’s top pitchers. I would take Halladay and Ubaldo ahead of him now. I’m right on the fence here but given the information above I think I might rather have Wainwright and Cliff Lee as well.