Evolution of Lincecum by Dave Cameron April 20, 2010 The first pitch Tim Lincecum ever threw in the major leagues was reported to be 99 MPH on the Giants stadium gun (we don’t have Pitch F/x data for that performance, unfortunately). He then proceeded to hit 100 three times in his first big league inning, showing the velocity that had gotten him drafted in the first round, even as scouts were concerned with his command, delivery, and workload. In that first year, Lincecum’s fastball averaged 94.2 MPH, the seventh hardest fastball in the game, and he threw it 67 percent of the time. Other than the hair, Lincecum barely resembles the pitcher he was just three years ago. You don’t need a best fit line to see the trend in that image. His velocity has been steadily falling since he arrived in the big leagues, and through his first three starts this year, his fastball is averaging just 91.7 MPH. He has thrown 312 pitches this year, and only three of them have topped 95. He now throws about as hard as Matt Harrison and Clayton Richard. But, this is the crazy thing – it hasn’t mattered at all. While Lincecum’s lost his top end fastball, he’s shown zero effects from it. In 20 innings this year, he has a 2.20 xFIP, and he’s still blowing hitters away with nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s worked in his slider more often and increased his change-up usage, so he now throws nearly as many off-speed pitches as he does fastballs. In just three years, Lincecum has gone from a flame throwing ace to a junkballer whose best asset his the command of his secondary stuff. It’s a pretty remarkable transformation. The pitcher he is now is almost the exact opposite of the guy he was in college. If you watched Lincecum in college, where he posted a career 5.7 BB/9, and projected that he’d become more Greg Maddux than Nolan Ryan, you’d have been laughed out of the room. But that’s essentially what has happened. Usually, when we point to reduced velocity, there are injury concerns or performance declines, but there’s really nothing like that with Lincecum. He’s still one of the best pitchers in the game – he’s just doing it in a dramatically different way.