Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Study In Confusion

Tim Lincecum is in trouble.

Sure, most big-league pitchers would be thrilled to be 11-6 with a 3.41 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 155 innings pitched. But none of them are The Freak, the frighteningly-gifted two-time Cy Young Award winner.

When I say Lincecum is in trouble, I don't mean to say he's finished. He may well be able to figure this out. But for now, his aura of invincibility has gone "poof" and vanished, and he knows it.

His most recent start (6 earned runs, 4 innings pitched in an AT&T Park loss to the Cubs) marked the third time in his last ten starts that Lincecum has failed to even pitch 5 innings. He's been fiddling with his delivery, even going to a windup he hadn't used since college. You can see the frustration etched on his face and hear it in his voice.

I've written this before and anyone familiar with baseball knows it: baseball is a game of adjustments. But usually, players have to adjust to external factors. A hitter learns to lay off inside fastballs. A pitcher learns to avoid a power-hitter's happy zone. A base-stealer studies that left-hander's tricky pickoff move.

In Lincecum's case, the required adjustments are internal. He's like a golfer trying to get his swing back. He's lost his groove, and as golfers know, it can be hell trying to find it again. Ask Tiger Woods, another guy who isn't having much fun right now (of course, he has other things on his mind, too).

What Giants fans can hope is that Lincecum is able to scuffle through this and find that groove again. At his best, he's dominant. Right now, he is well short of that. His epic success early in his career will mean nothing if he can't make the adjustments.

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