Two-time Cy Young winner and three-time World Series champion Tim Lincecum is attempting a comeback with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but things aren't going quite as well as he, or the Angels, had hoped. On Friday night against the Boston Red Sox, the former ace had control issues resulting in a feat Major League Baseball hadn't seen since 2009. More on that nugget of information later, but first, let's look at what went wrong for Lincecum.
He started off the game with walks to Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia in the top of the first and finished the night with six total. As you can see in the graphic below (green dots) the pitches that ended up being called for ball four in each of those plate appearances were well out of the strike zone. This was the theme of the evening for Lincecum.
Luckily for Lincecum, he was able to escape the first inning without any damage after striking out Xander Bogaerts on a curveball well out of the zone (the black dot), getting David Ortiz to fly out on a pitch outside, and inducing a grounder back to the mound by Hanley Ramirez for the third out.
After setting down Jackie Bradley, Aaron Hill, and Ryan Hanigan in order in the second, Lincecum got Brock Holt to ground out to start the third but again had control issues against both Betts and Pedroia.
Here’s ball four to Betts in the third:
Here’s ball four to Pedroia:
While Pedroia was at the plate, Betts stole second. After Pedroia walked and while Bogaerts was up, Betts attempted to steal third but was called out. Lincecum then gave up a double to Bogaerts, which scored Pedroia, and surrendered an RBI single to Ortiz to score Bogaerts. After walking Hanley Ramirez for his third walk of the inning, and fifth of the game, pitching coach Charles Nagy visited the mound, Lincecum settled down, and Bradley to flied out to Mike Trout to end the inning.
Lincecum once again had issues in the fourth when he loaded the bases with only one out. He started off Betts with a 3-0 count. Betts ended up hitting a sacrifice fly to put the Red Sox up 3-2, and Lincecum escaped the inning without further damage after Pedroia grounded into a double play.
In the sixth inning, Bradley led off the inning with his 17th home run of the season, and Mike Scoiscia mercifully removed Lincecum from he game. Bradley's home run was off a 71.9 mph curveball.
Lincecum's final line was four runs on five hits in five innings with six walks, three strikeouts, and one home run. He threw 90 pitches and only 43 were for strikes, which brings us to the stat I teased in the opening of the piece.
What did Lincecum do on Friday night that hadn't been accomplished since 2009? Well, Pedro Moura of the LA Times wrote this in his gamer on Friday:
Through three innings, Lincecum had thrown 22 strikes out of 55 pitches. Baseball-Reference.com has tracked only five instances of a pitcher throwing fewer strikes on that many offerings. He finished his five-plus innings having thrown 43 strikes among his 90 pitches. No major leaguer had recorded fewer strikes on as many pitches since 2009.
Lincecum doesn't throw hard—he doesn't even touch 90 mph anymore—so his control must be better if he's going to have a chance to salvage his career (to say nothing of his command). In Friday night's game, his fastest pitch was measured at 89.7 mph.
Mike Scioscia told reporters after the game that Lincecum would get at least one more start, and according to reports it's possible Lincecum could be moved to the bullpen if that start doesn't go well.
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Stacey Gotsulias is a contributing writer of Beyond the Box Score. You can follow her on Twitter at @StaceGots.