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Tim Lincecum

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Timothy LeRoy Lincecum
(Franchise, The Freak)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Before Game 5 last year, Tim was so relaxed he was singing in the clubhouse. That’s how his teammates knew they were about to see something special. And after watching him pitch eight incredible innings -- including a stretch of 11 strikes in a row -- America learned sometimes it's a good idea to bet on the skinny guy. Barack Obama, congratulating the Giants on their 2010 World Series win.

Pitcher Tim Lincecum made his major league debut in 2007 after being a top prospect in the minors for one year. He has since become one of the top pitchers in the major leagues.

Lincecum led his team to a 3-A state title in high school and won the Gatorade Washington State player of the year award. As he was headed to college, he was a low draft pick - selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 48th round of the 2003 amateur draft - and did not sign.

Lincecum debuted at the University of Washington with a 10-3 record and 3.53 ERA in 2004, striking out 161 in 112 IP. He led the Pacific-10 Conference in strikeouts and was named the Conference's Freshman of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, though he failed to make the All-Conference team while another freshman, Ian Kennedy, was chosen instead. He was the first Pac-10 player ever to win both pitcher of the year and freshman of the year in the same season. He was third in NCAA Division I in strikeouts, behind Jered Weaver and J.P. Howell and ahead of Philip Humber and Justin Verlander. In strikeouts per 9 innings, he tied Verlander for second behind Weaver. He made the Baseball America Freshman All-American team.

In 2005, Tim was 8-6 with a 3.11 ERA. In 104 innings, he allowed just 62 hits and struck out 131, but walked 71. He was second in the Pac-10 in strikeouts behind Kennedy and made the All-Conference team. He tied for 11th in NCAA Division I in strikeouts and was 11th in strikeouts/9 innings but was second in walks. The Cleveland Indians took him in the 42nd round of the 2005 amateur draft, but he did not sign. In summer ball, he was 2-2 with a 0.69 ERA for the Harwich Mariners, whiffing 68 and allowing only 14 hits in 39 innings. He was a Baseball America Summer League All-American and a Cape Cod League All-Star. He was rated the #15 prospect in the Cape Cod League by Baseball America.

Lincecum was even better in 2006, posting a 12-4, 1.94 record with 3 saves. In 125 innings, he allowed 75 hits and walked 63 while striking out 199 batters. Baseball America named him a first-team College All-American and he won the Golden Spikes Award as the top player in college baseball according to one major authority. He led NCAA Division I in strikeouts, 27 ahead of Eddie Degerman, in innings pitched and in strikeouts per 9 innings. He was 13th in ERA. He won the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year Award again and made the All-Conference team again. During the season, he broke the career Pac-10 strikeout record held by Rik Currier (449), finishing with 491 in his collegiate career.

He was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the first round of the 2006 amateur draft (the 10th overall pick) and signed for $2,025,000. He made his pro debut that year with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes before quickly being promoted to the San Jose Giants. Between the two clubs, he was 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 31 2/3 IP. Baseball America rated him as the top Giants prospect.

Tim skipped AA and made it to AAA by his 9th professional start, pitching for the Fresno Grizzlies. He went 4-0 with a 0.29 ERA, striking out 46 and allowing 12 hits in 31 innings. That earned him a call-up to the majors to fill in for the injured Russ Ortiz, having only thrown in 13 games in the minor leagues.

His first pitch in the majors, against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 6, 2007 was a 97-mph fastball past Jimmy Rollins but Rollins wound up reaching and Shane Victorino followed with a home run. Overall, he allowed 5 walks, 5 hits and 5 runs in 4 1.3 innings while striking out five and getting a no-decision. Lincecum went 7-5 with a 4.40 ERA for the Giants as a rookie, for a 111 ERA+. He fanned 150 in 146 1/3 innings.

While he had pitched well as a rookie, Lincecum blossomed in his second season in the majors. He had a 18-5 record and a 2.62 ERA (167 ERA+) in 2008 despite pitching for a 68-94 team. In 227 innings, he surrendered just 11 gopher balls and 182 total hits. He struck out 265. He was second to Johan Santana in ERA in the 2008 NL, .09 behind the lead and he was second to Brandon Webb in wins. Lincecum nearly led the league in winning percentage despite his team's poor play. He allowed the fewest hits per 9 innings in the league and had the most strikeouts per 9 innings. He easily led in Ks, 59 ahead of Santana, Edinson Volquez and Dan Haren. One of the few negatives was his 17 wild pitches, tied with Manny Parra for most in the NL. Lincecum won the 2008 National League Cy Young Award. He was the second San Francisco Giants hurler to win a Cy Young Award, following Mike McCormick 41 years earlier.

He repeated the Cy Young feat in 2009, when he went 15-7 with a 2.48 ERA and 261 strikeouts. He was the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game, played in St. Louis, MO. He allowed two runs (one earned)in two innings in that Midsummer Classic. Lincecum finished among the NL leaders in ERA (second to Chris Carpenter), wins (tied for 4th), WHIP (4th, 1.047), innings (3rd, 225 1/3), strikeouts (1st, 23 ahead of Javier Vazquez), complete games (tied for 1st with Matt Cain at 4), shutouts (tied for first with 2) and ERA+ (second to Carpenter). He won one of the closest Cy Young races in history, barely finishing ahead of the Cardinals' Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

Lincecum began his career 50-21 with 2.91 ERA. The three most recent pitchers to have a winning percentage over .700 and ERA under 3 at the time of their 50th win were Dwight Gooden (1980s), Ron Guidry (1970s) and Whitey Ford (1950s).

2010 was another solid season, with a record of 16-10, 3.43 and a NL-leading 231 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings. The Giants had a tremendous season, catching and passing the San Diego Padres to win the NL West title. They then defeated the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS with Lincecum pitching a sparkling two-hit shutout during which he struck out 14 to win Game 1, 1-0 on October 7th. He then opened the NLCS with a 4-3 win over the Phillies, although he lost Game 5, 4-2. He came back two days later on October 23rd, coming on in relief at the start the 8th inning with a 3-2 lead; he struck out Jayson Werth but gave up back-to-back singles to the next two batters, after which Brian Wilson came on to extricate the Giants from the jam and get the save that sent the Giants to the 2010 World Series. He was again the Game 1 starter, facing the Texas Rangers on October 27th, but gave up 4 runs on 8 hits in 5 2/3 innings; the game was a slugfest, though, with the Giants winning, 11-7, with Tim getting the W. He did not need that sort of offensive support in Game 5 on November 1st, as he gave up a run on three hits in 8 innings, striking out 10, and the Giants won the game, 3-1, to claim their first World Championship since moving to San Francisco in 1958.

In June 2011, Lincecum became the 8th pitcher since 1900 to reach 1,000 strikeouts in his first five seasons. Only four hurlers since 1900 had reached 1,000 whiffs with fewer batters faced than Lincecum's 3,692 - relievers Billy Wagner and Octavio Dotel and Kerry Wood. Tim won 65 of his first 100 decisions - since 1931, only fellow Giants Sal Maglie (72-28) and Juan Marichal (68-32) had better winning percentages in their first 100 decisions. For the year, he went 13-14 in spite of a sparkling 2.74 ERA in 33 starts, a victim of the Giants' very weak offense. He still pitched 217 innings, striking out 220 over that span.

After the 2011 season, Lincecum was eligible for salary arbitration. Given his history of success, he filed for a salary of $21.5 million - huge, but $500,000 shy of the record number submitted by Roger Clemens in 2005. The Giants for their part submitted an offer of $17 million, which was the highest ever made by a team. On January 24th, Lincecum agreed to a two-year contract with the Giants for $40.5 million, avoiding an arbitration hearing. He gave the Giants a scare on May 20, 2012, when he was involved in a collision at home plate with Collin Cowgill in the 4th inning of a game against the Oakland A's. He was bowled over, dropped the ball while trying to tag Cowgill who was sliding head-first, trying to score on a wild pitch. He was replaced by a pinch-hitter after the inning, but the Giants explained that it was merely a precaution, as he had already reached 90 pitches. That said, he had struggled in the early going, and after the game, his record stood at 2-4, 6.04 in 9 starts. Indeed, he never seemed to find his groove that year, ending up with a record of 10-15, 5.18. He led the National League in both losses and earned runs allowed, and was initially moved to the bullpen as the Giants entered the 2012 Postseason. After three excellent outings in relief, including picking up a win in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds, he got a chance to start Game 4 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals on October 18th. That did not go well, however, as he gave up 4 runs in 4 2/3 innings and was charged with the 8-3 loss, putting the Giants in a three games to one hole. They climbed out of it to reach the 2012 World Series, where Lincecum made a couple of brilliant relief outings against the Detroit Tigers. In Game 1, he pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out 5 in relief of Barry Zito in an 8-3, win, and in Game 3 relieved Ryan Vogelsong with two out in the 6th, and pitched until the end of the 8th, not giving up a hit or a run as the Giants won again, 2-0.

In his first few seasons, Lincecum was known for his wild teenager look, with very long and unkempt hair to go along with his small stature and skinny frame that was very different from the typical pitcher. His nickname "The Freak" came from that unexpected look, as onlookers could not figure out how he could throw so hard while not looking the part at all. After his difficult 2012 season, he sported a completely new look heading into 2013, "a fresh look for a fresh start" as he called it: he sported short, neatly groomed hair and non-prescription dark-rimmed eyeglasses. "He looks like he's 12 now instead of 15," joked teammate Ryan Vogelsong. Lincecum explained that the long-haired look had been a result of being too lazy to get a haircut more than twice a year. On July 13th, Lincecum tossed a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres, defeating them, 9-0. He struck out 13 batters and needed a career-high 148 pitches to complete the game and walked three, while 3B Pablo Sandoval and RF Hunter Pence made good defensive plays to help him out. With the All-Star break coming up, Lincecum could throw as many pitches as he needed, knowing he would have a longer then usual rest to recover. He became just the second pitcher to throw a no-hitter after being the losing pitcher in baseball's prior no-hitter. Mal Eason had been the first in 1906. While his 2013 season was better than the previous one, he was still far form his previous level, as he finished 10-14, 4.37 in 32 starts, pitching 197 2/3 innings and striking out 193. Still, after the season, the Giants decided to offer him a new two-year contract for $35 million just as he was about to declare free agency.

He continued to alternate good and poor performances early in 2014, sometimes struggling with his control, but winning more often that he lost. On May 28th, he pitched five hitless innings in a start against the Chicago Cubs, but he had given up four walks, had hit a batter and thrown almost 100 pitches in that span, making a complete game no-hitter an impossibility. With the game still scoreless, he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 5th; George Kontos kept the no-hitter going until the 7th, then Jeremy Affeldt allowed a single to John Baker with one out. The game ended up as a two-hit shutout shared by five Giants pitchers, with Kontos getting credit for the eventual 5-0 win. He pitched the second no-hitter of his career on June 25th, once again over the Padres, this time by a 4-0 score. He was only the second pitcher in history to no-hit the same team twice, as Hall of Famer Addie Joss had done so for the Cleveland Naps over the Chicago White Sox in 1908 and 1910. He was also only the second pitcher in Giants history to have pitched two no-hitters, the other being the great Christy Mathewson a century earlier. He was outstanding again in his next start, on July 1st against the St. Louis Cardinals, as he throws 8 shutout innings after escaping a none-out, bases loaded jam in the 4th, for a 5-0 win. In the four starts starting with the no-hitter, he allowed 1 earned run in 30 1/3 innings while going 4-0. The dominant streak ended on July 20th when he was outpitched by Brad Hand of the Miami Marlins, who recorded only his second win in 21 career starts, when he defeated the Giants, 3-2. He then earned his first career save on July 22nd when he was pressed into action in the 14th inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Giants had taken a 9-5 lead with a four-run outburst in the top of the inning, but George Kontos, in his third inning of work on the mound, was showing signs of fatigue, putting two men in scoring position after one out. As the Giants had used all of their relief pitchers, Tim entererd the game and retired the next two batters, allowing one runner to score on a ground out, to nail down the 9-6 win. As a starter, however, Lincecum struggled anew in August, posting a 9.49 ERA over his last 6 starts, and on August 25th, the Giants announced he would skip a turn in the rotation in favor of journeyman Yusmeiro Petit, and would pitch out of the bullpen for a time. While the move was announced as temporary, it reignited speculation that Lincecum's future role could be as a "joker reliever", the role in which he had excelled in the 2012 postseason. He finished the season with a record of 12-9, 4.74 in 33 games, 26 of them starts. He pitched 155 2/3 innings, his lowest total since his rookie season, and struck out 134, the fewest ever for him. When the postseason rolled around, he was an afterthought, not being used in the first three rounds: Petit was now the long man out of the bullpen and did very well in the role, while rookie Hunter Strickland, who had only made his debut on September 1st, was used in situations which should normally have been reserved for him. he then was not present when the two teams were introduced before Game 1 of the World Series against the JKansas City Royals, prompting questions about what was wrong with the former ace. However, after a bullpen meltdown in the 6th inning of Game 2, he was called to the mound and was brilliant, retiring the first five batters he faced, before having to exit the game in the middle of an at-bat by Salvador Perez, the result of a wrenched back. He was immediately sent home to have an MRI exam performed.

Primary Sources: 2004-2007 Baseball Almanacs, MILB.com, MLB.com

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 4-time NL All-Star (2008-2011)
  • 2-time NL Cy Young Award Winner (2008 & 2009)
  • NL Winning Percentage Leader (2008)
  • 3-time NL Strikeouts Leader (2008-2010)
  • NL Complete Games Leader (2009)
  • NL Shutouts Leader (2009)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 3 (2008-2010)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 4 (2008-2011)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 4 (2008-2011)
  • Won three World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014


NL Cy Young Award
2007 2008 2009
Jake Peavy Tim Lincecum Tim Lincecum
2008 2009 2010
Tim Lincecum Tim Lincecum Roy Halladay

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