Tim Lincecum

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Timothy LeRoy Lincecum
(Franchise, The Freak)

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Biographical Information[edit]

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.

Tim Lincecum-6497.jpg

Pitcher Tim Lincecum made his major league debut in 2007 after being a top prospect in the minors for one year. He was one of the top pitchers in the big leagues from 2008 to 2010. After winning three World Series championships with the San Francisco Giants, a degenerative condition in his hips helped hasten his big league departure at the age of 32.

Lincecum is one of the relatively few men of Filipino heritage to make it to the majors. The parents of his mother, Rebecca, both came to America from the Philippines. Other part-Filipinos include Benny Agbayani, Chris Aguila, and Bobby Chouinard. There have been two big-leaguers whose parents came from the Philippines: Bobby Balcena and Geno Espineli.

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 K/9 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 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 pitched decent 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 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 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 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, 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 than 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, hit a batter and thrown almost 100 pitches, 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 a two-hit shutout shared by five Giants pitchers, with Kontos getting credit for the eventual 5-0 win. Tim 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 threw 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 a lone earned run in 30 1/3 innings while going 4-0. The dominant streak ended on July 20th when he was out-pitched by Brad Hand of the Miami Marlins, who recorded only his second win in 21 career starts, when he defeated the Giants, 3-2. Tim 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 entered 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, 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 Tim. He was not present when the two teams were introduced before Game 1 of the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, prompting questions about what was wrong with the former ace. 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 performed and did not play again as the Giants secured their third title in five years.

Disappointed with his last few seasons, Lincecum returned home to Seattle, WA to re-establish contact with his father, Chris, after the 2014 World Series. While the two had grown apart in recent years, his dad was the one who taught him to pitch as a young boy, and as Tim put it "knows his mechanics better than himself." They had a total of 50 intensive throwing sessions together, and also re-established the bonds that had been allowed to fray in recent years because, as Tim puts it, "both are stubborn men." The most immediate change when he started spring training in 2015 was his look, as he was back to sporting the long hair that had been his trademark during his most successful seasons. He was again counted on as a key member of the Giants' staff, because there were serious questions about who would pick up the slack behind new ace Madison Bumgarner with Matt Cain and Jake Peavy both injured at the start of the year. He picked up his first win on April 21st, 6-2 over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Overall, 2015 was a disappointing season because injuries limited Tim's ability to pitch. In 15 starts, he went 7-4 in spite of a relatively high 4.13 ERA and and struck out 60 in 76 1/3 innings. His last appearance came on June 27, after which he went on the disabled list with hip problems. He eventually underwent surgery on September 3rd, his career with the Giants ending with a whimper, as it was the final year of his contract and it was very unlikely that the team would sign him to a new contract.

He was still unsigned one month into the 2016 season, when his agent announced that he would stage a workout for a ll interested teams on May 6th in Scottsdale, AZ. It was expected that some 20 clubs would send representatives. He was impressive at the workout, and on May 20th, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed him at a base salary of $2 million for the remainder of the season, as well as various incentives. The Angels' starting staff was wracked with injuries at the time. He was expected to need 20 days to a month to be ready for the major leagues. He put up a 2.65 ERA in three starts for the AAA Salt Lake Bees, striking out 19 in 17 innings, then was called up to the Angels on June 14th. He was a winner in his debut on June 18th, defeating the Oakland A's, 7-1. His stay with the Angels was short-lived, as he was designated for assignment on August 6th, one day after giving up 6 runs in the 1st inning of a start against the Seattle Mariners. He was 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA in 9 starts. He did not leave the Angels' organization, as he accepted an assignment back to AAA instead of trying to hook up with another team.

Lincecum did not play anywhere in 2017, but was still poised to make a comeback. He was reported to be working out in the Seattle, WA area and planning to arrange a showcase for scouts to have a look at him in early 2018. That took place February 15th in Kent, WA and he impressed by reaching 93 mph on the radar gun, while showing no sign of the hip injury that had slowed him down in his last major league season. On February 27th, it was reported he had signed a one-year contract with the Texas Rangers, who planned to use him as a reliever - even potentially as the closer. He had to push back taking the required physical exam, as his older brother Sean passed away on February 22nd after dealing with personal struggles. Tim finally joined the Rangers on March 7th. Although he had worn number 55 for all of his career until then, he asked for 44 with Texas, in tribute to Sean, who used the number as an amateur. He started the season on the disabled list because of a blister, and on April 15th, he was transferred to the 60-day DL in order to make room for Renato Nunez, whom the Rangers had just claimed off waivers. That delayed any return to the big leagues to the end of May at least, which was a disappointment for Tim as he felt he would have been ready to pitch before that. On May 7th, he made his first rehabilitation appearance, with the AAA Round Rock Express. Just as he became eligible to be activated on June 5h, the Rangers instead decided to give him his unconditional release. He had put up a 5.68 ERA in 10 appearances for Round Rock.

He became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2022 but in his only time on the ballot received just 2.3% of the vote.

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

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 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

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mark Feinsand: "Lincecum back? Righty hits 93 mph for scouts: Source expects two-time Cy Young Award winner to be signed", mlb.com, February 15, 2018. [1]
  • Maria Guardado: "Reliving the meteoric rise of 'The Freak'", mlb.com, January 18, 2022. [2]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Tim Lincecum on legacy, loss and identity: 'I realized I care about baseball so much'", USA Today Sports, March 14, 2018. [3]
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "Though Tim Lincecum era ends, Giants fans won't forget this 'Freak' show", USA Today Sports, September 3, 2015. [4]
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "Giants won't rule out reunion with two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum", USA Today Sports, February 16, 2018. [5]
  • T.R. Sullivan: "Lincecum honors late brother with No. 44", mlb.com, March 7, 2018. [6]

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