Lincecum Comes A Long Way At Washington
This story first appeared in the Jan. 1, 2005 issue of Collegiate Baseball
By LOU PAVLOVICH Jr.
SEATTLE, Wash. — Tim Lincecum is one of the remarkable stories in college baseball for 2005. Here is a right-handed pitcher with a 95 mph fastball who fanned 161 batters last season and posted a 10-3 record with a 3.35 ERA in 112 1/3 innings.
The strikeout numbers are absolutely astounding considering he was a freshman last season. His total may be the highest figure ever recorded for a freshman in NCAA Division I history.
He was named the Pac-10’s Pitcher of The Year and Freshman of The Year – the only player ever so honored by the Pac-10. He also was named National Freshman of The Year by Collegiate Baseball. He shattered the UW single-season record with 161 strikeouts which was the third most in the nation last season and No. 1 in the Pac-10.
Lincecum was the first freshman to lead the Pac-10 in strikeouts since 1978.
What makes Tim such a unique story is that when he entered the University of Washington one year ago, he was 5-foot-10 and weighed 135 pounds dripping wet.
After being on the school’s weight program and eating nutritious food, he quickly gained 15 pounds and shot up to 150 pounds.
Tim is currently listed at 6-foot and 160 pounds on the official roster.
His evolution from a junk ball pitcher at a younger age to one who throws so hard you can hear a hissing sound as the ball rockets toward home plate is remarkable.
“When I was a freshman in high school, I was 4-foot-11 and weighed only 85 pounds,” said Lincecum.
“It has always been hard to gain weight for me. I have always been the smallest guy and used a curve ball to get people out. Once I put a little weight on, my velocity picked up substantially.”
Lincecum, a tremendous athlete who can do standing back flips or walk on his hands, is unique in that he is the “Master of Movement,” according to Washington Head Coach Ken Knutson…
“In high school, he could obviously throw a great fastball,” said Knutson.
“But many people don’t realize he is one of those pitchers who has the talent to make balls do tricks. Beyond his curve and changeup, he has a good knuckleball and slider. In high school, he dropped down to the side which allowed the ball to dart in and out.
“We actually asked him not to drop down last season when throwing pitches and not throw his knuckleball, among several other pitches. We wanted him to hone in on a few pitches and be efficient with those. Tim has extremely long fingers which also helps.”
Looking For An Advantage
Lincecum said he was forced to learn a wide array of pitches to survive when he was younger because of his size.
“Now I throw a 2-seam fastball which breaks away from left-handed hitters. If I need a strike, I might throw a 4-seam fastball which rises. Then I have a loopy curve and a hard breaking curve. If I throw a fastball low and outside, I might come back with a curveball aimed at the same location where the fastball went.”
Knutson said he has pretty much had a hands off policy with Lincecum regarding his mechanics.
“As a high school senior (at Liberty H.S. in Renton, Wash.) he struck out a ton of batters (183 in 91 2/3 innings). His dad Chris played minor league baseball and has always been his pitching coach. I believe in a lot of the sound principles he teaches. So I have left Tim alone. He is doing great.”
Lincecum was asked what his mechanics entail and how he can generate such high velocity in such a lanky build.
“The mechanics I utilize have been utilized through my entire playing career,” said Lincecum.
“My dad is lanky just as I am. But we are both extremely flexible. The key is using your entire body…not just the upper body. The best way I can describe it is that your entire body is moving at once and then your arm ends up cracking the whip at the very end. Your legs, midsection and arm all have important functions. A lot of energy is being produced during the torque to obtain this power.”
The first team Louisville Slugger pre-season All-American said that his dad has been adamant that he feel every sensation that the body goes through when pitching so that he can be his own pitching coach during games when things go wrong.
“If you can feel what is right and what is wrong, you can self correct much easier. I have been working on this concept for so long that it is fairly easy to correct a mechanical problem.”
Lincecum is a huge advocate of long toss.
“I absolutely enjoy long toss. It makes my arm stronger, and it helps strengthen my muscles and tendons. You must throw hard in practice to throw hard in games, and long toss is of great benefit in this regard.”
Singing Is His Passion
Pitchers have always been a little unique and Lincecum is no different.
Wherever he goes, he always has a song pop up in his mind.
“I just enjoy singing, although many people can’t stand my voice,” laughed Lincecum.
“I listen to all kinds of music such as country, rap, R&B and even techno and Christmas music.”
His greatest moment as an artist came last year when he performed My Perogative by Bobby Brown for a local radio station. Incredibly, the station played his version of the song for a period of time.
Despite his remarkable strikeout numbers, Lincecum knows that he has to walk fewer batters than he did last season when he gave up 82 free passes.
“I was probably a little too fine last year on many occasions and gave batters a little too much respect since I was a freshman. But during the past fall, I improved by getting ahead of hitters and didn’t walk many batters.
“Getting ahead of hitters and not walking batters is one of my major goal this season. It will allow me to pitch later into games and possibly get even higher strikeout numbers than before.”
Knutson said he was absolutely amazed at his pitcher’s freshman season.
“You never expect to have a freshman strike out 166 batters in college. After his first three or four turns, he was happy to be playing and pitching just like he did in high school. During the past fall, he did a much better job of limiting his walks.
“Last year, he would walk three or four guys in a row and then strike out the side. He was just young and will mature because of what he went through.
“There aren’t too many guys his size who can throw with the velocity he has. You immediately think of Pedro Martinez in this regard. Mechanically, he reminds me a bit of Andy Pettit. He has his glove go over his head and hides the ball forever and wraps the ball behind his back.”