Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The senseless destruction

Yesterday, I sent Shysterball a link that I had every intention of diving into, but due to work committments, I was unable to address. I thought it worthy of mention and Craig did as well.

So, a day late, I point you to this wonderful rant by Gary Huckaby at Baseball Prospectus.

Tim Lincecum threw 138 pitches against San Diego last night.

Let me make this as clear as I possibly can.

That is utterly, completely, and colossally reckless, stupid, arrogant, and just plain lazy. Send in all the nasty emails calling me a geek who’s never played you like. Feel free to point out that Lincecum’s “just different”,”rubber armed”, or a “freak of nature”. It’s still mind-blowingly stupid, risky behavior.
I could have easily taken the entire rant as it's beautiful in its simplicity, its brevity, its edge.

Now, to dive a little deeper.

Baseball Prospectus has a neat little stat called PAP, or Pitcher's Abuse Points. If you want to dig into the math, feel free, but I'll just go with the data as presented. Care to hazard a guess who ranks el numero uno in PAP this year (thru 9/15/08)?
  1. Tim Lincecum
  2. CC Sabathia
  3. Roy Halladay
  4. Justin Verlander
  5. Matt Cain
I went to #5 to include Cain. The two best assets of a asset-devoid team like the Giants are being abused, as defined by BP. Criminal for a team with no chance to do anything this year.

That's one way to look at the Lincecum abuse. The other is to layer in SI.com's Tom Verducci's Year After Effect. Verducci had his list in February of players most likely to suffer from the YAE in 2008 and I did the follow-up mid-season and the results were alarming. As a reminder of the general rule of thumb:
It's like training for a marathon. You need to build stamina incrementally. The unofficial industry standard is that no young pitcher should throw more than 30 more innings than he did the previous season. It's a general rule of thumb, and one I've been tracking for about a decade. When teams violate the incremental safeguard, it's amazing how often they pay for it.
In 2007, Lincecum's rookie season, he pitched 146.1 innings. So far in 2008, at age 24, he's at 207.2. Simple math shows that he's blitzed the YAE barrier some time ago, like early August. He's +60 innings over his previous career high. Know who else was +60 IP last year over their career high? Ian Kennedy (+61) and Fausto Carmona (+56). Care to wonder how either has fared this season? Short answer: not good. Carmona's made just 20 starts (hello DL) and sits at 8-7 with a 5.16 ERA at age 24, more than two full runs higher than his stellar 3.06 ERA last year (where he placed 4th in CY voting). Kennedy is 0-4 in just 10 starts (injury, ineffectiveness) with an 8.17 ERA, just a smidge higher than his 1.89 ERA in just 3 starts last year.

Lincecum's been heralded as a freak. Verducci penned a really strong article on him not that long ago, talking about his unorthodox training methods and his overbearing incredibly attentive father. Verducci was gushing about his mechanics:
The quickness of Lincecum's small body is what scared off most scouts -- that and what has become something of a trademark, a tilting of his head toward first base in the early phase of his delivery. The scouts equated his body speed with violence. That assessment, however, is akin to watching the Blue Angels air-show team and not seeing the precision because of a fixation with the implicit danger. Lincecum generates outrageous rotational power -- the key element to velocity -- only because his legs, hips and torso work in such harmony.
Where Lincecum truly separates himself from most pitchers is the length of his stride. It is ridiculously long as it relates to his height. And just as his left foot, the landing foot, appears to be nearing the ground at the end of his stride, he lifts it as if stepping over a banana peel -- extending his stride even more. The normal stride length for a pitcher is 77% to 87% of his height. Lincecum's stride is 129%, or roughly 7 1/2 feet.

Yes, I am really concerned for Lincecum. I hope he can buck the trend and continue his ascention to the top pitcher in baseball.
Tim is a treasure, a reliable, workhorse major league starter, but also a testament to that unmeasurable art and mystery that always remain within the discipline of pitching. "My dad would notice itty-bitty things with my mechanics and make it second nature for me," Tim says. "Now I'm making adjustments quicker. It's nice to have him there, but I don't need him there to tell me what's going on. I can make those adjustments pitch to pitch now as opposed to game to game."

Good luck, Tim. I'm rootin' for ya, in spite of your management.


Dean D said...

I sure am surprised to see Verlander's name on that list. He was my #1 pick this year for my fantasy team so I've followed him pretty closely. Needless to say, my team never had a chance. Aside from one small stretch after the All Star break (if my memory serves me) he's had an absolutely awful year.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see if Lincecum's father's training methods will help him endure this kind of overuse.

Speaking of which, maybe you can help me remember something. I heard someone on Ed Randall's Talking Baseball about a year ago talking about a new training method for pitchers...maybe even a new pitching delivery. I can't remember who it was, but I believe he's a former player. I was actually listening in my car driving around upstate NY so the signal was in and out. Point being, this guy was touting this new way to train pitchers and was spewing statistics about how low the injury rate is using it. Any idea who/what I'm talking about?

Jason @ IIATMS said...


I hadn't heard about that other method. If you find it, shoot it my way.

As for Verlander... never pick a pitcher in the first. Period.