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Tim Lincecum - The Future!
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Tim Lincecum - The Future
by Richard Van Zandt,
August 7, 2006

Tim Lincecum – The Future

There was speculation that the Royals might take him with the first overall pick in this year’s amateur draft, but they didn’t.  Neither did eight other teams.  That’s how much difference apparently, four or five inches can make for a pitcher.  Tim Lincecum stands 6’0” tall when he’s wearing shoes.  With spikes no less.  Would the Royals dared to have passed on him if he were 6’5”?  How about those eight other teams?  That’s certainly hard to say, but Giants fans are sure going to be glad that they did. 


Tim Lincecum was named the 2006 Pac-10 pitcher of the year as a junior, the second time in his collegiate career that he won the award.  He not only is the University of Washington’s career leader in wins (30) and strikeouts (491), but his strikeout total is also tops all-time in the Pac-10.  His 199 strikeouts in ’06 set the UW single season record and were just three short of the Pac-10 all-time mark.  In fact, his strikeout totals in each of his three years at Washington (199 in ’06, 131 in ’05 and 161 in ’04) are the top three single season totals in the schools history.  He has been a virtual strikeout machine, even punching out 183 batters in 91.2 innings in his senior year in high school, leading to a 0.70 ERA.   


In 2006, he went 12-4 with a 1.94 ERA.  His 199 K came in 125.1 IP, giving him an average of 14.29 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched.  He allowed just 75 hits (5.39/9) while holding hitters to a .173 batting average and posting a 1.10 WHIP.  In his 3-year college career, Lincecum was 30-13 with a 2.82 ERA in 342 innings, holding hitters to a .186 batting average and a .272 slugging percentage while striking out 12.92 batters per 9 innings. 


If there is a knock on Lincecum, it should not be his height, but his walks.  Lincecum is also the UW all-time leader in walks issued (216), giving up a free pass at an average of 5.68 times per 9 innings.  However that number improved in ’06 from 6.57 in ’04 and 6.12 in ’05 to 4.52 last year and is likely to improve as he enters professional play. 


Yet it was his height that likely scared teams off, the traditional thought being that taller pitchers have the advantage with the greater downward tilt they naturally possess.  Luckily for Giants fans, GM Brian Sabean saw past that and took the prized right hander with the 10th overall pick in the June amateur draft.  His selection drew early comparisons to the Astros’ diminutive hurler Roy Oswalt and he has even been called a right handed Billy Wagner.  On Saturday night in San Jose, this Giants fan got his first look at the kid they’ll soon be calling simply, The Future. 


After making just two starts at low class-A Salem-Keizer, the Giants promoted their number 1 pick to high class-A San Jose to make his third professional start against the Bakersfield Blaze (Rangers).  Limited to a strict pitch count after also setting the UW all-time record for IP, Lincecum threw four scoreless innings in his first two outings for the Volcanoes.  Allowing just 1 hit and striking out 10, Lincecum generally overpowered opposing batters to earn the quick promotion. 


And that’s where I came in.  I did not learn of Lincecum’s promotion until after I had returned from the San Francisco Giants game on Friday night (I swear I didn’t throw anything on the field or even at Ron Kulpa, much as he may have deserved it).  My wife had already gone to bed when I saw the note that he’d been promoted and was starting the next night, but when I did, I knew where we’d be on Saturday night. 


So it was to Municipal Stadium where I quickly found the perfect spot in the general admission seats, directly behind home plate.  I wanted as good a look at this kid as I could get.  My choice of seats could not have been better as I had the extra good fortune to end up sitting right next to none other than Tim Lincecum’s father.  Recording every pitch for posterity with his hand held video camera, I had about the best scout in the house sitting to my right (and believe me there was more than one there).  Certainly there wasn’t anyone around who knew him better. 


From the elder Lincecum I found out that The Future has a wide arsenal of pitches that include two fastballs (a two-seamer and a four-seamer that generally settle in at 92-94, but he hit as high as 97 on Saturday and has been previously clocked at 101), 3 different curveballs (including the classic 12-to-6 and another that actually breaks twice), a slider (82-84 mostly but up to 86), a changeup (breaks down and in to right handers), as well as both a split finger and a knuckler that the Giants have yet to let him throw.  In his first two starts, all his pitches were called from the bench.  The Giants have been so protective of their prized righty in fact that they wouldn’t even let him drive either of his two brand new trucks down from Salem, Oregon. 


As a matter of fact, the Giants think so much of Lincecum that they’ve even assigned him his own personal catcher.  Yamid Haad, who spent the final two months of last season as the backup to Mike Matheny in San Francisco, had spent this season with the Fresno Grizzlies until he was re-assigned to the Volcanoes to catch Lincecum when he made his professional debut with Salem-Kaiser on July 26.  Haad was there on Saturday as well as The Future made his third professional start just 1 hour south of AT&T Park. 


Lincecum did nothing to disappoint, especially when he struck out the first two batters he faced.  What followed was his first professional walk (the umpire didn’t seem to like calling low strikes) before Freddie Thon, nephew of former major leaguer Dickie Thon, flew out to center to put inning number one in the books. 


Overall The Future threw 2 2/3 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 3 hits with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts.  Those numbers aren’t too bad but with a little more luck, they would have looked even better. 


The first run allowed of his professional career came on a home run by 3B Adam Fox in the 2nd that would have been foul had it been three or four inches more to the left.  Instead it clanked off the foul pole 347 feet away down the line in left and gave the kid his first professional ERA. 


He began the third with his 5th K, but then a mistimed leap by SS Johany Abreu on a soft liner by DH Micah Furtado put him into the stretch. The next batter, 2B German Duran, then doubled to left center to tie the game.  On the very next play, Abreu made a throwing error on a routine ground ball that brought home the final run Lincecum would allow.  He would get one more out and issue one more walk before leaving due to his pitch count.  With just a little more luck, he could have gone three scoreless and maybe more. 


He impressed me not only with his sharp movement and hard fastball, but as well with the presence he showed on the mound.  He was a man among boys.  And from talking with his father, I got the distinct impression that tenacity is not something the younger Lincecum lacks.  I left Municipal Stadium on Saturday with no doubts about Tim Lincecum.


When I asked his father whether he thought his son would be given a shot to make the rotation in 2007, he told me that a September call up has not been ruled out.  Given the struggles displayed this season by Armando Benitez, some have wondered if Lincecum might already be ready to come up and close.  And to tell you the truth, given his strikeout ability, that isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever heard.  However, I’m here to tell you Giant fans, don’t be impatient.  Tim Lincecum has the kind of stuff that wins games, and a lot of them.  Tim Lincecum has the ability to become one of the top starting pitchers in all of baseball and is likely to be a fixture in the San Francisco rotation for many years to come. 


Giants fans, Tim Lincecum is The Future. 

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard lives in San Francisco and can be reached at

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