Earlier this month, it looked as if the Giants’ Tim Lincecum might need a new nickname. The Freak’s fastball was hovering around a very un-freakish 90 mph. Almost everyone in the big leagues – freaks and non-freaks alike -- can hit 90 on the radar gun.
Some wondered if Lincecum had a dead arm or if sadly, at just 26, the two-time NL Cy Young award winner had lost the sizzling fastball that, combined with his small stature – just 5-foot-11 and 170-pounds with his pockets filled with rocks -- made him so unusual.
But when Lincecum took the mound Tuesday at Houston, he started pumping 94 mph fastballs, one after the other, at the Astros in the early innings. He even hit 95 on the radar gun.
Giants fans can breathe a bit easier. Lincecum’s latest start showed that his loss of velocity likely has more to do with mechanics than arm issues. He still has work to do on that mechanical front, but in the early going Tuesday, Lincecum got into a groove, and his fastball had some of its old electricity. If he could do that one day, he can certainly do it again.
I loved the fact that catcher Bengie Molina kept calling for a heavy dose of fastballs. Too often this year, Molina and Lincecum have fallen too deeply in love with his change-up and curveball. Granted, they’re great pitches, and they’ve helped him rack up many of his best-in-baseball 113 strikeouts, but it’s Lincecum’s fastball that sets the tone and sets the stage for his off-speed pitches.
When it comes to the fastball, it’s a matter of use it or lose it. Lincecum’s far too young to become overly reliant on off-speed pitches. He’s got to keep pumping fastballs and get back to being The Freak. Tuesday’s start was a great sign.