Rewind: Lincecum finds consistency, continues maturation

Rewind: Lincecum finds consistency, continues maturation
July 11, 2014, 11:00 pm
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I’m evolving as a pitcher. I guess that’s the word you can use.
Tim Lincecum

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum is enjoying a career-high streak of consecutive scoreless innings at AT&T Park. At 27, it's the longest such streak since Ryan Jenson's 27 straight scoreless innings in 2002.

You'd never have expected it when Lincecum was 5-5 with an ERA just under 5.00 after 15 starts, but the Giants slight right-hander appears to have taken the next step in his maturation as a professional.

"I'm trying to focus on executing my plan," Lincecum said after seven innings of three-hit shutout ball in a 5-0 win over the Diamondbacks. "The focus has been eluding me, at times, just because I get in situations when I'm trying to be nasty. And now I'm just trying to execute my pitch and put it in the spot that I need to."

[RECAP: Giants 5, Diamondbacks 0]

Studying hitters and emphasizing hitting spots regardless of velocity and movement are veteran focal points, and it has taken Lincecum eight MLB seasons to appreciate their value.

These days, Lincecum is starting homework on his next opponent two days before he pitches, a significant departure from when he was younger.

"I just relied on stuff, for the most part, coming up," Lincecum said. "But now I have a pitch plan I can go to. 

"It's almost like knowing the answers on the test before you go into it."

Lincecum has allowed exactly one earned run in 30 1/3 innings of work (0.30 ERA) since beginning his no-hit masterpiece on June 25, and the four-time All-Star had trouble recalling the last time he felt this good.

"It's been awhile," Lincecum said. "I've talked about consistency a lot, and I really haven't been doing that until these last four starts."

The veteran approach is working wonders.

"It's put me in a better mental state, and it's got me out there carrying my confidence throughout the game," he said.

Lincecum's first significant growth as a pitcher came when he no-hit the Padres last season. His postgame quotation that July 2013 day was revealing:

“I’m evolving as a pitcher. I guess that’s the word you can use. I’m not necessarily throwing fastball-split like I used to. I’m learning how to pitch with what I’ve got. That might mean more changeups or sliders that day or curveballs."

[REWIND: How Tim Lincecum no-hit the Padres: 'I'm evolving as a pitcher']

Now, Lincecum's full arsenal is at his beck and call.

"I'm not afraid to throw any pitch in any situation," he said after silencing nemesis Paul Goldschmidt and the Diamondbacks.

It's proving to be a dangerous mentality. 

If it weren't for the blister Lincecum developed on the inside of his middle finger, there's a chance he would have started the eighth inning. The wound is nothing to worry about -- "just a hot spot" -- and the fact the Giants' struggling offense put up four runs in the first two frames and added another late removed any chance of late-inning drama.

With his veteran approach, Lincecum also appears to be developing a strong sense of humility. Twice during his postgame press conference he stated that his "stuff isn't as good as it used to be."

It's not exactly a popular school of thought.

"I thought his stuff was real good," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He finished up on a nice roll here in the first half." 

Given the Cy-Young success Lincecum has been enjoying of late, it's natural that he is harboring a few ambivalent feelings about the timing of the All-Star break. But he's confident his current approach can be duplicated, and that is a plan Giants fans can get behind.

Along with his new mentality, there's an old intangible present in Lincecum's starts these days -- sheer joy. Pablo Sandoval, who was a triple shy of the cycle on Friday, said it best: "I'm having fun just watching him. Every time."

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