Dominance in San Francisco

Tim Lincecum, as usual, had another stellar start for the San Francisco Giants tonight against the Phillies. He wasn’t unhittable, but as they say, “bend but don’t break.” Lincecum was able to wriggle out of any rough spots he faced and was otherwise dominant. This, of course, came one night after a nearly as dominant performance in Cliff Lee’s debut with the Phils.

Lee allowed one run in nine innings, struck out six and walked two, throwing 109 total pitches. Lincecum pitched eight shut-out innings, struck out eight and walked one, throwing 117 total pitches. I thought it’d be interesting to look at — but not necessarily compare — the two starts using Pitch F/X data.

First, a glance at what their pitches actually look like, thanks to Brooks Baseball.

As usual, with all of the images, you can click to enlarge and/or enhance the quality.

Tim Lincecum: Top and Side View

Cliff Lee: Top and Side View

The overall look at their pitches.

Tim Lincecum

Cliff Lee

How They Got Strike Three

Tim Lincecum

Cliff Lee

Four of Cliff Lee’s six strikeouts were called strikes, whereas seven of Lincecum’s eight were swinging strike threes.

Here’s a look at their overall strikes.

Tim Lincecum

Cliff Lee

What jumps out at you is that none of the Phillies swung and missed even once at Lincecum’s fastball. Then you look at his change-up and see seven swinging strikes. His fastball averaged about 92 MPH and his change-up 83, so it’s no surprise that his change-up was very effective.

Lastly, here’s a look at the pitches that actually found a bat.

Tim Lincecum

Cliff Lee

All four of the hits (two doubles, two singles) Lee allowed came on sliders. Three of the seven hits Lincecum allowed (all singles) came on change-ups; three came on fastballs and one came on a curveball.

Generally speaking, Lee’s game plan is not to get swings-and-misses, but to simply throw the hitter off-balance to induce weak contact. While Lincecum does induce weak contact, his M.O. is to miss bats as frequently as possible, and with an average 9 MPH differential between his fastball and change-up, that’s going to happen frequently.

Lee and Lincecum are great examples of how pitchers can be completely dominant with very different repertoires and approaches.

Addendum: In case you’re having trouble with the acronyms, here’s a list for you:

  • FF = Four-seam fastball
  • FT = Two-seam fastball
  • CH = Change-up
  • CU = Curve ball
  • SL = Slider
  • SS = Swinging strike
  • CS = Called strike