Here is a pretty good write up on him.
[/quote]Tim Lincecum lit up a radar gun at 101 mph a couple weeks ago at the University of Washington. He's 6 feet and weighs around 170 pounds. This is not supposed to happen.
Guys who hit 100 are generally overgrown, intimidating, mustachioed beasts. Pitchers around the 6-foot mark dabble around 90 — 95 if they're lucky. And if they're named Tim, it's usually prefaced by Tiny.
Of course, the fact that Lincecum did crack triple digits for UW and that he does have the best breaking ball in college baseball and that he has thrust himself high into the first round of June's draft — the Kansas City Royals are considering him for No. 1 overall — isn't exactly a shock.
Everyone who knows Lincecum long ago stopped trying to explain the unexplainable. As a junior at Liberty High School of Issaquah, Lincecum tried out for the golf team. He had played 27 holes during his entire life. He needed to shoot 40 or under for nine holes to make the team. He shot a 39.
"He's got a little Rain Man in him," says Ken Knutson, his UW baseball coach.
Lincecum knows no limits. He recites lyrics to hundreds of songs from memory. He serenaded sports-radio listeners with a Bobby Brown jam. He cartwheels into a forward flip and does standing back flips, along with dead-on impersonations of characters from "The Lord of the Rings" and "Muppet Babies."
"He's the goofiest kid I know," says Richie Lentz, his teammate.
The only reason any of this is relevant is Lincecum's right arm, the most dominant in the Pac-10 and maybe all of college baseball. It lacks muscle, packs the power of a shotgun and attracts speculation from scouts, executives and onlookers who wonder how something like this happens.
"I don't know what to tell you," Knutson says. "I've been coaching for almost 25 years, and he's got the best stuff I've ever seen."
"This little guy" dominates
Knutson and Craig Parthemer go all the way back to their days as teammates at Washington in the early 1980s. So when Parthemer suggested Knutson look at the ace pitcher on his summer baseball team, they set up a meeting at the ballpark.
In walked Lincecum, all of 5-8 and 120 pounds as a junior in high school.
"I thought he must have been kidding," Knutson says.
That's the typical reaction, the reason teammates nicknamed Lincecum "freak" and "biscuit" — "always the little horse that could type of deal," Lincecum says.
Same as when future UW teammate Kyle Parker watched Lincecum pitch in the Class 3A semifinals their senior year (Liberty beat Parker's West Valley Yakima team for the state championship). Parker introduced himself before the game. He had heard about the "unreal" breaking ball and the radar-gun-popping fastball, and he saw ...
"This little guy," Parker says. "Kind of goofy. Then he goes out there against O'Dea and carries a no-hitter into the last inning. These days he punches out 15, 16 guys. And that's what's expected now; that's average for him."
That size (or lack thereof) and skill has been a boon for Lincecum and the Huskies. Lincecum got three years of the college experience — he's not planning to return to school next season — and UW got a pitcher that stacks up against the best in conference history, strictly because size matters to big-league scouts.
"If he would have been 6-5, he never would have made it onto campus," Knutson says.
When he did, Lincecum was named Pac-10 pitcher of the year as a freshman, struck out 13 in a win over No. 1 Stanford and earned rave reviews from teammates.
"I've never seen anybody with that stature have that stuff," Lentz says. "I don't think there's been a better pitcher to come through here."
Nor has there been a better season. Lincecum allowed two runs at USC last Friday, the first runs he had allowed in 37-1/3 innings. He won three straight Pac-10 pitcher-of-the-week awards, becoming the first such feted pitcher since Mark Prior of USC in 2001.
Lincecum also shattered the UW strikeout record earlier this season and will break the Pac-10 strikeout record sometime in his final five starts. USC's Rik Currier holds the record of 449, set in four seasons, while Lincecum has 432 in three.
"It's just not an issue for me as far as pro baseball, his size or whatever," Knutson says. "I don't expect him to break down, because of the way he takes care of his body. To think there's some reason he won't have success at the next level, you're just being guarded. If you project out, he's going to be an All-Star, a dominant major-league pitcher."
Born to pitch
When Tim Lincecum says he was "born into baseball," he means so literally. The Lincecum boys were sure to play. And the Lincecum boys were sure to pitch.
Just like Dad. The same guy who hit 88 mph on a radar gun at age 55 a few years back. The kind of guy who doesn't look at pitching as a hobby.
"I learned," father Chris says, "and I turned it into art."
Chris Lincecum learned how to throw a curveball from his uncle and spent the rest of his life perfecting pitches with his father, Leo. When his father died, he longed for the time they spent together on the diamond. That's why he decided to have kids.
Consider son Tim his Sistine Chapel. The boy listened and observed and picked everything up so quickly that his size never mattered. Because that's not where his power comes from.
Most major-league pitchers are strong in the upper body and rely on their shoulders, arms and muscle. Not Lincecum. His mechanics are old school, like Bob Feller or Satchel Paige. He uses a longer windup, a longer stride and leverage to compensate for good, old-fashioned arm strength.
"Everything from my toe to my ear," Lincecum says. "I use it all."
Feet, ankles, knees, hips, chest, shoulders, elbow and then wrist. Each body part in the throwing motion as important as the one before. The key is rhythm and centering the body to the core in the lower back. The idea is to make the body into a whip, relying on the motion and not the arm.
"His arm is kind of along for the ride," his father says. "Nobody goes out there and tries to throw that hard. He's just so fluid. He doesn't force it. He's confident. I don't know what to say. He's freaking scary out there right now."
Lincecum worked with his father since the day he picked up a baseball, and the motion is their creation, evidenced by videotape of nearly every game he ever pitched, hundreds of them stacked inside the family home.
The result is a wide variety of pitches — two different two-seam fastballs; a four-seam fastball that hits 94-98 mph consistently, a 12-to-6 curveball Knutson says is Lincecum's best pitch, another curveball, a slider and a changeup.
Some scouts worry that Lincecum's size and the speed at which he throws make his arm more likely to break down. One said last week that Lincecum goes against everything scouts are taught to look for.
Tim and his father don't agree. Tim works on the small muscles in his body — wrists, elbow, shoulder, lower back, groin, knees and ankles. He stretches like a gymnast for flexibility and doesn't ice unless he's injured.
"I haven't really had any arm problems because of the work we do," Lincecum says. "So I'm not really worried about developing any."
On the first day of fall practice in their freshman year, Lincecum, Lentz and Parker — now known as The Trifecta — were walking to practice. Lentz remembers Lincecum cracking a joke — a big, goofy grin on his face. Lincecum looked backward — and went headfirst into a stop sign.
"About knocked himself out," Lentz said.
After all of it — after learning the art of pitching from his father, after the best season and maybe the best pitching career in UW history, after moving high into the first round of the upcoming draft — those are the stories Lincecum will remember and the reasons he went to school.
Well, that and a cannon of a right arm attached to the body of a math geek. Baseball will always marvel at how Lincecum circumvents the laws of physics, while one professional baseball team will draft him and hope Lincecum can keep circumventing conventional wisdom as well.
"They just don't understand how people that small can do that well," his father says.
The same week Lincecum hit 101 mph on a radar gun, he struck out the first six batters he faced and 14 total in a win over Brigham Young. The Huskies played the game in the pouring rain, and long after it ended, a scout sat in the stands with Chris Lincecum, talking in the downpour.
Maybe then it all made sense.
Tim Lincecum's got a little Rain Man in him.