Rainiers Report #2: Timmay!
The Rainiers beat the Fresno Grizzlies tonight 2-1 on a 9th inning 2-run 2b by Jeff Clement. Despite the walk-off heroics, the final score can be somewhat difficult to remember after a performance like the one from Tim Lincecum tonight - so I wanted to get it out there early.
Lincecum - and the game itself - was similar to the way Jered Weaver carved up the Rainiers last April before the bullpen blew it for him. Unlike Weaver's game for Salt Lake, the Rainiers couldn't muster an extra-base hit (no Scott Youngbauer this year), and unlike Weaver, Lincecum didn't surrender a walk. Three gb singles was all the R's could do.
With a fastball touching 99MPH in the first (according to the Grizzlies gun, which seemed, if anything, rather slow) and a slider/curve at 86, Lincecum didn't need pin-point command. He was a little off with his mechanics, which led a lot of his breaking stuff to miss high (out of the zone, fortunately for him). He got around this with what the Grizzlies pitchers swore was a change up (around 84 MPH). I asked multiple times, because it looked to me like it broke more than a Cruceta fork/split. Suffice it it to say, if this is a change, it's unlike anything we've seen since vintage Pedro Martinez; there's changing speeds, and then there's changing physics. Lincecum and Martinez seem to do the latter.
The guy in front of me kept asking for radar gun readings from the Grizz, and seemed somewhat nervous. But he seemed to know a hell of a lot about pitching mechanics....wait a minute... yep, it was Tim's dad. This is the guy that built Tim's unorthodox delivery, and the guy who many many professional scouts said was off his rocker. I asked him if he felt vindicated now that Lincecum (still not icing after the game; he was on the top step cheering on his relief corps) is slicing and dicing the PCL. Basically, he said he didn't pay his critics any attention at all, but you could tell this subject was near and dear to his heart. If he's right, he's on to the holy grail of baseball; the team that halves or eliminates pitcher attrition wins, period. Unlike Mike Marshall, another pitching guru that's had thousands of naysayers, Chris Lincecum actually has a star pupil that'll be in the bigs in a few weeks. Lincecum can *demonstrate* that he's built a better mousetrap - the question is, will anybody notice? It's tough, without detailed medical records, to really separate out Tim's other-worldly physical gifts (no ice? I'm sorry, i can't get over this... really? Does he have first generation nanobots in his shoulder?) from what his dad claims is his stress-free delivery. But given the potential value of Chris's insights, I can't believe people aren't beating down a path to his door.
It's been said many times that baseball is a sport that venerates tradition- or even more than that, a sport that loves to see echos of the past in new players. That's great; it's cool when a young CF reminds people of Mays, or when a big SS reminds people of Ripken/Rodriguez/Tejada. The downside, of course, is that people who don't have clear antecedents are often maligned (unfairly). Tim's answered his critics- it's no longer about Lincecum. It's about a way of thinking that sees only risk, and misses an opportunity to do things better.
Campillo's change (76 MPH) was impressive tonight, and he rode it to 6 innings of 1 run baseball. He got 5 ks to only 1 BB - 3ks in his final inning, winning some lucky fan $5,000. His FB was in the 86 range. He was trying to work in a curve that had decent break, but it obviously needed some work. Chris Lincecum thought he looked like an injury waiting to happen, esp. on the curves. I had to tell him that Campillo was fresh off a year lost to TJ surgery.
Adam Jones made a great running catch in the first, but as we've seen, the simple plays often elude him. The grizz got their one run when Scott McClain singled to center after Justin Leone doubled. It was a sharp grounder to CF and everyone was waiting for the play at the plate; a good throw beats Leone easily (He's not exactly Jose Reyes out there)... Jones let the ball under his glove. Not an error in the scorebook, but it's things like that that keep Jones from being an elite defender.
I'm still really impressed with Wlad Balentien, who went 1-3 with a walk in very difficult conditions. He still K'd once, but his K:BB ratio is about 2-1, and he's K'd in just less than 1/4 of his PAs. So far, so good for the kid from Curacao.
Brad Thomas pitched three scoreless for the win. It marked his first successful appearance for the Rainiers, and hopefully the mechanical issues/whatever that plagued him his first few times out are gone for good. He looked nasty at times with a good breaking ball that moved almost as much (though not quite) as Eric O'Flaherty's slider.