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Pitching Mechanics Analysis
Tim Lincecum

Updated 2010.9.1

As I discuss in more detail lower down on the page, for a few years I have been concerned about the long-term health of Tim Lincecum's arm. I believe that these concerns are related to the struggles that Tim Lincecum has experienced lately. The problem is that Tim Lincecum has an Inverted L in his arm action, and a timing problem as a result, as the video clip below demonstrates.

Video Clip of Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum

The Inverted L is clearly visible in Frame 25. Notice how he picks his Pitching Arm Side (PAS) elbow straight up out of the plunged, ball by the PAS hip position. The problem is that this creates a timing problem. In Frame 26, when Tim Lincecum's Glove Side (GS) foot plants, his pitching arm is late and isn't close to vertical. This causes his PAS upper arm to externally rotate 100 or more degrees by Frame 27, which puts a lot of strain on both the elbow and the shoulder.

2008.12.1 Update

Tim Lincecum's lower body mechanics are extremely efficient, which is why such a relatively small guy can throw as hard as he does. However, his delivery is a little max effort, his arm action is borderline, and he shows signs of a timing problem, which is why I don't rate him as highly as I do Justin Verlander or Cliff Lee.

Let's Go to the Tape

I recently came across some super slow motion video of Tim Lincecum that makes clear some of the things I think he does well, but also makes me more concerned about the long-term health of his arm.

Let me explain why I say that.

Video Clip of Tim Lincecum - Super Slow Motion

Tim Lincecum

In Frame 18 you can see how Tim Lincecum does three things that are good. First, he drives off the rubber toward the plate with his Pitching Arm Side (PAS) leg. Second, he sweeps his leg out toward Third Base and into foot plant, which is something that great pitchers like Greg Maddux do and I prefer to a more linear stride like Mark Prior's. Third, he leads his stride with his Glove Side (GS) butt cheek.

In Frame 80, you can also see something that is good. Notice how he leads with his PAS hand, rather than his PAS elbow, as he comes out of the "plunged" position with his PAS hand behind his PAS butt cheek. This keeps him from getting into the Inverted W position (although he does show some Inverted L).

Frame 92 is when I start seeing things that make me nervous. The thing to notice is that Tim Lincecum's GS foot has planted but his PAS forearm is only horizontal. Given that, as is typical, his shoulders start to rotate at this moment, this means that his PAS upper arm will externally rotate especially much and hard. This can significantly increase the load on both the elbow and the shoulder.

Tim Lincecum's Hip/Shoulder Separation

Tim Lincecum's Hip/Shoulder Separation

In Frame 110, you can see Tim Lincecum's best-in-the-world hip/shoulder separation. Notice how, as in the still photo above, Tim Lincecum's belt buckle is pointing at Home Plate while his shoulders are still closed and facing Third Base. In this frame, Tim Lincecum's shoulders have already rotated 15 or degrees and his PAS forearm is vertical (with respect to his upper spine) and in the high-cocked position.

Finally, Frame 152 shows that Tim Lincecum extends his GS knee through the release point. While this can help to boost a pitcher's velocity, I'm not a fan of this because I know it can lead to knee and hip problems and think it can increase the load on the elbow and the shoulder.

The Bottom Line

While I still have tremendous respect for Tim Lincecum, what I see in the high speed film of him makes me nervous. He's got some Inverted L in his arm action, which can create a timing problem, and I see a timing problem in the high speed film. All of that puts his elbow and shoulder at risk.

2007.12.12 Update

A pitcher's arm action and timing are the primary determinants of the long-term health of their arm, so it's always the first thing I look at. Tim Lincecum's arm action is mostly good, as the clip below demonstrates.

Video Clip of Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum has a plunge, out, and up arm action that bears some resemblance to that of Greg Maddux. However, Tim Lincecum's Pitching Arm Side (aka PAS) elbow gets higher than does Greg Maddux's; it almost reaches the level of his shoulders, which makes me a little nervous. At least Tim Lincecum's PAS elbow drops as his shoulders turn, which his good.

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