Is Tim Lincecum's slump permanent?

What's wrong with Tim Lincecum? After yesterday's short outing, it's a fair question. Aaron Gleeman:

    Tim Lincecum went through a brief rough patch earlier this season, which he recovered from to go 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA and 53/19 K/BB ratio over an eight-start span.

That stretch ended with a complete-game shutout of the Mets on July 15, but since then Lincecum is 1-3 with a 6.15 ERA in six starts.


Much has been made of Lincecum's decreased fastball velocity, as he's gone from averaging 94.1 miles per hour with the pitch in 2008 to 92.4 mph last season and 91.3 mph this year. However, he seems to think locating the fastball has been a bigger problem than anything related to velocity ... I wouldn't presume to know what Lincecum "seems to think." All we know is what he said to reporters yesterday. Still, if forced to guess, I will guess that Lincecum knows he's not throwing as hard as he used to, and is concerned about it.

Still, you can understand why he wouldn't be terribly concerned. After all, he pitched just as well -- almost exactly as well -- in 2009 as he had in 2008, despite apparently losing more than a mile-and-a-half off his average fastball. If he could win a Cy Young Award throwing 92.4, why can't he be nearly as successful throwing 91.3? (That's mostly a rhetorical question. I'm still trying to guess what Lincecum thinks.)

Has he lost arm strength? The fastball's down ... but he's actually throwing his curveball, his slider, and his changeup a touch harder this season (if you believe the PITCHf/x data).

I don't think Lincecum or the Giants should worry much, yet. Pitchers are dynamic creatures, and anyway he wasn't going to win the Cy Young every year. I think he'll be better if he arrests this downward trend in his fastball speed. But as long as he's in the 92-93 range, he'll be one of the better pitchers in the league.

Will he ever win another Cy Young Award? I wouldn't bet on it. He's already thrown a lot of pitches in his young career, and there are a lot of really good pitchers competing for the same award. At this moment, though, I don't see any reason to panic.