Legend of Lincecum Growing

April 28, 2006

By Brian Tom
gohuskies.com contributing writer

Seattle - The Pacific Northwest is home to its share of lore and legends. While some of these urban myths--like Bigfoot--are unconfirmed tall tales, and others--like trolls living under the Fremont Bridge--have some steam to them, one growing legend that outsiders are still grasping at getting a better understanding of is the baseball enigma known as Tim Lincecum.

For Lincecum, who is scheduled to start this Friday's 6:30 p.m. game vs. Arizona, seeing is believing. On appearances alone, he does not fit the profile of a prototypical successful baseball pitcher. He is listed as 6-foot tall, 175-pounds and has the appearance more of a cross-country athlete than an All-American baseball player. But put a baseball in his lethal right hand and all questions about `Is he for real?' disappear.

'The funniest thing about Tim Lincecum to me is that there are all these tall tales about this short little guy,' said John Manuel, Editor in Chief of Baseball America. 'You hear the stories when he was in high school him throwing a complete game and then throwing the next day, then throwing the next day. You'd hear guys talk about him the same way they would talk about Cuban pitchers or Japanese pitchers, because he was like this myth almost.'

In reality, Lincecum has been a man among boys for the Huskies all season long. He has dominated hitters, striking out 140, while walking 45 in 85 innings. He has compiled a 9-2 record, with a measly 1.59 earned run average. Batters are hitting a paltry .144 off him. He just had a consecutive scoreless inning streak snapped at 37 and a third by USC this past weekend.

Lincecum's performance this season has not only demanded that baseball people around the nation pay attention, but it has likely made him a very rich man. After his sophomore season in 2005, the Cleveland Indians drafted Lincecum in the 42nd round. Fast forward to 2006 and Lincecum is a virtual lock for the first round, and recently there has been talk of him possibly being the first overall draft choice of the Kansas City Royals in June.

'I've asked a lot of scouts about what the Royals were going to do with the number one pick and what I heard from basically everyone I talked to at the beginning of (last) week was that he's the guy the Royals are looking at,' said Buster Olney, Senior Writer for ESPN the Magazine. 'They were thinking that he's come so far in the last three months that he is the guy they were focusing on.

'Now, I did hear different opinions by the end of the week that some people think that if you have a chance to take a left-hander like (North Carolina's Andrew) Miller, you've got to do that. But they said that Lincecum was very highly rated.'

With Lincecum, there has seemingly always been a `but' attached when praises are heaped upon him. The Renton, Wash., native (Liberty HS) has always had to prove the doubters wrong, and to this point of his career, he has always exceeded expectations. Even if Lincecum is able to lead the Huskies to a College World Series, it is safe to bet that there will be some detractors.

'The great part about him this year is that last year, when he was a draft-eligible sophomore, scouts only wanted to say negative things about him,' said Manuel. 'They only wanted to knock his delivery, they only wanted to knock the fact that he didn't throw enough strikes.

'It's so telling of any industry that when you're winning and doing well you can do no wrong,' continued Manuel. 'A scouts jobs a lot of the time is to nitpick and find what guys do wrong; and it's just hard to get any scout to say anything negative about Tim Lincecum this year.'

Before the June draft, expect Major League scouts to pick over Lincecum with a fine-tooth comb. Besides being slight of frame, Lincecum has an unorthodox pitching motion that worries some scouts about its repeatability. There is also some belief among scouts that Lincecum is best suited for the bullpen as a set up man or closer.

All Lincecum can do is answer the concerns by keeping on doing what he does best--throwing strikes. His fastball has topped the radar gun at 100 miles per hour on several occasions this season. When that pitch is mixed with his knee-bending curveball and devastating change up (that is still a work in progress), Lincecum has been virtually unhittable.

'Stuff wise, he's as good as any college pitcher,' said Manuel. 'His fastball is as good as anybody. (Cal's Brandon) Morrow might throw a little bit harder, but Lincecum makes guys swing and miss more. Command is always his issue, but frankly I don't think he really has a peer in terms of his stuff. I don't even know if he did last year.'

Although Lincecum could return for his senior season next year, with his growing reputation and first round money waiting in the wings, most all experts are expecting he is in the final stages of his Husky career. The final handful of games with Lincecum pitching in a Husky uniform are sure to draw large followings. After all, seeing is believing, and with Lincecum, what fans are seeing is a legend in the making.

Buster Olney writes a daily blog on ESPN.com and originally wrote that there was speculation of Tim Lincecum being the No. 1 draft pick on April 20. Please visit his blog at: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?name=olney_buster#20060428

John Manuel is the Editor in Chief of Baseball America. For the latest information on their 2006 Major League Baseball draft visit: http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/draft/

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