The Lincecum & Kennedy Connections
I attended one of the best college pitching matchups of the year at Dedeaux Field on the campus of USC on Friday. The game pitted two of the top amateur pitchers in Washington's Tim Lincecum and USC's Ian Kennedy.
Just as Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy have been inextricably linked over the years, so have Pitchers Lincecum and Kennedy. The junior right-handers have been their team's Friday Night starters throughout their college careers. Lincecum (2004) and Kennedy (2005) were named the Pac-10 pitchers of the year the past two seasons, and both were preseason All-Americans in 2006.
Lincecum entered the game with a 36 2/3-inning scoreless streak. With two outs in the bottom of the first, he gave up a two-run double to designated hitter Baron Frost but Washington bounced back to score seven runs in the fifth to defeat Kennedy and the USC Trojans, 7-2 (box score). All nine runs were scored in just two innings.
Pitching six innings, Lincecum (9-2) allowed two runs on five hits with four walks and 11 strikeouts. Kennedy (3-5) went 4 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs (four earned) on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Although Lincecum's streak was halted at 37 1/3 innings, the NCAA strikeout leader has allowed only three earned runs on 19 hits over his last 59 innings.
There were approximately 40 scouts in attendance. The Kansas City Royals, owners of the #1 pick in the draft this June, had a large contingent of scouting personnel paying close attention to Lincecum. The Royals are considering selecting either Lincecum, North Carolina left-hander Andrew Miller, or Houston right-hander Brad Lincoln. Kennedy was among a quartet of pitchers (along with Miller, UNC teammate Daniel Bard, and Missouri's Max Scherzer) on Kansas City's radar when the year began but is apparently no longer under consideration.
Deric Ladnier, the Royals' senior director for scouting, told Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star, "We're looking for an advanced player. One thing we're asking is, 'Who can be productive at the major-league level the quickest?' We want to see command, stuff and the makeup to be a front-line starter in the big leagues."
Lincecum's stuff is as good as or better than any college pitcher in the draft (video). He throws a mid-90s fastball and an outstanding curve. A veteran scout that I spoke to rated Lincecum's fastball as a 7 (on the 1-8 scale the team uses) or a 70 (on the more traditional 20-80 range). He called Lincecum's curve and change-up a 6 and his pitchability a 65.
The same scout graded Kennedy's fastball a 50, curve 55, change 60, and pitchability 60. I was surprised he gave Lincecum a higher ranking for pitchability than Kennedy. The scout believes Kennedy will be "better with wood bats," pointing out that the Trojan ace "knows where to put it" (video). He would like to see Kennedy pitch inside more often than he has been allowed in college and mentioned that Ian tends to "get around his curve a little," producing what's known as a "slurve."
With respect to Lincecum, the talent evaluator said he had never seen a pitcher of his size throw so hard. He believes Lincecum is closer to 5-10 1/2 or 5-11 than his listed height of 6-0 and projects him to be what he called a "stopper," which, upon clarification, meant "closer." To be an effective big leaguer, the scout contends that Lincecum needs to get "more ride" on his fastball or learn to "keep it down."
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I charted Lincecum and Kennedy on Friday night. Both pitchers have the traditional fastball (FB), curveball (CB), and change-up (CH) repertoire. I have also included some game notes along the way.
Lincecum vs. USC
Bottom of the 1st
Cusick: FB-95 ball, FB-93 ball, FB-93 called strike, CB-81 called strike, FB-96 foul, CB-82 foul, CB-82 ball, CB-82 called strike three.
Sharpe: CB-84 called strike, FB-95 foul, CB-83 ball (just inside), FB-96 foul, CB-82 foul tip, CB-82 ball (big curve), CB-84 single to RF.
Hankerd: FB-93 foul, FB-94 strike swinging, FB-95 foul, CB-82 ball, CB-82 5-4 fielder's choice.
Perales: FB-94 foul, CB-81 ball in the dirt, FB-95 line drive single to LF. Runners on first and second.
Frost: CB-81 called strike, FB-96 strike swinging, FB-94 line drive double down LF line. Two runs score.
Duda: FB-93 ball, FB-93 ball, CB-81 ball, FB-92 called strike, FB-93 foul, CH-81 ball four. Runners on first and second.
Vierira: FB-92 foul, FB-94 called strike, CB-81 foul tip, FB-94 single to LF. Bases loaded.
Coach Knutson makes a brief visit to the mound.
Estrella: CB-81 ball, CB-81 called strike, CB-81 ball, FB-93 called strike, CB-81 6-4 fielder's choice (barely getting runner at second).
2 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 3 LOB. 8 BF, 41 pitches. 21 FB (92-96), 19 CB, 1 CH.
Bottom of the 2nd
Bowden: CB-81 ball high, FB-92 ball, FB-91 called strike, FB-94 strike swinging, FB-94 strike three swinging. Lincecum blew him down.
Cusick: FB-94 fly out to CF.
Sharpe: FB-89 called strike, CB-82 called strike, FB-95 foul tip, CB-82 ball high, CB-79 strike three swinging. The last pitch was a slow curve.
Three up, three down. 11 pitches. 7 FB (89-95), 4 CB.
Bottom of the 3rd
Hankerd: CB-79 called strike, CB-80 called strike (big 12-to-6 curve), FB-94 strike three swinging on a pitch high out of the zone--a great 0-2 count "pitcher's pitch."
Perales: CB-83 called strike, CB-80 ground out to 2B.
Frost: CB-82 called strike, FB-94 strike swinging, FB-95 foul tip, CB-83 ball down and in, CB-82 foul, FB-94 foul, CB-84 strike three swinging. Poor swing. Lincecum totally fooled him.
Three up, three down. 12 pitches. 4 FB (94-95), 8 CB. Lincecum threw first pitch called strike on all three batters.
Bottom of the 4th
Duda: CB-85 foul, CB-84 called strike, CB-80 strike three swinging. Duda looked bad. Lincecum struck out four of the previous five batters.
Vierira: FB-94 called strike, CB-84 ball, CB-80 called strike, FB-94 foul, CB-82 ground out to 2B on a high hopper. Play went 4-1. Lincecum hustled over and covered first.
Estrella: FB-94 ball high, CB-76 ball, FB-92 ball down, FB-91 ball four.
Bowden: CB-86 called strike, CB-82 ball high, CB-81 called strike, FB-91 6-4 fielder's choice.
0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 LOB. 4 BF, 16 pitches. 6 FB (91-94), 10 CB.
Bottom of the 5th
Most of the scouts have put their Stalker Sport guns in their cases.
Cusick: CB ball, FB called strike, FB bloop single to LF.
Sharpe: FB called strike, FB foul, CB strike three swinging.
Hankerd: FB swinging strike, CB called strike, FB ball high, CB ball, CB ball (looked good), CB ball four. Runners on first and second.
Perales: FB-92 called strike, FB-93 called strike, CB foul, CH ball, FB called strike three.
Frost: FB-93 ball, CB-78 called strike, FB-94 ball, CB ball, FB foul, CB-79 ball four high. Bases loaded.
Duda: FB ball, FB called strike, FB ball, FB foul, CB called strike three.
0 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 3 LOB. 6 BF, 28 pitches. 16 FB (92-94), 11 CB, 1 CH.
Bottom of the 6th
Vierira: CB called strike, FB-94 ball, CB foul, CB ball, CB ball, FB foul, FB called strike three.
Estrella: FB foul, FB strike swinging, CB bal, FB-94 foul, FB-95 foul, CB ball down, CB-82 ball, FB-93 ground out to SS. Estrella is the only batter who Lincecum didn't strike out.
Bowden: FB-93 strike swinging, FB-94 ball inside, FB-93 strike swinging, FB-94 ball, FB-94 ball, CB-81 called strike three.
Three up, three down. 21 pitches. 13 FB (93-95), 8 CB.
Total: 129 pitches. 67 FB (89-96), 60 CB, 2 CH.
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Kennedy vs. Washington
Top of the first
Rife: FB-89 ball, FB foul, CH-79 ball, FB fly out to RF.
Hague: FB-89 called strike, CB-74 ball, FB-90 fly out to RF.
Clem: CB-82 called strike, FB-88 ball, CH-78 strike swinging, CB ball (checked swing, just outside--xlnt 1-2 pitch location), FB-88 foul, FB-91 fly out to CF (against the wall just left of the 395' sign).
Three up, three down. 13 pitches. 8 FB (88-91), 3 CB, 2 CH.
Top of the 2nd
Rindal: FB-90 foul, FB-90 called strike, CB-82 ball outside, FB-90 ball, FB-88 called strike three.
Lane: FB-89 foul, FB-91 foul, CH-76 strike three swinging. Vintage Kennedy. He pulled the string and fooled Lane.
Boyer: FB-90 fly out to CF.
Three up, three down. 9 pitches. 7 FB (88-91), 1 CB, 1 CH.
Top of the 3rd
Stevens: FB-90 pop out to 2B.
Kaluza: FB-89 ball, FB-89 ball, FB-89 called strike, FB-88 called strike, FB-89 ball just outside, FB-88 strike three swinging. Kennedy ties Mark Prior in career strikeouts (352) at USC.
Cox: FB-90 foul, B-78 ball down, FB-91 HBP. Kennedy overthrew it.
Rife: CB-82 hit and run single between 1B and 2B. Runners on first and third.
Hague: CB-80 ball, FB-88 ground out to 3B.
0 R, 1 H, 1 HBP, 2 LOB. 5 BF, 13 pitches. 10 FB (88-91), 3 CB.
Top of the 4th
Clem: CB-82 strike swinging, FB-89 ball just inside, FB-91 ball, CB-84 foul, FB-91 foul, FB-91 foul, FB-90 foul, CH-80 ball low. 3 & 2. FB-90 foul, FB-92 foul. Kennedy really reached back on that pitch. CB-83 called strike three. 11-pitch AB. Kennedy passes Prior in career strikeouts and now ranks fourth Rik Currier (1998-2001), Seth Etherton (1995-98), and Brent Strom (1968-70).
Rindal: CB-85 ground out to 3B.
Lane: FB-91 called strike, CB-76 strike swinging, CB-75 ball in the dirt, FB-92 foul, CB-77 ball just missed inside (Kennedy ran off mound, thinking he had a K). FB-91 ball high, FB-92 foul down the LF line, FB-90 ball four low.
Boyer: FB-90 called strike, CB-81 ball, FB-89 fly out to CF.
0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 LOB. 4 BF, 23 pitches. 14 FB (89-92), 8 CB, 1 CH.
Top of the 5th
No radar guns in sight.
Stevens: CB ball, FB called strike, FB swinging strike, CB fly out to RF.
Kaluza: FB called strike high (lots of barking from the Washington dugout), CB called strike, CB ball outside (waste pitch), FB ball just missed, FB ball just missed away. 3 & 2. FB line drive single between 3B and SS.
Anderson: FB ball. Kennedy getting squeezed. FB foul bunt down 3B line (not a SAC attempt), CB ball outside, FB ball. Runner steals second base. Double pump by Bowden owing to one of the middle infielders failing to cover. FB line drive single off Kennedy's thigh. Trainer and pitching coach check him out. Runners on first and third.
Rife: CB ball inside. Fake pick off to 3B, look to 1B--no throw. FB called strike, FB called strike, CB ground out to 3B. Run scored. 2-1 USC.
Hague: FB ball just missed outside, FB single to RF (not particularly hard hit). Run scored. Game tied, 2-2.
Clem: FB ball low and away. Kennedy overthrew it. Pickoff attempt at first. FB called strike, CB ball high and inside. Kennedy quit on the pitch. FB ball low and away. Ball overthrown again. Kennedy has clearly lost his rhythm. FB strike swinging. 3 & 2. FB fouled to the right side, FB fouled to the left side. Kennedy took something off that fastball. CB ball four. Runners on first and second.
Coach Gillespie visits the mound.
Rindal: FB ball, FB called strike, FB ball, FB ball, FB ball four just outside. Bases loaded.
Lane: FB double to LF. Two runners scored. 4-2 Washngton. Runners on second and third.
Boyer: FB foul, CB ball, FB called strike, FB ball, FB ground ball to 3B. Cusick throws wildly to first. Two-base error. Two runners scored. Both runs unearned. 6-2 Washington.
Stevens: FB called strike, CB double to RF. Runner scored. Unearned run. 7-2 Washington.
John Dunn relieves Kennedy.
Kaluza: Ground out to 2B.
7 R (4 ER), 5 H, 2 BB, 1 E, 1 LOB. Kennedy: 10 BF, 42 pitches. 31 FB, 11 CB.
Total: 100 pitches. 70 FB (88-92), 26 CB, 4 CH.
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Lincecum outdueled Kennedy on Friday night and has clearly been the better pitcher this season. The latter arguably had put up superior stats the previous two campaigns.
Lincecum's Career Stats:
IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA W-L
2004 112.1 83 55 44 82 161 5 3.53 10-3
2005 104.1 62 40 36 71 131 4 3.11 8-6
2006 85.0 41 23 15 45 140 5 1.59 9-2
Totals 301.2 186 118 95 198 432 14 2.83 27-11
Kennedy's Career Stats:
IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA W-L
2004 92.2 86 34 30 31 120 4 2.91 7-2
2005 117.0 85 40 33 38 158 6 2.54 12-3
2006 74.0 69 40 32 24 75 3 3.89 3-5
Totals 283.2 240 114 95 93 353 13 3.01 22-10
Drafted by the Cubs (48th round, 1408th overall) in 2003 and the Indians (42nd round, 1261st) in 2005, Lincecum has been climbing the draft boards all season long and is going to make every MLB organization wish it had met his $1 million price tag last year. Kennedy, on the other hand, has seen his stock slip of late and could wind up falling further than anyone could have imagined three months ago. The fact that he will be represented by Scott Boras only adds to his uncertain status.
Notes: With 432 career strikeouts, Lincecum is now 17 shy of the Pac-10 record set by USC's Currier...Zach Clem, an undrafted senior left fielder for the Huskies, slugged his league-leading 17th home run of the season on Sunday. He doubled, tripled, and homered while driving in three runs in the second 7-2 victory of the three-game series...USC won the middle game, 15-8, as senior second baseman Blake Sharpe went 4-for-4 and freshman starter Tommy Milone (7-0) kept his perfect won-lost record in tact...Trojan third baseman Matt Cusick reminds me of Bill Mueller. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound sophomore bats left and throws right. He is hitting .392 with 31 BB and 10 HBP while striking out only 7 times in over 200 plate appearances. His OBP of .512 is the school's highest since Steve Kemp's .526 in 1975. Geoff Jenkins recorded a .500 OBP in 1995. Cusick was named the most outstanding player at the NCAA First-Round Regional in Long Beach last year.