Hall of Fame New York Yankee great Yogi Berra had many famous quotes that almost made sense. My favorite is when he said "90% of the game his half mental." I just love that but more importantly I understand and agree with what he actually meant when he made that statement. He was trying to point out that baseball is a sport where being mentally prepared and stable is vital to success. This may explain why Tim Lincecum has pitched well at home this season and like garbage on the road.
Lincecum has an E.R.A. of 3.75 at AT&T Park at home in San Francisco and opposing hitters have a .239 batting average against him in his 9 starts by the Bay. His ratio in every major statistical category is head and shoulders above his road numbers. Away from his mound on opposing ground Lincecum features a disgusting 6.84 E.R.A. in 5 games pitched. Players are batting a staggering .313 average against Timmy on foreign fields.
To be fair Tim Lincecum is in the majority when it comes to pitchers throwing better ball games on their own mound. As they say "home is where the heart is" but in this case home is where the arm is. Or better yet home is where the mind is!
There is no doubt that being mentally prepared as an athlete is crucial. Everything from pitching a baseball game to swimming in the Olympics going for the Gold Medal is at least half of the preparation process. I doubt you can scientifically determine how much mental and physical preparedness have to do with being a failure, a success or just an average player by big league standards. But I can tell you this as a former athlete (on a much lower level) than professional sports that there is no question that if your mind isn't stable and focused then you are bound to have a bad performance whether you're playing Quarterback, Point Guard, the Setter on a Volley Ball team or going for a perfect game....in bowling!
Remember folks, the mind controls the body. The body; funny to say that when referring to Tim Lincecum who broke into the Majors in 2007 and immediately took the league by storm as he became a hard throwing, curve ball breaking machine. After his rookie year he went on to win consecutive Cy Young awards in his 2nd and 3rd seasons. He was so electric and was considered must watch TV for baseball fans. It wasn't just the surfer boy mentality and lifestyle he lived along with his long California hair and dominating pitching. It was like watching the next Pedro Martinez because Lincecum looked similar in that they are relatively small pitchers as Timmy stands under the 6' foot tall line and they both weighed about 97 lbs soaking wet with two 10 pound dumbbells in each hand.
We don't really know why Lincecum has fallen off the past few season. Is it his mental preparation and/or pressure he feels he carries on a daily basis? Maybe it's arm fatigue, or a performance enhancing drug he may no longer take or perhaps the league has finally gotten past the confusion of his unorthodox wind up, release and style in how he pitches (this is all speculation, not an allegation). He made 4 straight All Star games to go along with those two Cy Young trophy's up until the 2011 season. Once 2012 rolled around he fell apart like the seems of a 50 year old baseball. Maybe the Mayans weren't talking about the end of the world as in the earth but maybe it was about Tim Lincecum's pitching career because since Doomsday Timmy has put up (literally) an E.R.A. from 2012 to right now respectively is (5.18, 4.37 and 4.97). That's bad especially when you're talking about pitching in the worst hitting division in baseball (NL West) for the past 10 years or so overall.
The point to this post in which I went off track there for a bit is the unscientifically proven fact that being mentally prepared and completely focused by becoming comfortable with your surroundings is as important as how fast your pitch reaches home plate and falls off the table when going to old Uncle Charlie (curveball).
Of course being familiar with your surroundings tends to make people more comfortable so I can totally understand why pitchers usually pitch better on their own home field. They simply know the place better and have pitched more on that mound than any other stadium in the game. But the difference in E.R.A., which in my opinion is the most important statistic for a pitcher, should not have that drastic of a difference. Again Lincecum's E.R.A. at home is 3.75 which isn't great but good enough as compared to more practically doubling this stat on the road with a 6.84 earned run average.
I believe this has to do with a variety of tangible aspects like being away from home, feeling like a visitor on a business trip, the flying/traveling, having fans route against you, the pitchers mound and a few other things you can sense. But we can't sense what's going on in Lincecum's mind but it seems apparent something is going on there. Hey some pitchers actually pitch better on the road. Why you ask? One word...mentality! Some pitchers feel more pressure to play well at home and that ends up messing with their minds. Then they'll go on the road and taking a "me against the world" mentality to the pitchers mound helps some players overcome the negative mental aspect that may bother other pitchers like it is perceived with Big Timmy Jim.
So what to do about it, what's the answer? Therapy, experience (more time!?), gaining weight, changing around a few things from his delivery to the grip of the baseball or creating new pitches. I don't know the answer to the what he needs to do physically except get off the surf board and by a burger, perhaps find out what a gym is, but I do know that he could be a heck of a lot better than he is now. When he was younger and felt invincible, he wasn't over-thinking any situation as a pitcher. He just wet out and felt like he could physically dominate because his brain was telling him he could. People don't realize how important the mind is and how it effects every movement and thought you have. In short, Tim Lincecum needs to get his mind right!