Here is a link to my Sunday column about Tim Lincecum and Tim Hudson. The full column runs below:
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — This is the key fact. Tim Hudson’s locker is located between Tim Lincecum’s locker and Matt Cain’s. Right in the middle. Forget Cain for now. His career is in better shape than Lincecum’s — although, it’s not that much better.
Think of the Tims being next to each other, Lincecum and Hudson. And while you think about that, visualize this scene.
The other day, Hudson walked across the Giants’ clubhouse to the locker of catcher Buster Posey. Hudson’s locker is against a wall. They call it Pitcher’s Row — all the pitchers are over there. But Posey’s locker is in the middle of the room. Think of magnetic north. Think of where everyone must go sooner or later.
So, Hudson went to Posey. Not the other way around. They discussed pitching. Serious talk. Hudson showed Posey his two-seamer and his four-seamer. Hudson was not holding a ball. He was demonstrating finger position, wanted his catcher to see and understand his method. Posey studied Hudson’s fingers, studied them as seriously as someone taking apart the rhyme scheme of a sonnet.
Posey asked what Hudson likes to throw on the first pitch of an at-bat. They discussed first pitches. More finger positioning. More looking. They discussed what pitch Hudson uses to put people away.
This was a business meeting between two professionals, a getting-to-know-you meeting. It was necessary because Hudson and Posey will work together for many months and they need to speak the same language, use the same grammar, understand the language of finger position. And Hudson made sure all that was happening.
Back to locker placement. If you were a lazy thinker, a thinker of clichés, you would say Hudson is next to Lincecum to “mentor” Lincecum. You get an image of the Tims sitting in a seminar room at Stanford, and Hudson leading a Socratic discussion.
Lincecum twice won the Cy Young Award. It would be pitiful for him to play pupil. I don’t believe ballplayers mentor in the way we imagine — in the way we were mentored in school. Ballplayers learn by watching and listening and practicing. Lincecum needs to watch Hudson. Lincecum needs to listen when Hudson speaks to anyone.
Lincecum’s issue always has been professionalism and Hudson is the pro’s pro. Hudson is on the team to win games, and his locker abuts Lincecum’s so Lincecum can study him. If Lincecum cares enough to study. If Lincecum gets the hint.
Hudson’s most important relationship on the team is with Posey. It is not with Lincecum or any other pitcher. One reporter asked Hudson whom he enjoyed talking to so far.
“Me and Buster we’ve talked shop a little bit about pitching and some things,” Hudson said. “Which is obvious. Pitcher and catcher need to have a good rapport and an open dialog with how you like to do things. I haven’t had a chance to talk to a lot of the other pitchers on the staff yet. It’s a long year and I’m sure there are going to be times we talk shop.”
In the business world of Hudson, catcher comes before pitchers. Not even close. Hudson is a businessman in his first days with the new company.
Here is more Hudson. These quotes and scenes emerged during several days in the Giants’ clubhouse.
More Hudson on Posey: “He’s caught a couple of my bullpens. I’m really really looking forward to working with him. I’m really excited to let him start seeing my game and understanding how I like to do things, how I click. It’s going to be a great relationship. I’ve had a chance to play with some really good catchers over the years and he’s a guy, from an opponent looking across the dugout, he’s a guy you really respect as a catcher. I’m fired up to throw to him.”
I asked, “Is he one of your friends here?”
Hudson said, “One of my friends? He’s played catch with me twice. He’s getting into that friend category.”
Jeremy Affeldt heard our exchange. “You’ve got to earn it,” Affeldt said. Affeldt laughed. Hudson laughed. The writers laughed. But Affeldt had made his point. Tim Hudson will not get accepted on the basis of being Tim Hudson. He needs to earn his standing with Posey, with the team. And Hudson is working hard on earning it — on what you might call the serious business of “earnage.”
Lincecum needs to observe all that. And, if he gets the chance, he needs to read these quotes from Hudson. And study them.
On how Hudson’s style has changed — he is 38 years old, started pitching with Oakland in 1999. That feels like last century. It was.
“I think everybody has their foundation of what their strength is,” he said. “I don’t think my strength has changed since I was a young pitcher. My style has changed a little over the years. Every pitcher that’s fortunate to have a long career, you have to reinvent some things here and there. I’m no different than anybody else. I’ve evolved my game into something more than just sinker cutter.”
“Just throwing more breaking balls. Not so predictable of when you throw pitches in different counts. Honestly, just mixing things up a lot more than when I was younger. It’s a lot more tricking them.”
Note to Lincecum. Don’t be so predictable. Don’t be stubborn. Don’t rely on your fastball which isn’t so fast anymore. “It’s a lot more tricking them.”
Hudson on pitching mechanics:
“From the time I got to the big leagues, I’ve tried to simplify my delivery — to make it as simple as I can, not to have a lot of moving parts. So when something does go wrong, it’s usually easy to fix. Because I’ve been able to simplify it, things don’t go crazy. When something does get out of whack, it’s usually a little bit of a simple fix, a timing thing. They’re not cool mechanics or flashy by any means, but they work for me. You can have a complicated delivery, but it’s a lot harder to fix things. I probably had a complicated delivery when I was younger. I just figured that was too much effort, a pain in the ass.”
Note to Tim Lincecum. You have an excessively complicated delivery. You have more moving parts than a Swiss watch. You have been out of whack the past two seasons — hence your losing record during that period. Notice Hudson’s delivery. Think simple. Simplify.
The other day, Hudson pitched from the mound to live hitting. He threw exclusively from the stretch. Why?
“I always throw from the stretch in spring. Those are where you make your most important pitches in a game. It’s the way I’ve always thrown most of my bullpens and most of my batting practices, is from the stretch. Think about it. If you’re in a jam, you’re not in the windup unless the bases are loaded.”
Note to Tim Lincecum. See how Hudson thinks about his job. Listen to his reasoning. He is strategic. He is premeditated. He is an intellectual of the pitching art. Consider yourself lucky the Giants put your locker next to his. The positioning is symbolic. It is about you. It contains a clue.
What is the clue?
If you want to have a long career, Tim Lincecum, emulate this guy.
(For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.)