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Toe to Toe: Hochevar vs. Lincecum

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on June 4, 2006

Tim Lincecum's fastball typically sits 92-97 and he's sustained the high end of that spectrum throughout seven and eight inning starts. He'searned a rep for having a rubber arm.

Hochevar worked 92-95 during his junior year at Tennessee but after the long layoff has shown a slight, but expected dip into the 89-92 range. In his most recent outing with Fort Worth, the 22-year-old regularly hit 93 and 94 on the gun.

Their fastballs grade very similarly when movement and pitch control are considered, which is where Hochevar catches up despite the slight differential in velocity.

Lincecum's fastball isn't Andy Benes straight, but Hochevar regularly gets more run and sink with his four-seamer.

Lincecum's curve may be the best pitch of any arm in the draft, while Hochevar only shows the pitch on occasion.

Lincecum does use a slider and showed improvement with the pitch in 2006, but it's hardly a major league pitch at present time.

Hochevar's slider is his out pitch and when he shakes off the rust it'll show up in the break of his slider.

Neither pitcher has a plus change, but Hochevar's has far better action. It's a feel pitch and scouts haven't seen much of it in Fort Worth as it's his third best pitch, but it's a passable big-league offering.

Lincecum's curve ball is so good that he didn't use his change much, but if he were to add an average changeup or a split-finger, he'd be devastating in any role.

Neither right-hander has plus command and will need to improve in that area before tasting success in the majors, but Lincecum's control problems are a major red flag.

Since workload and long-term durability are the two main concerns with him, the fact that he goes deep into the count so often and issues a high number of bases on balls just adds fuel to the fire.

Hochevar's overall walk numbers aren't great but they are more than reasonable for a power pitcher.

Lincecum obviously comes with more risk, particularly when factoring in his size and durability concerns. At 5-11 and 170 pounds, he'd be among the few shortest and lightest starters in the majors right now.

Hochevar is built like a frontline arm at 6-5 and 215 pounds. There isn't much risk in his mechanics, though most of the top scouts see a few glitches that can be molded out of his delivery.

There has been far too much worry about Lincecum's delivery, since "It does nothing to expose his arm, mid-section or back", says one NL Central scout that has seen Lincecum on at least a dozen occasions.

"It's odd looking, but I've seen far worse deliveries on healthy pitchers."

Overall, there is a somewhat significant risk with Lincecum than there is with Hochevar.

Lincecum is a coaches dream and his bulldog approach will be adored by any club that takes a chance on him. He's a diamond dog and a tireless worker that is evident in his welcomed workload.

Hochevar had plus grades across the board in the areas of work ethic, coachability and overall makeup – until the fiasco with his agent(s) and the Los Angeles Dodgers over the past year.

His effort level, however, has been "as high as anyone we've seen," said an A's scout. "There are no issues here, at least that we have witnessed. And we snuck around and watched workouts."

If Lincecum reached his ceiling, the club that takes him will have themselves a No. 1 starter. That's without question. He's got the best stuff in the draft and his intangibles grade very high.

If he sheds some of his control issues, he's got a great shot to be the right-handed version of Scott Kazmir. Except with a plus-plus curve ball instead of a plus slider. The durability questions will follow him until he's out of baseball, or until he produces numerous 200-inning seasons.

Hochevar's ceiling is probably as a No. 2 starter – but don't run off now and wonder why the M's would take him over Lincecum. A No. 2 starter is a 17-win, 210-inning pitcher with ERA's in the low-to-mid 3's.

Hochevar is much more likely to become a 200-inning No. 2/3 starter than Lincecum is, due to the aforementioned risk factors.

Note: Justin Verlander was seen as a high No. 2 starter also until he proved he could sustain his 98 mph velocity.

If Hochevar improves his changeup to above-average status and adds consistency to his slider we're probably talking about Freddy Garcia at worst, and Roy Halladay on the extreme high side.

I'm thinking Chris Carpenter.

The crazy talk of Lincecum perhaps donning a big-league uniform in 2006 to help a club downt he stretch is insane on many fronts.

1) It's misleading when Baseball America says this without explaining any caveats involved in the idea

2) Lincecum's 125.1 innings and regularly high pitch counts may preclude from pitching competitively again until 2007. The club he is drafted by may not want to take the risk of overworking him.

3) Why would any club in the top 5 need Lincecum down the stretch? None of them are anywhere near the race – sadly, Seattle is five games back and that's closer than any of the four in front of them.

4) Even if Detroit, Los Angeles or Cincinnati took Lincecum, the chance that they believe he can help them deep into the postseason without the risk factors overtaking the idea is pretty insurmountable.

While the Reds and Dodgers could use help in the rotation and the pen, Detroitdoesn't need help in that manner.

5) All of this is assuming Lincecum signs quick enough to even suit up for the shortseason club, which is no given.

Lincecum, realistically, should probably see the bigs in 2007, and I'd guess sometime after June so the organization can limit his workload in the minors for awhile, much like the Mariners did with Felix Hernandez a year ago.

Hochevar's layoff rusted him up, but it may have just as good a shot to speed up his ascent to the bigs as it does to result detrimentally.

Either way, expecting him to break into the big leagues before June of 2007 is unfounded thinking. Sure, anything can happen, but the Mariners can win the World Series this year, too.

Barring health setbacks of any kind, Hochevar could be in line for a late 2007 callup, depending on where his club is in the standings.

Financially, the biggest differences between the two pitchers may be the type of contract demands being thrown around in negotiations.

Scott Boras will surely be demanding a major league deal for Hochevar and while Lincecum's agent is NOT Boras, he could be asking for the same thing.

What this does is place the player ont he 40-man roster immediately, which scares some teams away. The bonuses should be between $3.5 and 4.5 million for each player, though I wouldn't be surprised to hear rumors of more than $5 million.

Hochevar was offered $2.98 by the Dodgers – twice – and Lincecum was asking for $2 million LAST SEASON when he was a 42nd round pick by the Cleveland Indians.

If I were a scouting director, I would not shy away from Lincecum due to his size and delivery. His workload and command problems would push Hochevar, Andrew Miller and Brad Lincoln ahead of him on my draft board, but Lincecum surely grades right up there with Max Scherzer, Daniel Bard and Brandon Morrow, and he's better than all three.

Toe to Toe
Luke Hochevar Category Tim Lincecum
Fastball 65/70
45/50 Curve 60/70
55/65 Slider 45/55
50/60 Change 45/50
50/60 Command 40/50
55/60 Mechanics 50/55
2007 (Sept.)
ETA Mid-2007
6 Risk (1-10)
8 Reward (1-10)
6-5/210 Size 5-11/170
8 Makeup (1-10)
MLB/$4-4.5m Contract MLB/$3.5-4.0m
Luke Hochevar, RHP
2003 – Tenn. 21 G/5 GS, 6-5, 4.64 ERA, 77.2 IP, 87 H, 24 BB, 73 K
2004 – Tenn. 11 G/9 GS, 4-2, 2.86 ERA, 63 IP, 52 H, 23 BB, 60 K
2005 – Tenn. 19 GS, 15-3, 2.26 ERA, 139.2 IP, 104 H, 54 BB, 154 K
2006 – Ft. W 4 GS, 1-1, 2.38 ERA, 22.2 IP, 20 H, 11 BB, 34 K
Career 55 G/37 GS, 26-11, 3.00 ERA, 301 IP, 112 BB, 321 K
Tim Lincecum, RHP
2004 – UW 18 GS, 10-3, 3.53 ERA, 112.1 IP, 83 H, 82 BB, 161 K
2005 – UW 16 GS, 8-6, 3.11 ERA, 104.1 IP, 62 H, 71 BB, 131 K
2006 – UW 17 GS, 12-4, 1.94 ERA, 125.1 IP, 75 H, 63 BB, 199 K
Career 51 GS, 30-13, 2.80 ERA, 343 IP, 220 H, 216 BB, 491 K

20 Responses to “Toe to Toe: Hochevar vs. Lincecum”

  1. Dr. Detecto said

    Entertaining, even-handed square-up chief …

    Like the comp of Hochevar to Chris Carpenter, and like the idea of giving Lincecum the rest of the year off, neither of which we’ve seen elsewhere…

    Hadn’t quite been aware of how good Hochevar’s power curve is until some of the recent vids. You start to wonder why there isn’t a consensus to put him up there with Miller and Lincecum at the top of the totem pole.

    As you note, there seem to be a lot of wild card factors in the top 4, signability as well as temptations towards Longoria, Drabek, etc … maybe the M’s will even find themselves in the scenario you alerted to a long time ago, Miller falling to 5 …

  2. Willmore said

    I thought I heard the idea about resting Lincecum before. Though, it might have been from Jason just somewhere else. In any case, great writeup, very informative.

  3. The teams i have spoken to do have Luke up there with Miller.

    Three teams I know have Hochevar as their top player.

    None pick anywhere in the top 10.

  4. Willmore said

    Any of those teams have a history of good scouting/draft decisions ?

  5. DIQ said

    Great breakdown JAC.

    I really like taking Hochevar, even if his ceiling isn’t as high, because esentially you’re still getting a great pitcher. This for once is where taking the “safe/safer” pick is a wise choice on the M’s behalf. Not that the reward is any different. He will be in the front of the rotation in the end.

  6. germpod said

    Does starting on the 40 man roster start their clock at that point? Or is it when they get called up?

  7. MatthewCarruth said

    I believe the anecdote about Lincecum being ready for the big leagues in August does not actually mean he SHOULD be in a ML pen in August, it’s just being said to show the belief that Lincecum is the player closest to being ML-ready in this draft. Hochevar right behind him. 2007 ETAs is still quite fast comparatively.

    I’m fine with either one. I call it a toss-up at this point. I grade Lincecum’s reward as slightly higher than Hoch’s. Unless the draft goes Miller, Lincoln, Lincecum, Hoch. Which seems highly unlikely, the Ms should have a shot at one, probably both. Here’s hoping they don’t pick Morrow over Lincecum because of risk.

  8. Jerry said

    Regarding readiness, I would think that Hochevar is more likely to move quickly than Lincecum.

    I think that most of the people suggesting that Lincecum is ML ready are based on him coming out of the bullpen. It is simply that he could do it, not that he should. With his workload, he should probably be shut down this year.

    With Hochevar, you are getting a player who is essentially coming off spring training. He has had a few starts, and is still getting into shape.

    If the M’s sign Hochevar relatively quickly (which I don’t see as a huge issue), he could get two months of work in the minors. The club could get a jump start with him, and that would put him on the fast track for 2007. This doesn’t apply to any other pitcher in the draft, besides perhaps Max Scherzer. But with Scherzer, the injuries are a concern. With Hochevar, the M’s could throw him Inland Empire or San Antonio immediately, and see how he does.

    While Lincecum might be able to make it to the ML fastest among this years draft class, it would be as a reliever, and would be a very questionable move. With Hochevar, he will get a 1/2 year jump on everyone else in the draft, and should move quickly.

  9. I’m with ya, Jerry.

    re: 40-man/ml deal

    No, their clock doesn’t start until they are added to the 25-man.

  10. Joshua said

    Just curious but would calling Lincecum a right-handed Scott Kazmir be a little optimistic? Seems they have similar builds and stuff.

  11. If one were simply stating as fact, yes, that’s expecting too much.

    But, as you’ll see if you scan back over the statement, that’s a best-case scenario.

  12. germpod said

    Does anybody know anyting about shoulder tendonitis and it’s long term cause for concern. Does it keep popping up throught a career like Josh Beckets finger blisters, or is it usually a one time thing?

  13. It really depends, germpod.

    Some tendonitis, if pushed too far, can cause labrum tears and rotator cuff issues.

    Mostly, it’s nothing, but it needs rest. Jake Peavy is taking an extra 4 days off to rest his this week.

  14. 2quarters said

    What time does the draft start on Tuesday? (and could you please specify which time zone)

  15. Dylan said

    This probably shouldn’t go here, but where do the two pitchers from Rice grade out? I was watching the game today and their starter and closer were both nasty. In my usual haze, i forgot their names. The starter had 14k’s and no runs over 8, and the closer K’d the side while having the thrid highest K/BB rate in the country.

  16. Starter: Eddie Degerman
    Closer: Cole St. Clair

    Degerman is a fifth year senior after spending two baseball-less years at UC Irvine.

    He went 12-1 with a 1.67 ERA in 16 starts with 150 whiffs versus 45 walks.

    He’s certainly a first day draftee and at 6-4, 205, could develop into something solid, but his stuff projects him as a No. 4 or 5 starter.

    Those numbers are stacked up against compeitition that does not rate very high. You be the judge.

    East Carolina, Texas State, Lamar, UAB, Memphis, Southern Miss, Central Florida…

    St. Claire is not eligble until next June.

  17. Draft starts at 10 Seattle time.

  18. Dylan said

    More than what I was looking for Jason, thanks much. I was particularly interested in St. Clair. Have you ever seen him pitch? The guy looks like hes playing ILB in the National Championship game before every pitch. I loved it.

  19. Roger said

    Very even-handed comparison of two very good pitching prospects. After seeing your Toe-to Toe scouting comparison of the two pitchers and realizing the concerns about Lincecum’s durability, I can see why Hochevar was picked #1, while Tim slipped to #10.

    A few comments I would like to add about Lincecum:

    Perhaps the most important area in which I would differ on Lincecum is whether he truly is an above-average injury risk. I realize he’s not very big and that his unusual pitching motion likely scared teams off, since we often fear the unusual and the unknown. But I feel that Tim is LESS likely than the average pitcher to become injured. And I believe it is his motion that places him in that category.

    Go to calleaguers.com and look at the 41-second clip of Lincecum’s delivery. Focus on two parts.

    First, the video begins with Tim throwning long toss, which indeed is the first stage of his warmup for starts. Notice how easily he throws. He’s fluid. He’s loosey-goosey. He doesn’t look to me like a guy who is likely to be injury-prone. Watching him live, the ball just seems to EXPLODE out of his hand, even when he throws easily.

    Second, look at the shots of him throwing that are taken from the third-base side. Focus on his body, not his arm. Look at the tremendous leg drive off the rubber he gets. That leg drive has been compared to Nolan Ryan’s. Look at the tremendous length of his stride, compared to his body size. It has been said that his stride is even longer than Randy Johnson’s — and Randy is nearly a full foot taller than Lincecum. Now just look at his legs and torso. As they drive through his delivery, don’t you get the illusion that the arm is almost merely along for the ride?

    Apparently Tim has never had any arm problems. The day after he threw 146 pitches in his two-hit, 18-strikeout shutout of UCLA, he threw long toss foul pole to foul pole. Lincecum follows a program of daily throwing that may be similar to the one recommended by Leo Mazzone.

    Yes, Lincecum threw a documented 165 pitches in a college game in 2005. But he went to the Cape Cod League and actually IMPROVED his strikeout ratio, which was pretty phenomenal to begin with. Yes, he threw 125 1/3 innings as a collegian in 2006. Yes five times he relieved between starts. Yes, he threw 146 pitches against UCLA. But I’m not sure that he was overused, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t abused. The relief appearances came in situations where Tim would otherwise have had a long period between starts. One time he had only three days between starts, but every other start he had at least the normal four days between.

    Tim wound up pitching 164 innings between the University of Washington and short stops at Salem-Keizer and San Jose in the Giants chain. By my estimate, and I now have documentation of his actual number of pitches in over a third of the innings he threw, Lincecum threw somewhere between 2600 and 2700 pitches over seven months (from his first 2006 collegiate start on February 10th through his opening the California League Northern Championship Series on September 9th.

    By contrast, the Giants own Matt Cain — who is three and a half months younger than Lincecum — threw 3306 pitches over 190 2/3 for the Giants.

    Aside from that one outing in which he threw 146 pitches, I just don’t see where Lincecum was overused. And while he may have been stretch a bit in that shutout over UCLA, that he was calmly throwing long toss foul pole to foul pole the next day would indicate that he wasn’t overtaxed.

    To me, Lincecum appears to have a rubber arm which stems from his heavy legs and torso usage in his motion (Tim says he uses his whole body, from his toes to his ears.) and from an excellent flexibility developed by daily throwing and flexibility exercises, which he has even done in the bullpen before a start.

    I don’t see Lincecum as a significant health risk.

    What could be risky is his lack of control. I saw Tim, after being handed a 2-0 lead over Stockton on September 1st, walk the next two batters he faced and go to 3-1 on the third hitter of the inning. However, he regained his feel, bouncing back to strike out the hitter, and got out of the inning unscathed.

    Tim walked an unacceptable 5.7 batters per nine innings during his three years of college ball. But he reduced that to a highly-acceptable 3.0 per nine in his 38 2/3 innings of professional ball, walking just one batter over seven innings in his one playoff star, reaching three-ball counts only three times.

    Hochevar’s 3.3 collegiate walk rate and his 2.9 strikeout-to-walk rate were certainly much better than Lincecum’s 5.5 and 2.3. But Lincecum’s outstanding 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings easily surpassed Luke’s 9.6. And Lincecum was even more dominant as a professional, striking out 15.8 batters per nine, giving him a healthy 5.2 K/BB rate. One observer felt that when he watched Lincecum pitch to California League hitters, it was like watching Danny Almonte pitch against Little Leaguers. I don’t know how Pac-10 baseball compares to the various levels of the minor leagues, but Tim was as dominant against California Leaguers as he had been against college hitters when he led the NCAA with 199 strikeouts. And he showed much-improved control while doing so.

    Scouting report-wise, if Hochevar’s and Lincecum’s fastballs were both rated 65/70, Lincecum’s curve should have been rated even higher (instead of “just” 60/70). I haven’t seen anyone, myself included, who doesn’t think that Lincecum’s best pitch is his waterfall curve.

    Although I haven’t seen much if any of Lincecum’s slider and change, the 45/55 and 45/50 ratings of those two pitches may have been generous — at least with regard to the 45’s. But the 50/55 mechanics evaluation seems very, very low to me. Maybe I’m off base here, but to me it appears that it is Lincecum’s mechanics that enable him to have been clocked as high as 101 and to comfortably long toss foul pole to foul pole the day after throwing 146 pitches, the 146th of which was clocked at 95 mph.

    Again, very even-handed evaluation of two impressive pithers, both of whom hopefully have great careers ahead of them.

  20. simon PITHERS said

    what is a Pithers in that context??? just curious coz I AM one… 🙂
    ciao, simon.

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