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SHAPIRO, THE Indians' G.M., recently pulled up the original notes from when Cleveland scouts and executives were trying to decide what to make of Lincecum before the 2005 draft. "No. 2 starter.... Wonder if he's going to hold up as a starter.... Freaky.... Maybe a Frankie Rodriguez[--type] bullpen guy.... Potential closer/setup man.... Potential front of the rotation....'' Shapiro said, "We're split. Probably more reliever than starter. There was some concern that he would have to get to the big leagues quickly because you weren't sure he could make it through the usual four hundred to five hundred innings as a starter in the minors. His arm speed is ridiculous—like it's going to fly off one day."
Chris Lincecum never needed a primer on biomechanics to know that the scouts who doubted his son were wrong. As ASMI—with its proprietary measurements and motion-capture technology—pushes pitching further toward quantitative analysis, an aviation parts worker with a backyard mound, a camcorder and an intuitive understanding of how his son's body moves through space traffics in simpler explanations. "I believe," Chris says, "in something called dangle."
Dangle is a term you surely will not find among ASMI's 42 measurements. Dangle refers to the looseness of a pitcher's arm action, the well-lubricated unhinging of the limbs and body, which helps explain why Chris regards Satchel Paige and Sandy Koufax, two hallowed flow pitchers, as the spiritual forefathers to Tim's mechanics. "He'll throw forever," Chris once posted on a blog, referring to his son, "and maintain his velocities and the best breaking ball since Sandy Koufax and the best fastball since Gibson and Feller."
Says Chris now, "A friend told me someday everybody will be throwing like Tim. I hope they do."
"Can't happen," Righetti says, "because few pitchers are as athletic as Tim."
The father's job is done. Version 2.0 is a finished product. Tim is a treasure, a reliable, workhorse major league starter, but also a testament to that unmeasurable art and mystery that always remain within the discipline of pitching. "My dad would notice itty-bitty things with my mechanics and make it second nature for me," Tim says. "Now I'm making adjustments quicker. It's nice to have him there, but I don't need him there to tell me what's going on. I can make those adjustments pitch to pitch now as opposed to game to game."
Maybe the phone doesn't ring as often, and maybe Chris no longer is there behind the backstop with his camcorder and his hand signals. But whenever Tim stands on a big league mound with a baseball in his hand, a 172-pound confounder of hitters and convention, the father is there.
"In my head I can hear his voice," Tim says. "Sometimes I'll be thinking, What would he be saying right now? What am I doing? Because we've been doing it for so long. I'm still young, but I've been doing my mechanics for over three quarters of my life. It should be coming easier to me on the mound. In the back of my mind I'm hearing things that he would say."
Sit down on your legs.... Relax your shoulders.... Left side on target.... Pick up the frickin' dollar....
And then he is ready. The Freak begins to coil and release again. And when the motion is just about perfect, when it approaches that unquantifiable state of dangle, it is not just his right arm that comes along for the ride. The rest of us come too, filled with wonder and awe.