Friday June 26th, 2009

1) Tim Lincecum: the Freak, the Cy Young Award winner and... workhorse? Actually, yes, the little guy whose lack of size scared off some clubs at draft time is consistently pitching deep into games for the Giants. Lincecum has thrown at least 103 pitches in each of his past 12 starts and has thrown more pitches in the NL than all pitchers except Chad Billingsley of the Dodgers and Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies. And he keeps getting better. Lincecum threw 108 pitches in beating the A's this week, and the hardest pitch he threw was his last, clocked at 97 mph. His strikeout, walk and home run rates are even better than they were last year when he won the Cy.

2) And speaking of young pitching, four of the top five strikeout leaders in baseball are 25 or 26 years old: Lincecum, 25; Justin Verlander, 26; Zack Greinke, 25; and Jon Lester, 25. (The outlier is the Braves' 32-year-old Javier Vazquez.) In fact, of the top 28 strikeout leaders in baseball, 21 are in their 20s and none are older than 32. The All-Star Game should have a very youthful look when it comes to starting pitchers.

After watching a generation of prolific veteran pitchers fade out (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, David Wells, etc.), the young guns have taken over. There is only one pitcher among the top 67 in strikeouts who is 35 or older: Randy Johnson, 45.

3) The greatest draft ever just keeps looking better. Colby Rasmus of the Cardinals and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, two more picks from the first round in 2005, have locked down center-field jobs in the NL Central for what looks like years to come, while competing for the Rookie of the Year Award for the time being. Also from that 2005 first round: Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Jay Bruce, Chris Volstad, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Garza.

All of them except Upton and Gordon were still on the board when the Mariners took USC catcher Jeff Clement at No. 3. Clement is hitting .277 with eight home runs at Triple-A Tacoma while getting most of his time at DH. He turns 26 in August. He has hit .237 in 219 big league at-bats.

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