It's going maybe as good as it can be going for me right now, but I still look at each performance and say, "Hey, it can be even better. There are things I can improve on." You can never be too good at this game.

My biggest goal this year is to improve my pitch efficiency. I want to throw more strikes and fewer overall pitches. I also want to get better at finishing hitters. When I get ahead of guys, I need to step on their throats. I need to put them away. Still, sometimes, I'll get ahead 0-2 or 1-2 and I'll find myself trying to be too perfect with pitches or maybe overthrowing something. For example, I'll try and sell a changeup too much with my body, or I'll try and make a breaking ball break more. Then, all of a sudden, I'm at a 3-2 count, and they might foul off some balls.

I strike out a lot of guys, which is nice when you can do it in four pitches at the most. When you're still trying to strike guys out at seven or eight pitches, though, you're bumping up your pitch count when maybe you didn't have to. It would have been better to get him out earlier with a certain pitch. Striking out guys at this level is tough. Guys up here are the best in the world, and they're all tough outs.

That's where my homework comes in. I've begun studying hitters' swings more and more. The more video I watch, the more I see hitters' weaknesses and tendencies. I can follow how a guy can gauge my pitch. I have a better feeling for what a hitter might do with a certain pitch. I can extend my knowledge of that. There's a lot of knowledge to be gained about a hitter's swing or the approach he takes. I'm just scratching the surface at this point in my career.

Hitters watch pitchers and their tendencies, too, of course. It's a constant chess game, which makes the competition even more fun.

Tim Lincecum, a 24-year-old right-hander in just his second big league season, is 12-3 with an MLB-high 175 strikeouts in 157 2/3 innings. His 2.68 ERA ranks second in the N.L. and fourth overall.