Tim Lincecum was a big winner on a woeful team,
which fit him perfectly.
Firing 97 mph fastballs from his miniature frame, the National
League Cy Young Award recipient is an anomaly in almost every way.
Lincecum joined Mike McCormick (1967) as the only San Francisco
Giants to win the Cy Young, taking home pitching's highest honor by
a comfortable margin Tuesday following his second major league
"I was definitely surprised. I thought it was going to be a lot
closer," Lincecum said.
The slender kid with the whirling windup received 23 of 32
first-place votes and 137 points in balloting by the Baseball
Writers' Association of America. Brandon Webb of the Arizona
Diamondbacks got four first-place votes and finished second with 73
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, tiny by today's standards
for a big league pitcher, Lincecum defied detractors - and the laws
of physics - by overpowering one hulking slugger after another.
"I don't remember anybody in my time who had that style of
pitching, who put that kind of torque on his body," McCormick said
on a Giants conference call. "I think that article in Sports
Illustrated that called him a freak probably sums it up."
Lincecum was 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA and a major league-best 265
strikeouts, remarkable numbers for a fourth-place club that
In fact, Steve Carlton was the lone Cy Young winner to pitch for
a team that was worse. The Hall of Famer was an incredible 27-10
with a 1.97 ERA for the 1972 Philadelphia Phillies, who went 59-97.
Lincecum led the NL in winning percentage (.783), ranked second
in ERA and was third with 227 innings. The 24-year-old right-hander
made his first All-Star squad, but an illness prevented him from
appearing in the July 15 game at Yankee Stadium.
"People have been doubting me my whole life," he said. "I
don't let them bring me down."
New York Mets ace Johan Santana, who led the league in ERA
(2.53) and innings (234 1-3), also garnered four first-place votes
and came in third.
The other first-place vote went to Milwaukee lefty CC Sabathia,
last year's AL winner who was traded by Cleveland into the National
League on July 7. He went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and seven complete
games in 17 starts for the Brewers, pitching them to their first
playoff berth since 1982.
"I definitely thought he was in fair contention," Lincecum
Sabathia came in fifth. Brad Lidge, the star closer who had a
perfect season for the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies,
Webb, the NL winner in 2006, was runner-up for the second
consecutive season after going 22-7 with a 3.30 ERA in 226 2-3
"In Obama-like fashion, it wasn't close," Giants general
manager Brian Sabean said.
The baby-faced Lincecum, nicknamed "Franchise," is certainly
an aberration. He eats junk food before starts and doesn't ice his
arm. When he was called up from the minors in May 2007, ballpark
security workers in San Francisco thought he was a bat boy.
Late this season, some teammates even asked for his autograph -
including veteran catcher Bengie Molina.
The Giants held a news conference for Lincecum after he won
Tuesday and it drew more media than any club event since Barry
Bonds' home run chase in 2007.
"It sent a chill through me a little bit. I got a little choked
up," pitching coach Dave Righetti said about hearing the news. "I
just spent a week in New York and they didn't even know his name,
Drafted 10th overall out of Washington in 2006, Lincecum said
his major league experience last year helped him succeed this
season. He also credited an improved changeup, which he threw more
often after finding a comfortable grip.
"I've always taken pride in trying to strike people out," he
said. "That's the one (statistic) that kind of gets me fired up."
Lincecum said he was on his couch watching NFL highlights with
his roommate when he got the Cy Young call. One of the first people
he phoned was San Francisco closer Brian Wilson.
"Me and Tim talked about this a lot. I always pumped him up and
said, 'Dude, you know you're going to win the Cy Young?"' Wilson
said in a telephone interview. "This was before the season. He had
the best fastball, best changeup and best curveball. He pretty much
dominated every start. We would set goals and I would say, `I bet
you won't strike out 10 and not walk anybody,' and he'd strike out
12. Each game he pitched he kept adding up the tally. Soon, America
was going to know he was the best."
McCormick won in the first year the BBWAA honored a pitcher in
each league. From 1956-66, only one Cy Young Award was presented
for both leagues.
This year's American League winner will be announced Thursday,
with Cleveland lefty Cliff Lee a heavy favorite. AL and NL Managers
of the Year are Wednesday.
Santana, a two-time AL Cy Young winner with Minnesota, received
a $50,000 bonus for finishing third. Sabathia got $75,000 for
coming in fifth. Webb's second-place finish increased the buyout of
his $8.5 million 2010 club option by $500,000 to $2 million.