Nov. 19, 2009
NEW YORK (AP) -- Former Washington Husky and San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum won the NL Cy Young Award on Thursday for the second straight year, emerging from one of the tightest votes in the history of the honor to become the first repeat winner since Randy Johnson.
The wiry right-hander, nicknamed "The Freak" for his giant stride, needed only 15 victories to earn the award - the fewest for a Cy Young starter over a non-shortened season.
Lincecum led the NL with 261 strikeouts and tied for the league lead with four complete games and two shutouts.
A product of Liberty High in Renton, Lincecum spent the 2004 through 2006 seasons with the Huskies and won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top amateur baseball player in 2006.
He is just just the fourth National Leaguer to win the Cy Young in consecutive seasons. Sandy Koufax won it in 1965 and 1966 and both Randy Johnson (1999-2002) and Greg Maddux (1992-95) won four straight. In the AL, Pedro Martinez, Jim Palmer, Denny McLain and Rogers Clemens have each won two straight, with Clemens having won two in a row on two separate occasions.
The Cy Young Award is the biggest single-season honor ever given to a former Husky in one of the big three professional sports.
Only 10 points separated the top three vote-getters. Chris Carpenter was second and St. Louis teammate Adam Wainwright finished third despite getting the most first-place votes.
The 2009 honors for Lincecum and Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke reflect a recent shift in how voters pick baseball's best pitchers. Wins, losses and ERA used to determine the Cy Young Award winner - now it's detailed statistics such as WHIP, FIP and BABIP.
Greinke equaled the previous low of 16 wins for a non-shortened season when he won the AL award on Tuesday.
"It's turned into a game of complete numbers and statistics and what people do with that," Lincecum said. "So I mean just to put more options in the voters' heads about what's supposed to be more important, which takes priority over another, that's all based on opinion."
Lincecum received 11 first-place votes, 12 seconds and nine thirds for 100 points in balloting released by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Carpenter had nine firsts, 14 seconds and seven thirds to take second with 94.
Wainwright, who led the NL with 19 wins and 233 innings, had 12 first-place votes, five seconds and 15 thirds for 90 points. Trevor Hoffman, who finished behind Tom Glavine in 1998, is the only other player to get the most firsts and not win the award.
"The guys I was going up against, Wainwright and Carpenter, had tremendous seasons," the 25-year-old Lincecum said. "It was a lucky one for me. I'll take them as I come I guess."
Two voters, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus and Keith Law of ESPN.com, did not include Carpenter on their ballots. Carroll had Wainwright in the top spot, Lincecum second and Arizona's Dan Haren third. Law voted for Lincecum, Atlanta's Javier Vazquez and Wainwright in third. Those were the only votes in any position for Haren and Vazquez.
The six-point gap between Lincecum and Carpenter is tied for the third-closest in the NL since the ballot expanded to three pitchers in 1970. The 10-point margin from first to third is the second-closest for the NL ballot.
Lincecum, who had a $650,000 salary and is headed for a big raise now that he's eligible for arbitration, did not have any bonus provision for winning the award. Carpenter receives $100,000 for finishing second, Wainwright $100,000 for winding up third and Vazquez $70,000 for being voted fourth.
Lincecum teamed with Matt Cain to give the Giants a strong 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation, helping them stay in contention all year in one of baseball's biggest surprises. He went 15-7 with a 2.48 ERA in 32 starts and 225 1-3 innings.
"I'm excited," Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval told The Associated Press. "I'm very happy for him. He did a great job for the team and he had great numbers."
San Francisco selected the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Lincecum with the 10th overall selection in the 2006 draft out of Washington, and he instantly became the organization's top pitching prospect since Hall of Famer Juan Marichal signed with the New York Giants as an amateur free agent in 1957. He made his major league debut in 2007 and is 40-17 with a 2.90 ERA in three seasons.