NL Cy Young ‘big’ to Giant Lincecum
Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 5:52 pm
By: By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Tim Lincecum hung up the phone after learning the good news he’d been waiting more than a month to hear.
“My reaction was ‘Whoo hoo!’” the newly crowned NL Cy Young Award winner hollered for a news conference bigger than any the San Francisco Giants had seen since the days of home run king Barry Bonds.
“I literally yelled it a couple times after I got off the phone, so it was pretty nice.”
Back in spring training, Lincecum and Giants closer Brian Wilson joked about this day — how they both wanted to win a Cy Young Award.
Neither could have expected it now — not this soon.
Lincecum just finished his first full major league season, two years removed from college and all of 24 years old.
He was once mistaken for a bat boy by ballpark security when he was called up last year. Teammates tease him with the nickname “Franchise” — a moniker Lincecum said he doesn’t dare mention in public.
Lincecum, who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated this season, joins Mike McCormick (1967) as the only San Francisco pitcher to win the Cy Young — and he earned it in commanding fashion on Tuesday.
The diminutive right-hander known for his fierce competitive nature 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 points.
“It was more of like, ‘really?’” Lincecum said of winning. “I was hoping I’d be in there in the mix.”
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, Lincecum defied detractors — and the laws of physics — by overpowering baseball’s best hitters.
“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 conference call. “I think that article in Sports Illustrated that called him a freak probably sums it up.”
Lincecum went 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA and a majors-leading 265 strikeouts, remarkable numbers for a fourth-place club that finished 72-90.
Putting up those numbers on a struggling team certainly helped his cause.
“When a guy like that goes to the mound it gives you an extra bit of confidence because he was so good this year,” Giants outfielder Randy Winn said. “I didn’t think he would win because Brandon Webb had over 20 wins. But Tim’s numbers, the other numbers — the strikeouts and ERA — were better, so I guess they took that into account.”
Steve Carlton is the lone Cy Young winner to pitch for a worse club. The Hall of Famer was 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.
He made the NL All-Star roster, but an illness prevented him from appearing in the July 15 game at Yankee Stadium.
Tuesday’s honor helped take away some of the sting of not pitching in the All-Star game.
“Yeah, and then some,” Lincecum said.
He also beat out New York Mets ace Johan Santana, who led the league in ERA (2.53) and innings.
Santana 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 to the National League on July 7. He went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA with seven complete games in 17 starts to help the Brewers to their first playoff berth since 1982.
“I definitely thought he was in fair contention,” Lincecum said.
Sabathia came in fifth. Brad Lidge, the star closer who had a perfect season for the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, was fourth.
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 innings.
“In Obama-like fashion, it wasn’t close,” Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. “I wonder what we were worrying about out here on the West Coast.”
Lincecum is quirky by any account. He eats junk food before starts and doesn’t ice his arm. He socializes and signs autographs on days he pitches rather than keeping to himself. Late this season, some teammates even asked for his autograph — including veteran catcher Bengie Molina.
“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, hardly.”
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 peo suit quarterback Tyler Thigpen has not been defined. Edwards wouldn’t even say if Johnson would start against the Saints. But with Charles hobbled by a sore ankle and Smith gone for the year, it seems almost certain that Johnson, if he has stayed in shape, will be heavily relied upon.
“He’s going to be in the mix with our offense. That’s how we’re kind of running it right now, and that’s how we’re going to continue to run it,” Edwards said.