Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lincecum Wins 2nd Straight NL Cy Young

San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum won his second consecutive NL Cy Young Award beating out Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals in a very close vote.
Wainwright, who led the NL with 19 wins, actually received more first place ballots than Lincecum (Wainwright 12, Lincecum 11). But Wainwright finished third overall in the balloting with 90 votes four behind Carpenter while Lincecum received 100 votes.

Like AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, Lincecum's 15 wins were fewer than both Wainwright and Carpenter. But Lincecum led the NL in strikeouts with 261 and was second in the NL with a 2.48 ERA. Carpenter led in the NL in ERA with a 2.24 ERA. It should also be noted that Lincecum had three no decisions in which he allowed one or fewer runs. If the Giants had given him any offensive support he could have finished with 18 wins, his total from 2008.

One can make a legitimate case for any of those three pitchers. It would have been nice to see Carpenter get it because he only pitched 21 and one thirds innings over the past two seasons. Carpenter underwent elbow surgery in 2007. He also missed more than a month this season with a strained ribcage. Given Carpenter's history with injuries there is no guarantee he will repeat this year's sterling performance in 2010.

As for Wainwright sometimes you only have one great year and this year it wasn't enough. I remember when John Tudor, another Cardinal, won 21 games with an ERA of 1.93. Most years that's good enough to win the Cy Young. The only problem was that Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets won 24 games, had an ERA of 1.53 and had 268 strikeouts to boot. Tudor never won more than 13 games in a season after that and retired after 1990. Adam Wainwright could be the John Tudor of 2009.

Yet Lincecum is my favorite pitcher to watch in MLB. Although Lincecum is only 5,11 and 160 pounds he pitches like a big man going deep into games. His wild long hair suits his wild delivery. But is a wildness that is under control when he toes the pitching rubber.

What is more amazing about his two NL Cy Young is that he did them in his second and third seasons in the big leagues. It's very rare that a pitcher is that good that quick. I would compare him with the likes of Dwight Gooden in that regard. I would only hope that he doesn't finish his career like Doc Gooden did.

It is worth noting that Lincecum was arrested for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia at a traffic stop in Oregon last month. The marijuana possession charge was dropped but he is due to appear in court next month to the drug paraphernalia charge which is a misdemeanor. The arrest occurred after the BBWAA conducted the NL Cy Young vote. Given how close the vote was I wonder if his arrest would have had an impact on the balloting.

Of course Gooden's drug of choice was cocaine which is far more harmful in its effects than marijuana as Gooden himself can attest. Gooden just turned 45 a few days ago but appears to have turned the corner - for now. If Lincecum has no further skirmishes with the law he will be remembered for what he did on the field rather than what he did off of it.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Lincecum winning NL Cy Young honors was one of my few pre-season predictions which I got right.

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