NEW YORK - Talk about a freak - Tim Lincecum needed just 15 wins to bag another NL Cy Young Award.
Yup, throw out those old baseball cards. Wins and losses don’t mean much anymore when it comes time for voters to pick baseball’s best pitchers. It’s all about WHIP, FIP, BABIP and other lines of alphabet soup.
“It’s turned into a game of complete numbers and statistics and what people do with that,” Lincecum said.
Lincecum won the 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.
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.
Lincecum, nicknamed “The Freak” for his giant stride, led the NL with 261 strikeouts and tied for the league lead with four complete games and two shutouts.
The wiry right-hander, who grew up in Bellevue and starred as a Washington Husky, attracts plenty of attention on the mound with his shoulder-length brown hair and twisting delivery. But it was his 15 victories – the fewest for a Cy Young starter over a non-shortened season – that were really noticeable for the award winner.
The 2009 honors for Lincecum and Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke reflect a recent shift in how pitchers are evaluated. The focus has changed to more developed statistics, including some that even take into account team defense.
Greinke equaled the previous low of 16 wins for a non-shortened season when he won the AL award on Tuesday. Afterward, he talked all about FIP, a mathematician’s dream that stands for Fielding Independent Pitching.
Lincecum has his own favorite indicator.
“To say which one I look to the most, I would just say WHIP,” he said, referring to walks plus hits allowed per inning, “just because you just limit the amount of baserunners that can hurt you.”
Lincecum is facing misdemeanor marijuana charges stemming from a traffic stop outside Vancouver, Wash., on Oct. 30. No questions were allowed about the incident in his conference call, but he acknowledged making a mistake and apologized in a prepared statement.
“I know that as a professional athlete I have a responsibility to conduct myself appropriately both on and off the field,” he said. “I certainly have learned a valuable lesson through all of this and I promise to do better in the future.
“I hope and expect that the matter will be resolved soon. In the meantime I am focused on preparing for the 2010 season.”
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 points.
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 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.