After nabbing pitching’s top honor last year, San Francisco’s favorite “Freak” proved he had more than enough for an encore performance this season.
With a 15-7 record, 2.48 ERA and 261 strikeouts, Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum captured his second straight National League Cy Young Award, becoming the first pitcher in major league history to garner the honor in his first two full seasons in the bigs. His 15 wins were the fewest in history by a starting pitcher to win the award in a non-strike-shortened season.
Lincecum, nicknamed “The Freak” because his diminutive stature belies a right arm capable of firing 98 mph fastballs, responded to his latest award in typically humble fashion, thanking everyone from the Giants organization, the fans, his father and his primary catcher, Bengie Molina.
“I really don’t know what to say,” Lincecum said Thursday at AT&T Park after edging out two St. Louis Cardinals — Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright — in a close vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “I’m just glad to be in this position again.”
Lincecum received 100 points in balloting, while Carpenter — left off two writers’ ballots — had 94 and Wainwright 90 in one of the closest votes in history. Wainwright received the most first-place votes with 12; Lincecum had 11.
Even though he was the reigning Cy Young winner and just completed one of the most dominant seasons in Giants history, Lincecum conceded he was more than a little excited upon hearing he had been named the NL’s top pitcher for the second straight time.
“I was jumping up and down on my roof,” said Lincecum, who assured all concerned Giants fans that the surface was flat. “I actually almost jumped out my window.”
At 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, Lincecum hardly fits the image of intimidating power pitchers like 2009 teammate Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens, but the third-year pro has proven that size doesn’t matter.
“I always looked up to smaller pitchers, and any time someone can latch onto me for inspiration is just great,” Lincecum said.
The 25-year-old once again proved to be the horse of the Giants’ pitching staff, which was one of the best in the majors despite missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
On Thursday, Lincecum reiterated his desire to turn the Giants into a winner.
“The true objective is the World Series ring,” he said.
Lincecum’s banner season included league-best numbers in strikeouts, complete games and strikeouts per nine innings. He joined Christy Mathewson as the only Giants in history to lead the NL in strikeouts for two consecutive seasons.
Giants ace ‘regrets’ marijuana mistake
Tim Lincecum is learning from his first off-field legal incident. The newly crowned NL Cy Young Award winner was cited last month for marijuana possession in Washington.
“I made a mistake that I completely regret,” Lincecum said Thursday. “I want to apologize to the Giants organization, and especially the fans. I know as an athlete I have plenty of responsibilities both on and off the field, and I won’t let this happen again.”
Lincecum was stopped for speeding in southern Washington on Oct. 30 and subsequently cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. The right-hander already has a plea deal in place, but this week a district judge ordered Lincecum to appear in court Dec. 22 to face the charges.
The Giants pitcher has already agreed to pay a $372 fine for the infraction.
But Thursday, Lincecum alluded to his recent legal troubles, saying they have helped him grow as a person.
“Growing up, you’re going to have to experience plenty of things, whether they’re good or bad,” he said. “Unfortunately, you go through bumps like I’m going through right now. But in the end it’s all about looking for the right road to go down.”
— Will Reisman
Raising his game
$650,000 Tim Lincecum’s salary for the 2009 season
$8M-$10M Lincecum’s expected salary for 2010 season if he goes through arbitration
4 NL pitchers who have won Cy Youngs in back-to-back seasons
.206 Opponents’ batting average against Lincecum in 2009
526 Lincecum’s strikeouts in the past two seasons, the most in baseball