Chase for the National League Cy Young Award

Today’s non-bias article comes from Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle. He basically sounds like Lincecum will win the Cy Young. Anyway, you can read the article below:

Not even 2 1/2 years ago, the Giants drafted a short, baby-faced pitcher from the University of Washington. Eighteen months ago, he unveiled his high leg kick and funky delivery in his major-league debut. Six weeks ago, he struck out 13 batters in a season-ending victory over the Dodgers.

Two days from now, Tim Lincecum could become only the second pitcher in franchise history to win the Cy Young Award.

Baseball’s major awards season kicks off this week, a string of recognition for players who shined during the six-month grind of a major-league season. Normally, teams with 90 losses, such as the Giants, need not concern themselves with hardware handed out by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

But Lincecum is no normal pitcher and this year’s National League Cy Young race is no normal tussle. Not when the smallest, youngest guy in contention routinely blows away opposing hitters, leading the majors in strikeouts. Not when his chief competitors include the NL leader in wins (Arizona’s Brandon Webb), a midseason acquisition who carried his team to the playoffs (Milwaukee’s CC Sabathia) and the $137 million man (Johan Santana of the New York Mets).

Webb won 22 games, four more than Lincecum did, but Lincecum owned a sizable edge in strikeouts (265 to 183) and earned-run average (2.62 to 3.30). Sabathia is the wild card, given his otherworldly numbers (11-2, 1.65 ERA, seven complete games) in a half-season with the Brewers.

“I’m not really thinking about it too much,” Lincecum said Saturday. “I have no control over it, so I’m not going to beat myself up about who might pick me or anybody else. It’s such a close race, though you see those guys’ names out there and you think they’re going to win.”

Lincecum’s father, Chris – who taught Tim his pitching mechanics in the backyard – acknowledged the Cy Young Award would carry special significance even for his low-key son.

“Oh yeah, he cares – he really does,” Chris Lincecum said from his home outside Seattle. “I think he feels he did what it took to get it. … We’re all excited and hoping he wins. I think he’s got the best shot of anyone.”

It’s easy to forget Lincecum, 24, is not far removed from his days in the Pacific Northwest, where he set a Pac-10 record with 491 strikeouts in three seasons at UW. That came after Huskies coach Ken Knutson, upon first seeing Lincecum in high school, thought he looked like he was 9.

Knutson soon came to realize the power lurking within Lincecum’s compact and surprisingly strong body. So when the Seattle Mariners passed on the local kid in the 2006 amateur draft – they took Brandon Morrow, a strapping pitcher from Cal, with the No. 5 overall pick – Knutson was disappointed. (The Giants snagged Lincecum at No. 10.)

“I was disappointed because selfishly I wanted to see Tim here,” Knutson said. “I understand why he was passed on – there’s a stereotype about size and everybody says he has an unorthodox delivery. Morrow was outstanding (in college), but Tim was one of the great pitchers ever to come out of our league.”

Lincecum stitched together one of the great seasons in Giants history in 2008, and he’ll soon know if it was enough for him to join Mike McCormick (1967) as the franchise’s only Cy Young winners. Or will he join Gaylord Perry (1970), Bill Swift (’93) and Jason Schmidt (2003) as Giants runners-up in the voting?

If it’s any omen, Lincecum beat out Webb and Sabathia last month for the Players Choice and Sporting News NL pitcher-of-the-year awards, both of which were decided by player voting. Those awards were meaningful, given the validation of his peers, but Lincecum recognizes the historical cachet of Tuesday’s prize.

“It’s definitely a magical name,” he said. “I heard of Cy Young growing up, but I wasn’t putting two and two together to figure out it was an award. He was just a legendary pitcher you hear about. It’d be great to win – a lot of great pitchers have gone their whole career without winning one.”

McCormick, who thinks Lincecum deserves the award, understands better than most the long-lasting meaning of winning the Cy Young. He twice made the All-Star team (1960 and ’61) and once led the National League in ERA (2.70 in ’60), but those details seldom surface when people recall his career.

“There’s never any comment about my other years in the game,” McCormick, 70, said Friday from his home in North Carolina. “I’m just known as a Cy Young winner – and that’s not a bad moniker to have.”

The four top contenders

Name W-L CG SH IP BB SO ERA WHIP
Tim Lincecum, Giants 18-5 2 1 227.0 84 265 2.62 1.17
Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks 22-7 3 1 226.2 65 183 3.30 1.20
Johan Santana, Mets 16-7 3 2 234.1 63 206 2.53 1.15
CC Sabathia, Brewers 11-2 7 3 130.2 25 128 1.65 1.00

Check out a database of pitching statistics from 2008 and from Cy Young history. Go to sfgate.com/webdb/cyyoung

Lincecum-Webb, beyond W-L, ERA

Strikeout-to-walk ratio:

Lincecum 3.15-to-1

Webb 2.82-to-1

No-decisions after leaving with a lead:

Lincecum 5

Webb 1

Team’s record in appearances:

Lincecum 22-12

Webb 24-10

Percentage of team’s wins in which he’s pitched:

Lincecum 30.5

Webb 29.3

Note: Steve Carlton’s percentage was 49.2 for the Phillies in 1972.

Run support per 27 outs:

Lincecum 4.57

Webb 4.64

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