In an upset of epic proportions, the BBWAA got it right. Your 2008 National League Cy Young Award winner: Tim Lincecum! That’s right, the writers who are so often seduced by win totals and other completely useless statistics (like saves, for instance) refused to be taken in by Brandon Webb’s league-leading 22 victories and collectively realized that Lincecum was, simply, the best damned pitcher in the NL. In a rough season for Giants fans, this provides us with a wonderful silver lining.
It wasn’t close, either. I expected this race to be neck-and-neck, but Lincecum picked up 23 of the 32 first place votes and rolled to an easy win. Webb, who I seriously thought would get a lot of consideration, tallied up a mere four first place votes. I gotta say, I’m shocked. We’re only three years removed from the Bartolo Colon-over-Johan Santana disgrace in 2005, but it seems most of these voters are seeing the light in quality pitcher evaluation. Even Santana, who was also way more deserving than Webb, garnered as many first place votes despite winning just 16 games and playing for a Mets team stuck with a choke artist stigma.
This gives the Giants only their second Cy Young Award winner ever, and their first since Mike McCormick won in 1967. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Juan Marichal never won the award because he had to go up against historic seasons from Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson seemingly every year. The only other Giant pitchers who came close since ’67 were Ron Bryant in 1973, Mike Krukow in 1986, Bill Swift and John Burkett in 1993, and Shawn Estes in 1997. Jason Schmidt deserved the award in 2003, but the voters drooled over Eric Gagne’s perfect save season and handed him the award.
Really, since Marichal, the Giants just have not had a dominant pitcher for any long stretch. Schmidt came the closest after his dominant 2003 campaign, but he tweaked his groin in late 2004, hurt his arm trying to compensate for the mechanical limitations that followed, and was never the same, so he really only had two dominant years. Estes looked like an ace in the making in 1997, but his ten cent head and awful control proved to be the end of him, although he did go on to perfect the timeless art of breaking your ankle on an awkward slide in a crucial playoff game.
Hopefully this is just the first of many Cys for the Giants’ new ace. Lincecum’s got the fastball, the improving arsenal of offspeed stuff, the grueling workout regimen, and the work ethic to continue as the most dominant pitcher in the league. If the Giants can manage his workload a little more carefully (and not trot him out to throw 138 pitches in a 7-0 game that means nothing in the final standings), he’s a good bet to even improve upon this year. Remember, he’s just 24!