The Freak abides

Believe it or don’t, I was completely surprised by today’s announcement that the Giants’ Tim “The Freak” Lincecum won his second consecutive Cy Young Award as the National League’s best pitcher in 2009.

If I’d been voting, I’d have voted — as did the San Francisco Chronicle‘s respected baseball beat writer, Henry Schulman — for Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Don’t misunderstand — I loves me some Timmy, in a platonic, athletic-appreciation sort of way. I do believe that he’s currently the premier pitcher in the NL, if not in all of baseball.

Carpenter, however, had the better season. Which is, in my opinion, what the Cy Young should recognize.

There’s no question that Lincecum far outstrips Carpenter in terms of raw power. Timmy’s 261 strikeouts to Carpenter’s 144 tell that story. Carpenter, however, isn’t a strikeout pitcher. He’s a do-anything-to-get-batters-out pitcher. It’s not as sexy, but in baseball terms, it’s just as effective.

With almost identical offensive support and WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) scores, Carpenter won two more games than Lincecum (17 vs. 15), lost three fewer (4 vs. 7), and surrendered almost a quarter-run less per nine innings (2.24 vs. 2.48). More significantly, Carpenter did the majority of his damage in the second half of the season, as the Cardinals were charging toward a division title. As Schulman writes:

The 34-year-old right-hander went 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 15 starts for a team that ran away with the National League Central. To me, that defines dominance.

To me too, Henry.

By comparison, Timmy went 5-5, 2.67 down the stretch. Not awful, but not exactly awe-inspiring, either.

I was fortunate to see Lincecum pitch in person twice this season — on June 12 against the Oakland A’s, and again on August 10 against the Cincinnati Reds. In the earlier game, Tim was dominant to the point of near-unhittability, pitching his second career shutout. In the late-season outing, he pitched decently, but looked tired and had measurably less oomph on his normally overpowering fastball.

Carpenter seemed to get stronger as the season wore on — all the more remarkable given that he pulled a shoulder muscle and sat out five weeks early.

So, if I’d had a vote, I’d have had to throw it Carpenter’s way.

All of the above being true, as a Giants fan  — and as a Lincecum fan (and I rarely find myself rooting for individual athletes in team sports) — I’m thrilled that the majority of the Cy Young balloteers didn’t see it my way. Lincecum is a better pitcher than Carpenter overall, and if that’s how you roll the Cy, rolling it in Timmy’s direction is the right call. Without doubt, if I had to win one game for all the marbles, Lincecum is the guy I want on the hill chucking the pill.

And let’s be real. If he avoids injury, Lincecum will likely plant a few more Cy Youngs in his trophy case before his career is over. Don’t forget, 2009 was only his second full season in the major leagues. He’s already won the Cy in both of them.

That’s a record that no pitcher in baseball history can touch.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Hero of the Day, I Love the Giants, My Home Town, Ripped From the Headlines

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