Approximately 50% of the staff here at Joe & Joe Sports are HUGE Tim Lincecum fans. We watch all his starts, chart his pitches, take road trips to see him on the hill, and are probably going to name our kids Tim Lincecum Jr., regardless of sex or surname. So when the Giants right hander was announced as the 2008 NL Cy Young award winner, we were more than a little excited.
Of course, we can also set aside our personal affinities and be objective. We realize that several NL pitchers had Cy Young caliber seasons, and that the best pitcher doesn't always win. With that in mind, here are the top 5 reasons that Tim Lincecum won the Cy Young.
1) He was really, really good.
Probably goes without saying, but Lincecum had an incredible year. Back in September I made my case for Lincecum winning the Cy Young and I still feel he was the most deserving pitcher. He was first or second among NL starting pitchers in most of the "important" categories (wins, Ks, batting average against, ERA, quality starts). However a strong case can still be made for Brandon Webb (22 wins), Johan Santana (NL leader with 2.53 ERA, no losses from June 28 on) and Brad Lidge (41 for 41 in save opportunities), hence me discussing the other reasons that Lincecum took home the hardware.
2) The Diamondbacks and Mets didn't make the playoffs.
If either of these teams makes the playoffs, Lincecum probably doesn't win the Cy Young. For some reason, making the playoffs works like a stat multiplier. 22 wins suddenly becomes "22 wins for a playoff team", which is apparently a much more accomplished season. It's silly that it works this way, but it does and Lincecum benefited from none of top 3 starters making the playoffs.
3) Nobody really knows how to value a reliever's contribution.
We all know that Brad Lidge had a great season. He went 41-41 in save opportunities and an ERA under 2.0. The problem is that we really don't know how good this is. We know that more than 40 saves is really good, but we also know that saves is a ridiculous stat (i.e. Joe Borowski's 45 saves in 2007). We know that an ERA under 2.00 is also really good, but we don't know how to relate that to a starters ERA. So rather than try to figure out just how good Lidge was this year, it's just easier to disregard him from the conversation.
Outside of super hardcore baseball circles (of which, none of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America reside), nobody had heard of Tim Lincecum 24 months ago. Since nobody had heard of him, he didn't have the expectations of greatness that previous Cy Young winners Webb and Santana had hanging over them. After all, Santana won 19 game with a 2.77 ERA in 2006, so should we really be impressed by 16 wins and 2.53? (The answer is yes)
5) Small, but mighty.
Americans have been trained to root for the underdog. Whether it be 1985 Villanova, the Rocky movies or a kinda goofy looking Senator with a funny name, we love it when the expected champion gets knocked off by a hard-working scrapper. Since most of us aren't 6'3" 230 lb. fireballers, we naturally relate to a 5'7" 170 lb. pitcher who seems completely out of place amongst professional athletes. He makes us think that if we really dedicated ourselves, we could pitch in the majors, or dunk a basketball, or get that associates degree. When we see Lincecum take the hill, we picture ourselves out there, against all the odds, proving all our doubters wrong. And if we are going to vote for someone to win an award, you are damn right we are going to vote for ourselves, ummm, I mean Lincecum.
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