SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum often has said after a routinely excellent performance that it's not what you've done that counts; it's what you're doing now.
That mindset preserves Lincecum's diligence, which in turn has prompted him to sustain the excellence that led the Giants right-hander to be named National League pitcher of the year by Sporting News on Wednesday for the second consecutive season.
Lincecum posted a 15-7 record this year, a slight dip from his 18-5 finish in 2008, when he captured the NL Cy Young Award. But the panel of 31 Major League general managers and assistant GMs who cast ballots for the SN honor were among the observers who looked beyond the 25-year-old's wins and losses.
"In a lot of ways, he was actually better," Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti said.
Lincecum trimmed his ERA from 2.62 to 2.48. Opponents hit .206 off him this season, compared to .221 in '08. After walking 84 in 227 innings a year ago, he improved to 68 walks in 225 1/3 frames this season.
The NL's starter in this year's All-Star Game, Lincecum validated that status by leading the league in strikeouts (261) and quality starts (26) while ranking second in ERA and opponents' batting average and third in innings. He also tied teammate Matt Cain for the league lead with four complete games and joined four other pitchers atop the NL list with two shutouts.
Said Righetti: "I think the first thing that comes to mind is, how do you top last year? Part of being a professional is to repeat. For him to be able to do that this early in his career is a tremendous feat, really."
Weakened by a bout with bronchitis during Spring Training, Lincecum yielded seven runs and 14 hits in 8 1/3 innings spanning his first two starts of the season. Concerns evaporated in his next two outings, both against the D-backs. He worked eight innings in each, surrendering one run and 10 hits while walking one and striking out 25.
Other highlights of Lincecum's season included a two-hit shutout at St. Louis on June 29 and a four-hit 4-2 triumph over Pittsburgh on July 27 in which he struck out a career-high 15.
The SN award might bode well for Lincecum's chances in the Cy Young race, though the honors obviously are exclusive of each other. The Cardinals' twin aces, Chris Carpenter (17-4, 2.24 ERA) and Adam Wainwright (19-8, 2.63), are considered the NL's strongest Cy Young contenders besides Lincecum.
Lincecum couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.