SAN FRANCISCO -- From now on, when Tim Lincecum steps onto the pitcher's mound, he'll stand alone in more ways than one.
Many pitchers have recorded more victories and strikeouts than Lincecum. Several have earned more Cy Young Awards. None, however, thrived to the extent that Lincecum has during a career that has been as brilliant as it is brief.
On Thursday, Lincecum became the only pitcher to capture the Cy Young Award in each of his first two full Major League seasons. The Giants right-hander was named the National League's repeat winner Thursday in balloting conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
"It's a tremendous honor for me," said Lincecum, 25. "To be up there and do what I've done means the world."
Several aspects of Lincecum's triumph combined novelty with history:
This was one of the closest Cy Young votes ever. In balloting that assigned five points for a first-place vote, three for a second-place vote and one for a third-place nod, Lincecum totaled 100 points and 11 first-place votes. He edged St. Louis right-handers Chris Carpenter (nine first-place votes, 94 points) and Adam Wainwright (12 first-place votes, 90 points).
"Both the guys I was going up against had tremendous seasons," Lincecum said, calling Wainwright a "workhorse" and praising Carpenter's speedy comeback from injuries.
The 10-point margin separating the top three finishers was the second-closest in NL voting. It's exceeded only by the 1987 results, in which Philadelphia reliever Steve Bedrosian edged Chicago's Rick Sutcliffe, 57-55, while Rick Reuschel, who pitched for both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Giants that season, finished third with 54 points.
Lincecum's six-point victory matched the third-closest election in the NL since the ballot expanded from one to three pitchers in 1970. Chicago's Bruce Sutter also scored a six-point victory in 1979, edging Houston's Joe Niekro, 72-66. In strike-shortened 1981, Los Angeles' Fernando Valenzuela nipped Cincinnati's Tom Seaver, 70-67, in the second-most contested 1-2 finish.
"I had no idea how this voting might go, because of the other two candidates," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said.
Lincecum set a new standard by winning the Cy Young with 15 victories, the smallest total for a Cy Young winner who was a full-time starting pitcher in a non-strike-shortened season. The previous low was established in 2006 by Arizona's Brandon Webb (16-8) and tied only Tuesday by Kansas City's Zack Greinke (16-8), the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner.
NL Cy Young Award Voting
Tim Lincecum, SF
Chris Carpenter, STL
Adam Wainwright, STL
Javier Vazquez, ATL
Dan Haren, ARI
Lincecum's 15-7 finish paled beside the records compiled by Carpenter (17-4, 2.24 ERA, 144 strikeouts) and Wainwright (19-8, 2.63 ERA, 212 strikeouts). Lincecum's victory total not only tied him for fourth in the league with seven other pitchers but also represented a dip from last year, when he went 18-5 and joined 1967 Cy Young recipient Mike McCormick to become only the second Giant to win the award. Yet Lincecum earned 23 of 32 first-place votes despite amassing four fewer victories than Webb.
While Wainwright led the league in victories and Carpenter was tops in ERA, Lincecum led the league with 261 strikeouts, reflecting his dominance. His superiority in more esoteric statistical categories also was believed to have influenced voters in his favor.
"You can see where it's taken a turn to complete numbers," Lincecum said, referring to the evolving thought process of Cy Young electors.
Lincecum led the Major Leagues by making seven starts in which he worked at least eight innings and didn't allow an earned run. Greinke recorded five such outings. Carpenter and Wainwright had four and three, respectively. Lincecum's eight double-digit strikeout performances, highlighted by his 15-strikeout effort July 27 against Pittsburgh, represented another Major League best.
Lincecum topped Wainwright and Carpenter in several other statistical categories, including opponents' batting average, strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio.
CY IT AGAIN
Tim Lincecum became the eighth pitcher to be named the Cy Young Award winner in consecutive seasons.
1986, 87, 1997-98
* In 1969, McLain shared the honor with Mike Cuellar.
Wainwright became only the second pitcher to garner the most first-place votes and not win the award. In 1998, Atlanta's Tom Glavine collected 11 first-place votes to 13 for San Diego's Trevor Hoffman but amassed the most points, 98-88, and took home the trophy.
The simple fact that a scrawny, 5-foot-11, 170-pounder could transform himself into one of the game's most elite pitchers since making his Major League debut in May 2007 is singular enough. So it seemed fitting that Lincecum could defy conventional elements such as vote totals.
"I never could have seen this happening growing up. You try to put in the hard work and do the good things necessary to put yourself in this position," said Lincecum, who thanked his father, Chris, the man most responsible for his pitching development.
Lincecum also expressed gratitude to teammates, the Giants organization, manager Bruce Bochy, pitching coach Dave Righetti, the fans and catcher Bengie Molina. "He's half the reason I'm here," Lincecum said of Molina, a free agent who's unlikely to re-sign with San Francisco.
Lincecum clearly improved overall upon his first Cy Young season. He trimmed his ERA from 2.62 to 2.48. Opponents hit .206 off him this season, compared to .221 in 2008. After walking 84 in 227 innings a year ago, he improved to 68 walks in 225 1/3 innings this season.
The NL's starter in this year's All-Star Game, Lincecum became the first Giant to lead the league in strikeouts for two years in a row since Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson (1907-08). Lincecum also topped the NL with 26 quality starts while ranking second in ERA and opponents' batting average and third in innings. He tied teammate Matt Cain for the league lead with four complete games and joined four other pitchers atop the NL list with two shutouts.
Lincecum is the first pitcher to win consecutive Cy Young Awards since Randy Johnson, a Giant in 2009, won four in a row with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1999-2002. Other back-to-back winners include Pedro Martinez (1999-2000), Roger Clemens (1997-98 and 1986-87), Greg Maddux (1992-95), Jim Palmer (1975-76), Denny McLain (1968-69; he shared the honor in the latter year with Mike Cuellar) and Sandy Koufax (1965-66).
At the conclusion of a nationwide conference call, Lincecum read a statement expressing contrition for being cited earlier this month for possessing a small amount of marijuana and a smoking pipe in his car in Clark County, Wash. County prosecutors and Lincecum reached a standard plea agreement, but he must appear in court in Vancouver, Wash., on Dec. 22.
"I made a mistake and regret my actions earlier this month in Washington," he said. "I want to apologize to the Giants organization and to the fans. I know that as a professional athlete I have a responsibility to conduct myself appropriately both on and off the field. I certainly have learned a valuable lesson through all of this and I promise to do better in the future. In the meantime, I am focused on preparing for the 2010 season."
Lincecum departed slightly from the text of the statement at an AT&T Park news conference, earnestly saying that he "completely" regretted the incident, owed apologies "especially" to the fans before concluding, in part, "I want to say that this will never happen again."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.