I know I wrote about this in my By The Numbers piece, but I just felt that I needed to repeat it here. The last 11 times a pitcher posted an ERA below 2.50 while striking out at least 260 batters that pitcher has won the Cy Young. So why is it that Tim Lincecum, who has struck out 261 batters while posting an ERA of 2.48, isn’t a shoe-in for the NL Cy Young award? Perhaps it is because of the fact that he won only 15 games and no hurler has ever won the Cy Young award with less than 16 victories unless he was a closer. Still, I just don’t get it. Let’s compare Lincecum to the two Cardinals hurlers who are his main competition (Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright) and see how the three men who toe the rubber match up.
Lincecum: 15-7, 2.48 ERA, 261 K, 1.05 WHIP in 225.1 IP
Carpenter: 17-4, 2.24 ERA, 144 K, 1.01 WHIP in 192.2 IP
Wainwright: 19-8, 2.63 ERA, 212 K, 1.21 WHIP in 233 IP
Carpenter has the best ratios of the trio, and that will certainly weigh heavily on many voters minds. In addition, he also has the fewest loses and the best winning percentage, and with a bunch of people still operating under the assumption that wins and loses are the most important numbers on the back of a pitcher’s bubble gum card, this fact could weigh heavily on voters. However, Carpenter fell light years behind the other two in strikeouts, and he also tossed the fewest innings by a fair margin.
Wainwright leads the way with 19 victories, and he has a surprising 212 Ks. Still, his ratios are the worst of the group.
On balance, Lincecum looks great. Despite the fewest victories, he has the most Ks, by a boatload, has the second best ERA, the second best WHIP and the second most innings pitched.
Let’s take the debate one level further by looking at some other numbers.
Lincecum: 10.42 K/9, 3.84 K/BB, 0.40 HR/9, 6.71 H/9, .206 BAA
Carpenter: 6.73 K/9, 3.79 K/BB, 0.33 HR/9, 7.29 H/9, .226 BAA
Wainwright: 8.19 K/0, 3.21 KBB, 0.66 HR, 8.34 H/9, .244 BAA
Again, there is a whole lot to like about Lincecum here including a massive lead in strikeouts per nine innings as well as the fact that he was by far and away the most difficult pitcher to hit. Clearly, these categories point out that for all the good, Wainwright just wasn’t quite as amazing as the other two. For me, it’s pretty clear that it should be Lincecum, Wainwright and Carpenter in the NL Cy Young race.
Plus, be honest. Not that it should matter as the voting should be performance based, but if you say that Lincecum isn’t the single most compelling figure to take the mound every time he starts, you are fooling yourself. No one, perhaps since Pedro Martinez in his prime, has engendered more awe and interest every time he takes the hill than Lincecum. Given all that, I think it would be a crime if “The Franchise” doesn’t win the award.
As for the playoffs, here is a quick note on another fine NL starting pitcher.
The Phillies continue to look like genius’ for having made the move to acquire Cliff Lee at the trade deadline. In Game 1 of the playoffs against the Rockies, Lee hurled a complete game in his first post-season experience as the Phils emerged with the victory by the scored of 5-1. At one point Lee retired 19-straight batters and it wasn’t until the ninth inning that the Rockies could push a run across the dish. Lee was 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 12 regular season starts, but he will earn his paycheck this post-season. The best news? Perhaps it was the complete game that spared the Phils from having their manager blow the game by pitching Brad Lidge in some pressure packed situation.
By Ray Flowers