Spring training is a great time for making predictions. So here is a bold one:
Tim Lincecum will win eight Cy Young awards.
That will give him one more than Roger Clemens, who currently holds the record for the most awards won. Eight Cy Young awards will obviously put Lincecum on the very short list of greatest pitchers of all time.
Now let’s state the obvious. The chances of this prediction coming true are remarkably slim. Any number of factors could derail Lincecum’s career.
But it’s hard to over-state just how good Lincecum has been and how much he could achieve.
One way to understand Lincecum’s greatness is to analyze his early career relative to other recent Cy Young winners. By early career, I am actually referring to his minor league numbers.
Here are the some minor league performance statistics for all of the pitchers who have won the Cy Young award since 2000.
Pitcher (Cy Young Awarded), K/9, WHIP, ERA
Tim Lincecum (NL 2008), 15, 0.79, 1.01
Jake Peavy (NL 2007), 11.3, 1.10, 2.56
Brandon Webb (NL 2006), 8.1, 1.33, 3.71
Chris Carpenter (NL 2005), 7.2, 1.43, 3.88
Roger Clemens (NL 2004, AL 2001), 10.4, 0.94, 3.12
Eric Gagne (NL 2003), 9.9, 1.15, 3.16
Randy Johnson (NL 2002), 9.6, 1.47, 3.37
Cliff Lee (AL 2008), 10.2, 1.27, 3.37
C.C. Sabathia(AL 2007), 10.4, 1.30, 3.44
Johan Santana (AL 2006, 2004), 9.2, 1.39, 4.79
Bartolo Colon (AL 2005), 9.2, 1.13, 2.44
Roy Halladay (AL 2003), 5.9, 1.31, 3.83
Barry Zito (AL 2002), 10.0, 1.27, 3.18
Pedro Martinez (AL 2000), 9.4, 1.15, 2.98
When compared to a group of pitchers who won the highest award a pitcher can earn, Lincecum simply blows everyone else away.
He struck out nearly four more batters per nine innings than Peavy. His ERA is almost a full run-and-a-half lower than Colon’s. And his WHIP is simply microscopic.
So how can we describe Lincecum’s numbers? Dominating? Not quite strong enough. Ridiculous? That might be in the ball park.
Minor league numbers suggest potential. Major league numbers, on the other hand, document performance. Lincecum has demonstrated both.
And remember that he is just getting started. Several of the pitchers on the list showed considerable improvement once they hit the big leagues.
The thought of Lincecum getting better is pretty amazing.
Unless you have to face him.