A great deal of the coverage given to Tim Lincecum for his 2008 National League Cy Young Award focused on how he defied the odds to receive the award.
Despite the difference in physical appearance, Lincecum has the one characteristic shared by all National League Cy Young Award winners: a No. 1 placement in the Top 25 League Pitcher Review during the same year.
Although the National League Cy Young Award is determined by the judgement of a 32-person panel, the recipient has earned first place in at least one category of the Top 25 League Pitcher Review every year for the past decade.
Herein lies a tradition of excellence on the part of the pitcher beyond the subjectivity of the panel’s vote. Each award recipient has demonstrated success by not only a popular vote but also in all the totals earned by each particular player.
“People have been doubting me my whole life. It's nothing I hold against anyone. Let them watch and doubt and see what the end result is.” Tim Lincecum to the San Jose Mercury News after receiving the 2008 Cy Young Award.
The sports-reporting community all had its own opinions on the probability of Tim Lincecum walking away with the 2008 National League Cy Young Award. Despite some concerns that the San Francisco Giant’s lack-luster season (72-90) would be any indication of Lincecum’s ability to earn his own place in history, he received the majority of votes for the award.
Looking over just the past five years of National League Cy Young Award winners, Lincecum, Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb, Chris Carpenter, and Roger Clemens, recent history shows a trend of talented players coming from teams that did not always rank well that particular year.
What failed to be fully demonstrated by critics was the potential of the individual player surpassing any team-particular expectations. Each of these players held at least one record in the Top 25 of the National League the year he received the award, and the majority held more than one.
Lincecum makes history as an individual award recipient and also as one of the Cy Young winners from a less than stellar team. During this most recent season, Lincecum earned the greatest number of strikeouts (265) and the winning percentage (.783) in National League pitching statistics. The San Francisco Giants still ended the season without a solid home-run hitter.
Peavy made first place of the 2007 Top 25 with his 240 strikeouts and 19 wins. That same season left the San Diego Padres out of the postseason after losing to the Denver Rockies. Webb tied for both the records of three shutouts and 16 wins in 2006. Webb’s award came during a season that ended with the Arizona Diamondbacks trading several players.
Rounding out the last half decade, Chris Carpenter earned the top winning percentage (.808) and tied for complete games leader with a total of seven. Roger Clemens joined the 2004 ranks of the National League Top 25 with the winning percentage (.818).
The list goes on. Each National League Cy Young Award winner for the last decade placed first in at least one National League Top 25 ranking the year he received the award.
The “end result” of the last decade of National League Cy Young Award is recognizing a player that had the performance on the field to warrant the title.