San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum won the NL Cy Young Award on Thursday for the second straight year, emerging from one of the tightest votes in the history of the honor to become the first repeat winner since Randy Johnson.
The wiry right-hander, nicknamed "The Freak" for his giant stride, needed only 15 victories to earn the award - the fewest for a Cy Young starter over a full season.
Lincecum led the NL with 261 strikeouts and tied for the league lead with four complete games and two shutouts.
Only 10 points separated the top three vote-getters in the NL. Chris Carpenter was second and St. Louis teammate Adam Wainwright finished third despite getting the most first-place votes.
The 2009 honors for Lincecum and Kansas City Royals ace Zack Greinke reflect a recent shift in how voters pick baseball's best pitchers. Wins, losses and ERA used to determine the Cy Young Award winner - now it's detailed statistics such as WHIP, FIP and VORP.
Greinke equaled the previous low of 16 wins when he won the AL award on Tuesday.
"The guys I was going up against, Wainwright and Carpenter, had tremendous seasons," the 25-year-old Lincecum said in a conference call. "It was a lucky one for me. I'll take them as I come I guess."
Lincecum received 11 first-place votes, 12 seconds and nine thirds for 100 points in balloting released by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Carpenter had nine firsts, 14 seconds and seven thirds to take second with 94.
Wainwright, who led the NL with 19 wins and 233 innings, had 12 first-place votes, five seconds and 15 thirds for 90 points. Trevor Hoffman, who finished behind Tom Glavine in 1998, is the only other player to get the most firsts and not win the award.
Two voters, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus and Keith Law of ESPN.com, did not include Carpenter on their ballots. Carroll had Wainwright in the top spot, Lincecum second and Arizona's Dan Haren third. Law voted for Lincecum, Atlanta's Javier Vazquez and Wainwright in third. Those were the only votes in any position for Haren and Vazquez.
The six-point gap between Lincecum and Carpenter is tied for the third-closest in the NL since the ballot expanded to three pitchers in 1970. The 10-point margin from first to third is the second-closest for the NL ballot.
Lincecum, who had a $650,000 salary and could be headed for a big raise, did not have any bonus provision for winning the award. Carpenter receives $100,000 for finishing second, Wainwright $100,000 for winding up third and Vazquez $70,000 for being voted fourth.
Lincecum teamed with Matt Cain to give the Giants a strong 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation, helping them stay in contention all year in one of baseball's biggest surprises. He went 15-7 with a 2.48 ERA in 32 starts and 225 1-3 innings.
Johnson, Lincecum's teammate this year in San Francisco, and Sandy Koufax are the only other pitchers to win consecutive NL Cy Young Awards. Johnson won four straight from 1999-2002 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Koufax was honored in 1965 and 1966 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
San Francisco selected the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Lincecum with the 10th overall selection in the 2006 draft out of Washington, and he instantly became the organization's top pitching prospect since Hall of Famer Juan Marichal signed with the New York Giants as an amateur free agent in 1957. He made his major league debut in 2007 and is 40-17 with a 2.90 ERA in three seasons.
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