Four Giants Get Cy Young Love, But Who Deserved The Most?

PHOENIX, AZ: Starting pitcher Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants talks with home plate umpire Gary Darling during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

One of four Giants who showed up in this year's Cy Young balloting, the perpetually unlucky Matt Cain was arguably the ace of San Francisco's fantastic rotation.

It's not at all surprising that Clayton Kershaw has won the National League Cy Young Award, even though he probably didn't pitch as well as Roy Halladay this year.

It's surprising that more Giants than Phillies showed up in the balloting.

Now, we shouldn't make too terribly much of this.

Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels finished second, third and fifth -- which is perfectly appropriate -- and combined for 240 points in the balloting.

Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong finished sixth, eighth, and tied for 11th, and combined for 12 points.

So, 240 to 12. Let's not make too much of it.

Still, all those Giants showing up is interesting.

What's most interesting, to me anyway, is that while Lincecum finished atop the list of Giants, he might actually have been their third-best pitcher this season.

Really?

Really.

Vogelsong actually posted the lowest ERA and the best winning percentage among the quartet, but his home-run and strikeout-to-walk ratios were the worst, plus he threw significantly fewer innings than the other guys. It was an estimable, incredible season considering where he came from. But Vogelsong simply didn't pitch as well this season, qualitatively or quantitatively, as his three teammates.

Those guys, though, are difficult to separate. Their ERAs were 2.74 (Lincecum), 2.88 (Cain) and 3.21 (Bumgarner). Each of them started 33 games. Each of them won 12 or 13 games -- also, they combined for 38 wins and 38 losses -- and each of them was stingy with the gopher ball.

The reasons to rank Lincecum first among those three? I mean, beside that he's Tim Lincecum? Well, he did finish with more strikeouts. And his ERA was the lowest, by a little. Otherwise, though?

Lincecum issued significantly more walks than either of the other guys. Lincecum gave up more home runs than either of the other guys. Is there any good reason for Lincecum to show up on six Cy Young ballots, compared to two for Cain and one for Bumgarner?

Not that I can see.

Lincecum finished ahead of the other guys because his ERA was slightly better than Cain's and because he struck out more batters and because it's easier to think of Lincecum as a Cy Young candidate than the other guys.

None of which is a knock against Lincecum. He's still a great pitcher. What this really speaks to is the depth of the Giants' rotation. When Tim Lincecum has a great season and is your third-best pitcher, you know you've got something.

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