Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Will the Real Matt Cain Please Stand Up

Matt Cain's career 93-91 record does not impress anyone. Since he earned a full time job in the San Francisco Giants rotation, only 19 pitchers in all of baseball have won more games, however, just Bronson Arroyo and Paul Maholm have lost more games.  We all know wins and losses are a team effort, but it can skew the view of a players career pretty drastically.


Since 2006, Cain has made as many starts (262) as CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez.  Sabathia has 138 wins, Hernandez has 109 and Cain has 91.  Is CC 47 wins better than Cain?  No.

In 2007, Cain had the worst run support average, in all of baseball, at 3.16 per start.  That season he lost 16 starts and won just 7, despite owning the 20th best ERA at 3.65.  Just Chris Young (3.12, 9) and Mark Buerhle (3.63, 10) had a better ERA and failed to win 12 games that season. 

Tim Lincecum joined the Giants staff and made 24 starts in '07, and his instant success prevented Matt Cain from being labeled the Ace of the pitching staff. 

In 2008, Cain finished with the 2nd worst RS at just 3.18.  Cain's 3.76 ERA (38th MLB) was good for just 8 wins and 14 loses.  So here is 24 year old Matt Cain, with 104 career starts under his belt, and a 30-43 record, despite allowing just 272 earned runs over 654.2 innings pitched.

Tim Lincecum won 18 games in his first full season for San Fran in '08, striking out 265 batters in 227 innings, and finished with a 2.62 ERA.

From 2009-2012, Cain was one of the best in the Bigs.  Of the 100 pitchers to toss at least 500 innings, Cain's 2.93 ERA was 4th best, behind only Clayton Kershw (2.60), Felix Hernandez (2.81) and Roy Halladay (2.87). 

The other 5 pitchers to have ERA's under 3.00 during the 4 year stretch?
Cain would go 20 games over .500, winning 55 starts and losing just 35, with 2012 (16-5) his lone 15+ win season of his career.

Lincecum went 54-46 over those 4 seasons, with a 3.38 ERA, and his steady decline got more attention than Cain's rise to the top.

But then 2013 came and Cain had his first losing season since 2008, going 8-10, with an ERA at 4.00.  Cain did make 30 starts for the 8th straight season, but barely averaged 6 innings per start, and failed to give the Giants 200 innings for the first time since 2006.

And that brings us to today, when Matt Cain took the hill at Coors Field to face the Colorado Rockies.  For the 2nd time in 5 starts, we see why being a fly ball pitcher can hurt you, especially when you are not at the comfort of your home park, designed to keep the ball in play. 

Troy Tulowitzki and Charlie Blackmon homered off Cain, leading to 7 earned runs.  Earlier this season, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cain allowed 2 home runs to Hanley Ramirez and a solo shot to Matt Kemp, and the Dodgers tagged him for 5 earned runs.  That's 12 runs in 12 innings pitched.  From 2011-2013, 31 of his 53 HRs allowed came on the road,

In his 3 other starts, Cain has pitched 19 innings, allowed 3 earned runs and no home runs, with 18 strikeouts.

His career HR/FB% is 7.2% and since the start of the 2013 season, it has been over 10%!  A fly ball pitcher can not survive at that rate.  His average FB velocity is down to 91 from 93 which has led him to rely on his slider at a much higher rate than when he was successful. 


http://pitchergifs.com/nl-west/san-francisco-giants/matt-cain/
Click to see Cain's slider

So which Matt Cain will the San Francisco Giants and fantasy baseball owners get for the rest of 2014?

Let us know how confident you are in Cain in the comments!

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