Checking In With Cain

Last year, Matt Cain posted one of the best 7-16 seasons of all time, clearly producing numbers above the level expected from a record like that. He would give up two or less runs and and lose or fail to record a decision more often than win, which speaks volumes to the offense “supporting” him. This year, he got off to a similar start, losing games in which he pitched poorly, but not winning the games he deserved to win. With a month and a half left he has already surpassed last year’s total with eight wins, but his record still is not indicative of what the rest of his numbers suggest.

He has a 3.57 ERA supported by a 3.48 FIP. Though he walks hitters to the tune of 3.62 per nine innings, he is pretty hard to hit, which is currently resulting in a 1.28 WHIP. On top of that, he rarely gives up home runs, as evidenced by his 5.7% HR/FB that is very similar to his numbers in this metric over his entire career. For the record, league average is around eleven percent.

This year, he has given up two earned runs or less in 13 starts, and gone just 6-1 in that span. Though better than his results in 2007, that means there are six no-decisions that could have or should have been wins. Though I ultimately don’t care about the W-L record, most of the country does, and Cain’s reputation is likely hurt outside of San Francisco or NL West teams because of this. He has seemingly perfected the art form of pitching well enough to win while losing or not getting any decision.

His 1.62 WPA/LI and 1.54 REW are solid for this year, but nowhere near the top of the leaderboards. He has been the perfect compliment to Tim Lincecum and a great number two pitcher. For those curious, his WPA/LI is one win lower than Lincecum and his REW is about two wins lower. Still, the tag team nicknamed “LinceCain” is one reason Giants fans should feel happy about something from this season.

Cain is a very good pitcher… not a league best righty by any means, but with some better run support, his reputation would be much stronger amongst baseball fans. He could conceivably receive, and deservedly so, a huge contract when it is free agency time despite a potential W-L record 20 games below .500.



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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


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mymrbig
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mymrbig
8 years 1 month ago

Not that it really matters, but people often forget that Cain is 3.5 months younger than Lincecum. Because he debuted earlier, a lot of people think he is older. In baseball terms, both are finishing up their age 24 seasons, which is truly remarkable given how successful they have been.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
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8 years 1 month ago

FYI, I assume you meant 1.28 WHIP.

I don’t know about this season, maybe it’s different, but when I checked his HR/FB in previous seasons, the low HR/FB figure comes from pitching in AT&T, and is much closer to the league average on the road. AT&T Park depresses HR totals, particularly for lefties, but also righties.

His key to pitching is his ability to not give up many hits and striking out a fair number as well, which makes up for all the walks he gives up. The problem thus far, near that I can tell, is that despite stuff that pitchers drool over, he thinks it’s like any other fastball and thus fall into the habit of trying to nibble at the corners, as he is advanced as a pitcher mentally, and once he’s missed a few by trying to be perfect, he ends up walking guys unnecessarily.

He needs to talk with Big Daddy Rueschel whose philosophy was “here’s MY strike pitch, try and hit it.” Sometimes they did, but most times they didn’t. Cain just needs to trust his fastball and stuff more and he will find that more often than not, he’s going to get hitters out.

marcello
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marcello
8 years 1 month ago

Giants fans really hope Lincecain becomes Lincecainchez with the addition of Jonathan Sanchez. If Bumgarner and Alderson realize their potential, that name is going to be a bit unwieldy. I guess Lincecainchez Bumerson could work.

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