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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