Why I Wouldn’t Have Signed Matt Cain

A couple of hours ago, the Giants announced that they reached an agreement with Matt Cain on a five year deal worth just over $110 million. Wendy Thurm has already recapped the contract and why this is probably fair market value for a quality pitcher with no health problems headed into his age 27 season. And, she’s probably right – if the Giants wanted to keep Cain, they weren’t going to be able to do it for less than this. This isn’t a situation where they just overpaid irrationally. Their options were either to sign him for this price or watch him get more money from another team next winter. They chose the former.

I would have chosen the latter.

Matt Cain is a good pitcher. How good he’d perform in another set of circumstances – different ballpark, different division, different pitching coach, etc… – isn’t quite as well determined, but we’ve got a pretty good idea that Cain is good at preventing runs in the context he’s currently in. Over the last six years, he’s thrown 1,300 innings and posted an ERA- of 80, meaning that he prevented runs at a rate of 20 percent above average. Quantity and quality is a good package. It just doesn’t predict future success as well as you might think.

Starting in 2002, here are some rolling six year windows where pitchers threw at least 1,000 innings, the examples of pitchers around Cain’s age that performed in a similar manner, and how they did going forward.

2002-2007

Carlos Zambrano, ages 21-26: 1,186 IP, 75 ERA-, 87 FIP-, 92 xFIP-

While Cain has better command than Zambrano, both got significantly better results than their BB/K/GB rates would have suggested for a long period of time. Like Cain, Zambrano was extremely durable, and had shouldered heavy workloads while still taking the mound every five days. However, 2007 was the last year that Zambrano managed 200 innings in a season, and he’s been a significant disappointment ever since.

Jake Peavy, ages 21-26: 1,087 IP, 83 ERA-, 86 FIP-, 82 xFIP-

Peavy and Cain have a lot in common. Lots of success in pitchers parks in the NL West, got better as they aged, and showed a strong track record heading into their age 27 seasons. 2007 was Peavy’s best year, and marked the third consecutive year he’d topped the 200 inning level. He hasn’t gotten over 174 since, struggling with both health issues and diminished performance.

Mark Buehrle, ages 23-28: 1,357 IP, 83 ERA-, 91 FIP-, 95 xFIP-

Finally, some good news. Buehrle’s another guy who has consistently beat his peripherals and showed extreme durability early in his career. That hasn’t changed at all in the last four years, as he’s still the exact same 200 inning workhorse he’s always been.

2003-2008

CC Sabathia, ages 22-27: 1,269 IP, 78 ERA-, 80 FIP-, 84 xFIP-

Sabathia was another young workhorse who has managed to both stay healthy and stay excellent, but it’s worth noting that he succeeded with a more traditional skillset of limiting walks and getting a ton of strikeouts. He’s always been excellent at the three things a pitcher has the most control over, so for him, it was more of a question of staying healthy rather than sustaining abnormal run prevention skills. He stayed healthy and has been fantastic since.

Josh Beckett, ages 23-28: 1,057 IP, 86 ERA-, 80 FIP-, 82 xFIP-

Beckett couldn’t match Cain’s track record for health and durability, but he was one of the best pitchers in baseball in his mid-20s, and strung together four consecutive seasons with at least 175 innings pitched. Yet, his three years since have brought declined in performance and durability, and he’s regressed somewhat from his prior form.

John Lackey, ages 24-29: 1,216 IP, 86 ERA-, 88 FIP-, 90 xFIP-

Like Cain, Lackey’s value was built through quantity rather than just sheer dominance, and he provided the Angels with a long run of solid but unspectacular performances. His last three years have been a weird mix of good, bad, and ugly, and now he’s going to spend the 2012 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

Brandon Webb, ages 24-29: 1,315 IP, 71 ERA-, 75 FIP-, 75 xFIP-

Webb was the total package, combining elite performance with the ability to throw 200 innings year in and year out. He was in the running for the title of the best pitcher in baseball. Then, he blew out his arm, and he’s thrown just four innings in the Major Leagues over the last three years. His career, at this point, appears to be over.

2004-2009

Dan Haren, ages 23-28: 1,154 IP, 80 ERA-, 82 FIP-, 81 xFIP-

Another success story, and another guy with a lot of similarities to Cain – extreme durability, began as more of a good innings eater, and then steadily improved into a legitimate frontline guy. He’s sustained his excellence even after moving back to the American League, but like Sabathia, it’s been built on a foundation of low walks and high strikeouts.

These eight guys represent a pretty mixed bag of future performance after being identified as durable, quality starters early in their careers. Haren, Sabathia, and Buehrle all show that Cain isn’t destined to turn into a pumpkin, but Zambrano, Peavy, Webb, Lackey, and Beckett suggest that past success doesn’t guarantee future success either.

In reality, Cain’s future is something of a coin flip. He may or may not stay healthy. He may or may not continue to prevent hits on balls in play. History is littered with similar pitchers who have gone either way, and when you’re betting $100+ million on a guy, you should get better than 50-50 odds that he’ll continue to perform reasonably well going forward.

At $22 million per year over the next five years, Matt Cain essentially needs to avoid all problems and continue to pitch as well as he has previously. He might do just that, but there’s a real risk that his arm is going to fall or that his performance will head the wrong way sooner than later. There’s just too much risk here for a team like the Giants to take on this kind of contract, especially with so many other pressing needs in the organization.

The Giants have a built-in pitching factory with AT&T Park and Dave Righetti in place, and given that they’ve had a lot of success maximizing the returns they get on importing pitchers from other organizations, they’re in a unique position to avoid paying market rates for pitching and instead invest that capital in getting some quality position players instead. It might not have been the popular thing to do, but letting Cain walk at the end of the year and throwing $22 million at a guy who swings the bat for a living may have been a better use of funds.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Will
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

I am not sure how you come to a 50/50 proposition. Either/or outcomes aren’t split down the middle. Unless you are arguing that pitchers should never be paid fair value because the risk, in general is high, this argument seems a little weak.

Also, risk is a two way street. Can the Giants afford to let a pitcher with the potential to be one of the game’s best leave via free agency? Is the risk of not finding a suitable replacement higher than his chances of being injured? That is another question that needs to be considered.

fergie348
Guest
fergie348
4 years 3 months ago

Part of the problem with letting Cain walk and spending the $22 million dollars on a hitter or two presumes that the Giants have reasonable options in house to soak up those starts. They don’t. They don’t have any top tier (starting) pitching prospects close to ready. They have a couple of middle to lower tier starters perhaps ready in Surkamp and Petit but otherwise not much. And they have to find work for Mr. Zito, who doesn’t look up to the task of holding down a spot in the rotation for much longer. Things are a little more cheery on the positional prospect front, but not much more. Giants probably felt they had to lock up Cain so they can concentrate on figuring out what to do with their extra catching depth..

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
4 years 3 months ago

fergie, the theory is that they can find reasonable options to soak up those starts. If they let Cain go, they can go out and get someone like Capuano and extract a lot of value from him. They’ve had success doing this over the last few years. They can’t go out and get the offensive equivalent though, so they’d be better of spending that $22MM on a legit bat (and hoping it’s not another Jason Bay).

Guru
Guest
Guru
4 years 3 months ago

They’d extract a lot of value from him from him in his home starts. Away starts? No so much.

With the new wild card system the value on an ace has risen to new levels. Cain is one of the few pitchers I would truly trust in a one game playoff. He is extremely consistant home and away and is not a headcase. Lincecum, meanwhile, has shown a tendency to get phased under extreme pressure. The first inning of the 2010 World Series comes to mind.

brendan
Guest
brendan
4 years 3 months ago

I’m a giants fan, and I’m w/ dave on this one. I’d have liked to see a bigger discount for the risk the giants are taking here. Cain’s contract isn’t even up yet! If he got 5/115 from the giants next offseason, fine, but he got it as an extension, w/ the chance that he gets hurt in 2012 before the new deal even kicks in. I just think it’s too rich. Much rather have CJ wilson at 5/90 or whatever he got from the angels.

bubba
Guest
bubba
4 years 3 months ago

except you’d have to watch that d-bag Wilson pitch every 5th day.

Kernel
Guest
Kernel
4 years 3 months ago

As long as he pitches well, who cares? You think GIANTS fans, of all people, couldn’t stomach CJ Wilson?

The rates the Angels got Weaver and Wilson at are far better than Cain.

My problem is that a player who is known to be “good” or “great” makes FAR more than a player who is merely decent. Is the difference that great? Is Matt Cain worth $16 million more than a pitcher that makes $6 million a year?

Eminor3rd
Member
Eminor3rd
4 years 3 months ago

Consider the possibility of Lincecum, though. Would you agree that it makes sense to keep one of the two around long-term? Obviously, Lincecum is a better pitcher, but you’ve written before about how his rapidly rising cost may make him a better candidate to trade and allow another franchise to absorb the risk of potentially upwards of $30m/yr. Do you like this deal better if they trade Lincecum for an elite hitter or hitting prospects sometime over the next 10 months?

Oliver
Guest
Oliver
4 years 3 months ago

Dave, is there a pitcher you would re-sign at market rate? Or are you effectively arguing that pitchers are rarely, if ever, worth big contracts because of the risk?

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 3 months ago

At $22 million per year over the next five years,

That’s why I don’t sign him right there.

BJ Upton
Guest
BJ Upton
4 years 3 months ago

Who would the Giants throw $22 million at? Me? Maybe Aaron Rowand again? This is a PR win and a baseball win.

I’d like some names for this success of importing starters from other organizations. Vogelsong started in the Giants organization and had an out of nowhere year. So what other success is there? Brad Penny for 6 starts? Maybe that ace Barry Zito? This was a needed move and a great move.

Jake
Guest
Jake
4 years 3 months ago

CJ Wilson reportedly was offered $100 million by the Marlins. He’s 4 years older than Cain and only had one good year under his belt, while Cain has been above average and healthy for five years in a row. That suggests that if Cain had another good year he was going to get something in the $125 million range, maybe even more. But, he isn’t a free agent now. This strikes me as similar to the Mauer deal – giving someone close to fair value while you still have them under control for another year, which means you’re voluntarily soaking up a lot of downside risk with very little potential upside.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

I was researching this and found that I (and Jake and others) did not realize that while CJ Wilson signed a 5 year, $77.5M contract, the $100M contract was for SIX years, making the other contract only very slightly better in terms of AAV, $16.7M vs. $15.5M, not really that huge a difference, but somehow, somewhere, a writer kept on harping on $100M vs. $77.5M without realizing that there was a whole year difference. CJ did not turn down as much as implied by the size difference.

Danny
Guest
Danny
4 years 3 months ago

Sure he did. He turned down $22.5 million. Yes, it would be over another season but it would have been a guaranteed $22.5. There is no guarantee that Wilson will be able to make that much over the rest of his career after his 5 years are up in L.A.

Greg
Guest
Greg
4 years 3 months ago

Isn’t the truth that Sabean’s mistakes made this a must-do, from the perspective of the Giants’ brass? They have no offense, a weak farm system, and no pitching depth after trading prospects for nothing the past two seasons.

It’s part of a bigger picture that I don’t think many have observed: Sabean has been a mess. They won a Series with some key players he didn’t really want but had to take, such as Huff and Ross; players he apparently misjudged; and despite players he dramatically overpaid to make almost no contribution.

Look at the roster Sabean has put together for $130 million and tell me he’s not a very lucky GM to have a Series win on his resume.

Wendy Thurm
Member
Member
4 years 3 months ago

I agree with this, in part. Giants were very very lucky to win the Series and in many ways took the wrong lessons from that victory. But most of Sabean’s mistakes are off the books by the end of 2014 when Zito is gone. The question then becomes how to best construct a roster going forward?

Sabean Wannabe
Guest
Sabean Wannabe
4 years 3 months ago

You agree that Sabean is “Lucky”? On what basis? What other GMs are “lucky”?

bglick4
Member
bglick4
4 years 3 months ago

If you don’t call the simultaneous flash-in-the-pan success of Huff, Ross, and Burell luck then what do you call it? The Giants were a decent team that got inordinately lucky for a month two years ago.

Edgar Rentaria
Guest
Edgar Rentaria
4 years 3 months ago

The Giants weren’t lucky, we were all skill!

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
4 years 3 months ago

bglick4 is correct and actually understates the case. Torres was another nobody, and he actually had an MVP year. Also, the Giants avoided injuries for the most part and actually benfitted when they had them: thus the additions of Bumgarner, Ross and Burrell, all of which worked out great.
Above all, don’t forget that they only made the playoffs on the last day of the season.
The team that wins the World Series is rarely the best team in baseball. Off the top of my head, the Cardinals weren’t last year, the Angels weren’t in 2002, the Giants weren’t in 2010.

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

You fail to mention that the Giants had one of the best, if not THE best, young homegrown starting rotations and closers in all of baseball in 2010. Is that Brian Sabean’s fault too?

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

And very few teams can boast of having a middle of order pair of young hitters like Posey and Sandoval, plus potentially Belt. Add to that Gary Brown, and perhaps Joe Panik and their offense is looking pretty good, pretty soon.

The Real Neal
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

Yeah, how many teams have a hitter like Sandoval who can put up a 99 OPS+?

Posey should be considered another luck outlier, if you’re adding them up.

channelclemente
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

The Giants were very lucky in one way in 2010, the avoided the serious injury of key players. 2011 illustrates the importance of that.

Sabean Wannabe
Guest
Sabean Wannabe
4 years 3 months ago

Ahhhh….only had to get about halfway through before finding a standard issue Sabean hater. Of course all the bad things are 100% Sabean’s fault and all the good things were dumb “luck”.

Under Sabean the Giants 1) have the best record in the NL West, 2) have the third best record in the NL, 3) have the sixth best record in baseball, 4) have two WS appearances and 5) one WS championship.

The Giants are pretty lucky to have such a “lucky” GM.

bubba
Guest
bubba
4 years 3 months ago

yeah, Sabean’s been decent the last 4-5 years exc for the Beltran deal didn’t really pan out. And for those who still haven’t heard, it seems Magowan is to blame for the Zito deal.

drafts + UDFA signings:

Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, J. Sanchez, (Wheeler)
B. Wilson, Romo, Hembree
Posey, H. Sanchez, Tommy Joseph
Belt
Panik
Crawford
P. Sandoval
Gary Brown

not too bad.
the “investors” need to open up their wallets a little more though.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
4 years 3 months ago

Greg, you are correct. Sabean (with obvious support from Baer) painted himself into a corner by stating that the Giants weren’t going to sign any significant FA’s because they wanted to lock up their pitching.
Therefore, he put himself into the horrible negotiating position of having to extend at least Lincecum or Cain at almost any cost.
The fans were irate when they hadn’t extended any pitcher (except Lopez for 1 year).
So they paid at least $30M too much to save face.
In 2-3 years, Cain will replace Zito as the drag on the payroll.

channelclemente
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

I count the Giants lucky they don’t own Votto myself.

kozilla
Member
kozilla
4 years 3 months ago

Interesting read. Personally I think the Magical new owners in LA probably had some impact on this decision. It would have been a bitter pill to swallow if Cain ended up in Dodger blue.

I am curious about how you came up with the 50-50 figure for Cain’s success going forward. I understand that you didn’t mean it as true odds but the claim did seem to be a foundation of your whole argument.

Perhaps I have misunderstood your meaning but are you suggesting that Cain and or pitchers who tend to confound sabermetricians carry greater risk when projecting sustained success at this point in their career? Is your objection specifically geared to Cain or is it for signing pitchers to these types of contracts in general.

To that point, how would you feel if they had signed Lincecum to a similar deal?

kozilla
Member
kozilla
4 years 3 months ago

To clarify, I actually agree that this was probably too risky a signing for the Giants. My question is about the process you used to reach that conclusion.

Tyler
Guest
Tyler
4 years 3 months ago

Dave’s argument is, in his own words, that the Giants should not have signed Cain and signed a hitter instead. How is signing Cain at this price more risky then: a) letting him walk and hoping Upton or Hamilton come, and b) depending on the prices for either guy, wouldn’t signing either bring about even more risk, especially considering the Giants, like his Mariners, have to/ would have to overpay to convince legit hitters to play there?

J
Guest
J
4 years 3 months ago

Let’s see, they’re paying him $22M per year and according to his player page he’s been worth that much precisely once in his career (last year), topping out at $16.5M before that. Even if you’re convinced that fWAR underrates him due to his ability to outperform his peripherals, that’s still pretty risky. I could definitely see the Giants regretting this even if Cain doesn’t turn into a Jake Peavy sized pumpkin.

Shane H
Guest
Shane H
4 years 3 months ago

I think his home and road stats have made it clear that any formula using a normalized BABIP and HR/FLYBALL rate has greatly underestimated his value and he has shown zero evidence that things will be any different ages 27-32. Their is a reason we don’t see WAR/DOLLAR estimate in either Wendy’s or Dave’s column. The reason is WAR has not been an accurate measure of the pitcher Cain has been.

SF 55 for life
Member
SF 55 for life
4 years 3 months ago

+10000000000

bstar
Guest
bstar
4 years 3 months ago

Well, for what its worth, bWAR judges him about the same, only ~1.5 WAR more for his career than fWAR.

JMS
Guest
JMS
4 years 3 months ago

I wouldnt have signed Cain because I dont have 110,000,000 in liquid assets.

fergie348
Guest
fergie348
4 years 3 months ago

Well, neither do the Giants. They have more than that in debt, though..

The Giants have stated repeatedly that their organizational philosophy going forward will emphasize pitching, defense and team speed. I know that hasn’t been served by some recent contracts (Aubrey Huff, anyone?), but if they want to make pitching the franchise cornerstone then they have to do a couple of deals like this one. I think it means that Lincecum goes elsewhere in 2014 but by then we could see all kinds of things happen. They’ve got solid talent up the middle coming (Gary Brown, Joe Panik) and a surfeit of young catchers they could trade (Hector Sanchez, Tommy Joseph, Andrew Susac) for other pieces. What they don’t have (beyond Bumgarner) are cornerstone pitchers to make it all work. Now they do, although I agree that they take on a lot of risk with this deal, and they pay almost full retail for Matt Cain’s services.

bubba
Guest
bubba
4 years 3 months ago

won’t they own the ballpark outright in 2017?

i think that’s another $15-$20 mil they’ll have to spend on payroll.

Dan M.
Guest
Dan M.
4 years 3 months ago

That’s never stopped any real MLB owners so why should it stop you?

Scott
Guest
Scott
4 years 3 months ago

If I had any faith in Sabean and the front office to identify and attract high-end free agent hitters, I would agree with this post. But this is the same team and management that signed Aaron Rowand to a 5 year deal, Dave Roberts to a 3 year deal (to play CF!), allegedly tried to sign Gary Matthews Jr. and Juan Pierre to multi-year deals, and got outbid on Juan Uribe and Carlos Lee (if I remember correctly). With luck, the scouting department will be able to develop more quality homegrown hitters, and they won’t have to rely on the free agent market too much for hitters.

Dan
Guest
Dan
4 years 3 months ago

this is definitely a valid point!

Sabean Wannabe
Guest
Sabean Wannabe
4 years 3 months ago

Who says they can’t identify the FA hitters? Do you have inside knowledge of their pursuit of FA hitters? To what degree did they pursue Pujols, Fielder, Reyes, Holiday, Texeira, Beltre, Crawford, etc, etc, etc. You don’t know what was done. If the Group A hitters aren’t interested in playing in SF, then its on to Groups B and C and thus some bad contracts.

Naveed
Guest
Naveed
4 years 3 months ago

This is a team that traded for Orlando Cabrera.

The Ghost of Sonny Jackson
Guest
The Ghost of Sonny Jackson
4 years 3 months ago

I am willing to go back in time and make the necessary adjustment for the Gs to have “won” the Carlos Lee sweepstakes.

Dan
Guest
Dan
4 years 3 months ago

Dave, do you think that the fact the Giants have relatively little pitching prospects, but a pretty solid amount of young position talent played into this at all? Homegrown talent is the most economical talent of them all and right now the Giants have an inexpensive Posey and Panda, 3 good catching prospects, Gary Brown, Panik, Belt, and maybe a Crawford, Adrianza, Culberson, or Pegeuro can provide league-average value. That’s a lot of cheap talent. They don’t have anything like that with their pitching.

Wendy Thurm
Member
Member
4 years 3 months ago

That’s exactly why I thought — and explained in my post — why this deal made sense for the Giants.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
4 years 3 months ago

“That’s a lot of cheap talent.”

Well, don’t fans say that about their team every year? If their top 10 prospects and younger ML players can pan out, then they’ll provide cheap talent so you can afford to fill in the other pieces through free agency. The problem is having that talent pan out and being able to execute the plan. Of the guys you mentioned (from Brown to Pegeuro), there are question marks around every one of them.

tomemos
Guest
tomemos
4 years 3 months ago

Right, but that’s true about pitching too. “That’s a lot of cheap talent” is no more glib than Dave’s “the Giants have a built-in pitching factory.” There are any number of pitching prospects and free agents who didn’t do well in San Francisco; I don’t see a reason to be rosy about the prospects of cheap pitching but not cheap hitting.

Snow Leopard
Guest
Snow Leopard
4 years 3 months ago

Beating a dead horse; it’d be nice if the G-Men still had Zach Wheeler and Scott Barnes around …

Sabean Wannabe
Guest
Sabean Wannabe
4 years 3 months ago

Because…….. Scott Barnes is tearing it up? The same Scott Barnes who can’t even crack the Top 10 Indisans’ prospects list?

Snow Leopard
Guest
Snow Leopard
4 years 3 months ago

Ooooh sarcasm.

Barnes had a good year last year in AAA, and a good spring this year. He looks pretty much MLB ready. I’d be happy to have him as one of the options for the back end of the rotation. The more guys you have to chose from, the more likely one of them is to be what you are looking for.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
4 years 3 months ago

This definitely played into the decision, and there is some validity to it.
But they still shouldn’t have done it.
$22M per year plus a possibly vested option for 5-6 years of a 2nd-tier pitcher who has only been worth that kind of money once.
And they could have avoided a lot of risk by just waiting until the end of the season.
With all due respect to Wendy, it doesn’t add up.

kid
Member
kid
4 years 3 months ago

Signing pitchers – even the best ones – to long-term, expensive deals is rarely a good idea. Pitching ALWAYS comes into the league, and teams should only pay face value for it if they absolutely have no other alternative. Bats are simply better investments; they last longer and are more predictable.

fergie348
Guest
fergie348
4 years 3 months ago

Tell that to the Red Sox front office.. You have to draft good pitching because it’s rare to find top quality starters through free agency in the age ranges you want to find them. Teams are locking up their top starters earlier and earlier – I wonder why?..

Shane H
Guest
Shane H
4 years 3 months ago

Correction, Young homegrown bats are better investments much like 27 year old pitching studs. I don’t recall Dave Cameron throwing a tizzy when the Phils gave a similiar deal to a 32 year old Cliff Lee.

Not BJ Upton
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

I’m not worth the money!

Shane H
Guest
Shane H
4 years 3 months ago

100 million dollar contracts (as noted by Brian Kinney on Clubhouse Confidential) are rarely a good idea. That being said Cain meets many of Kinney’s standards as a potentially good 100 million dollar signing. Under thirty, no injury history (I’m sure MRI’s were done on his shoulder and elbow prior to this deal), Trending well statistically. Although he pitches at AT&T he’s pitched well away partcurally the last three years. He’s a Sabermetric nightmare due to his BABIP and HR/flyball rates but everything seems to be hanging steady. He has made a career out of outpitching periphials so after 6 years he’s gotta get the benefit of the doubt. More than anything he has been so durable. He makes every start and gives you 200 innings every year. He has a perfect pitcher’s build and seemingly sound mechanics. His fastball velocity has dropped but I’m not sure if he just paces himself more or is aiming for better control. I think If I’m the Giants I do this. Now the question is “What does this mean for Tim Lincecum?” Pehaps, see you later after 2013. I think I might prefer Cain going forward. TOUGH CALL

cpebbles
Guest
cpebbles
4 years 3 months ago

I see a couple of other pitchers listed above who made a career out of outpitching their peripherals for 6 years, and some who stopped outpitching their peripherals right after that.

themiddle54
Member
themiddle54
4 years 3 months ago

Well sure. Those names above were arbitrarily selected to generate exactly that response and support the thesis that Cain is 50/50 to earn his contract. Which he’s probably not.

elooie
Guest
elooie
4 years 3 months ago

I have to disagree with the thought process behind this. Madbum, Cain, and Timmy were all first round draft picks. Since then they have only drafted 2 pitchers in the first round. One flamed out and the other is pitching in the minors for the Mets. They have been drafting tons of position players the past couple years. If they are going to get any surplus value it will be out of those players over the next couple years. Other than Hembre as a closer they have no depth in the minors for pitching. Cain and Madbum are going to end up being the building blocks of this rotation for the next several years. If you are trying to say they can just bring anyone into the rotation and they turn into a All star well thats happened once and trying to rely on that in the future is crazy.

Schu
Member
Schu
4 years 3 months ago

I would spend the money on a bat as well, but I enjoyed the early-mid 2000s Rangers teams where every game seemed to be 17-13 slugfests… except no one seems to be able to win that way. That said, having more than two front line starters is a waste or resources. They already have Bumgarner, and Lincecum (through next season). The team needs balance, not a Ruben Amaro style hamstringing.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

Teams do not need balance. What they need is a rotation with a lot of front-line starters, as many as possible. Research has shown that offense does not matter in the playoffs. It is pitching and fielding that provides measurable competitive advantage. Getting rid of top pitching in order to get more offense only reduces your advantage and therefore not optimal strategy.

On top of that, when you have a great pitching staff, your offense is much more efficient at winning games, just look at Pythagorean and play around with what type of offense a team with a certain RA needs in order to win 90 games. For every 0.1 runs your RA rises, your offense needs to score 0.11 runs to win the same number of games, which means that you need that much less runs scored to win when you are one of the best teams in the majors in RA, which the Giants have been the past three seasons, top 3.

This is a big risk, but the Giants need to do this to keep up their competitive advantage. And it is pretty significant, for while it is not a sure thing, the top pitchers can deliver quality starts more often than other pitchers in the playoffs, and in those games, the teams win a large percentage of the time.

Richie
Member
Richie
4 years 3 months ago

Research has shown no such things as you quote. The Pythagorean theorem (baseball version) has shown that preventing runs is E-X-A-C-T-L-Y! as important as scoring runs. Not one bit more so. Research has likewise shown that topline starting pitching does not correlate one bit more with playoff success than topline hitting does.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
4 years 3 months ago

Whoa! “Offense has no value in the playoffs.” Show me one study that every proved that.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 3 months ago

Dave,

Is your contention that there is a 50/50 chance that Cain turns into a pumpkin based upon your cherry picked 8 starters that threw 1000 innings? If it is, that is terrible. First why choose a sample of 8, when you can look at all available pitchers. Second, why arbitrarily limit yourself to pitchers that have thrown 1,000 innings. Why is that relevant?

Shane H
Guest
Shane H
4 years 3 months ago

No it seems his contention is that Cain is a Pumpkin who has enjoyed Success due to Dave Righetti, AT&T, and wild luck. He’s been writing about Cain for years and how it takes BABIP eight years to normalize, how his HR/Flyball rate is unsustainable and how his xFIP is screaming regression to league norms. Lots of Saberists have been “fuddling” over Cain for years but Dave just can’t come to terms that Matt Cain is different. Look at his periphials they make no sense when compared to his ERA. But after six plus years of doing it, I call it skill.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
4 years 3 months ago

Coin flips often come up heads 6 times in a row.
Somebody is always going to exceed his peripherals 6 years in a row and somebody is always going to underperform his peripherals 6 years in a row.

Peter
Guest
Peter
4 years 3 months ago

Baltar:

Let’s say that, right after 2010, someone bearish on Cain looked at his more conventional stats (Wins, ERA, WHIP) and said that he got lucky based on his more esoteric sabermetric stats (I suppose this is what’s meant by “outperforming peripherals.”) The prediction, under this model, would be that Cain’s conventional stats would likely “fall to earth” in 2011. An alternate prediction—based on the hypothesis that one could “believe” Cain’s 2010 season—would be that his 2011 season would be quite similar to his 2010 season.

If you look at Cain’s 2011 season, in terms of the more conventional counting and rate stats (W, IP, H, BB, K, ERA, WHIP)…they are astonishingly similar to his 2010 stats. Two consecutive seasons being so similar along all of these statistics is an extremely low probability event, but it is indeed the prediction of the “Believe Cain’s 2010 season” model. Of course this could have been chance (that is a truism), but that does not mean it’s fair to deride evidence (of any strength) that goes against a hypothesis to a string of favorable coinflips.

In my opinion, it at least shifts the burden of proof back to the sabermetrician.

wjylaw
Member
wjylaw
4 years 3 months ago

So now who are they going to be forced to trade Lincecum to in order to get the hitting prospects (or developed hitters) they can’t otherwise acquire?

Bhaakon
Guest
Bhaakon
4 years 3 months ago

Forced? If we’ve learned anything over the last decade, it’s that Brian Sabean can not be forced to trade a major league star for prospects.

Schu
Member
Schu
4 years 3 months ago

Two months of Beltran for seven years of Wheeler? Thank you, come again!

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

The context here is the Giants were in first place and needed offense to get back in the playoffs and have a chance to repeat as World Champions. When you have that chance, you have to go for it. It didn’t work out. Time to move on.

Sabean Wannabe
Guest
Sabean Wannabe
4 years 3 months ago

Great point, Dr. B……and one I always make to others. People seem to forget the Giants were in first place at the time of the trade. They also forget 58 years……the amount of time between WS championships before 2010. “Tomorrow” doesn’t always get here.

Flags fly forever…..

Bhaakon
Guest
Bhaakon
4 years 3 months ago

Trading a prospect for a star player is not trading a star player for prospects. Actually, it’s precisely the opposite of it.

adohaj
Guest
adohaj
4 years 3 months ago

So for the last few paragraphs we can just insert any other pitchers name and it still makes sense.

Tyler
Guest
Tyler
4 years 3 months ago

Yea exactly. Dave grabs 8 pitchers, highlights their careers thus far, and saus there is a 50-50 shot this works out. Could’ve left out everything but the last couple of paragraphs.

kid
Member
kid
4 years 3 months ago

The rub with pitching is that we have this ideal picture of a starter; 25-30-years old (or whatever), durable, with a track record of consistency, excellence, health and sound mechanics… and when you add up all of those parts it equals a great pitcher. I agree with that… on paper. But the massive equalizer is the injury part, which can hit any pitcher at any time, beautiful mechanics or otherwise, regardless of how many of those ideal criteria they fill. It takes one sore elbow or tight shoulder to completely ruin a pitcher, and in many cases the guy is never the same. When I think about pitchers I don’t think “Matt Cain has the skill to pitch and avoid injury”, I think “Matt Cain has been lucky so far – it’s coming at some point”. Expecting a guy do hold up for more than two or three years simply isn’t a good idea.

soladoras
Member
soladoras
4 years 3 months ago

While I agree that the money could be more efficiently spent on FA position player talent, you have to

a) find hitters that will agree to sign to play in your park, and
b) have a GM that is able to discern what a good position player is.

The Giants have not thus far proven capable of A or B. Sabean’s MO has been dumpster diving for position players with very limited success, outrageously overpaying players like Rowand and Zito to deals that seemed ludicrous to everyone but Brian Sabean at the time, and on a positive note for a change, flipping prospects who end up washing out for good major league talent.

It’s a likely moderate overpay. Given the circumstances, this will at least allow the Giants to attempt to lure future position player talent to the club by dangling the idea that the team can win it’s division in the near future. It’s a weak division and no matter what happens at the back end of this contract, the Giants will be theoretically in the NL West race for the next two seasons with a core of Lincecum, Posey, Sandoval, Cain, and Bumgarner.

Eventually, hope against hope, the Giants will actually get a quality position player FA to return their phone calls (hello Lance Berkman twice).

PeterMolinari
Member
4 years 3 months ago

I did a thorough analysis of Cain starting with Peripherals and projecting out WAR..I used the B-R formula for WAR because I think it more accurately measures Cains ability to have a high RAR.

check out my numbers and analysis by clicking my name

Slugger27
Guest
Slugger27
4 years 3 months ago

we’re going on what, 4 threads with you doing this? please. stop.

soladoras
Member
soladoras
4 years 3 months ago

At least he’s too stupid to post a working link.

Nolan Fontana
Guest
Nolan Fontana
4 years 3 months ago

Cain’s mechanics and frame are as likely to hold up as ANY pitcher in baseball

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

I agree it’s a risky contract, but unless you are going to limit yourself to homegrown pitchers in the first 6 years of their MLB careers and dumpster dives, you are going to have to take some risks to keep or acquire good pitching. As a fan, I am happy. By the time this contract is done, Cain will have pitched 12+ years in a Giants uniform, for all practical purposes, his entire career.

Matt
Guest
Matt
4 years 3 months ago

Playing with B-R’s similar pitchers, you get this:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/friv/scomp_pitch.cgi?I=cainma01:Matt+Cain&st=int&age=-27&compage=26
(I’ll accept any caveats about similarity scores not being valid…still, fun and interesting.)

If you look at the average for the rest of his career, it’s closest to getting Billy Pierce. He was really good for the next five years. In any case, 30 WAR for 11 years is the average, which figures to be, what, probably 4-5 WAR for each of the next 5 years, then a drop-off.

In any case, that’s not the point of the article but I thought it was interesting.

Shankbone
Guest
Shankbone
4 years 3 months ago

Dave Cameron you are slipping man, you didn’t mention “kool aid” or “pixie dust” when referencing AT&T Park or Dave Righetti. Maybe you were in a rush to wrap up the distasteful task of analyzing Matt Cain. (For the uninitiated please review previous Fangraphs pieces on Giants pitching, you’ll see the references splashed around). It’s only been a couple of months since I saw you on Clubhouse Confidential citing Cain’s ability figure out “how to pitch in THAT park” (emphasis mine, but you said it), which is ignoring some pretty neutral splits for Cain (and other Giants pitchers as well for that matter).

In this article you launch straight into that again, “How good he’d perform in another set of circumstances – different ballpark, different division, different pitching coach, etc”. Well, fortunately for the Giants, they don’t have to figure that one out. He can keep his kool aid coach and his pixie dust surroundings. Problem avoided.

So you trot out 8 random examples of pitchers which have similarities to Cain – you know, Webb a lefty with bad mechanics, or Zambrano, a talented yet troubled pitcher. How about delving deeper into it – Giants fans arguing back and forth thought up comps such as Mike Mussina, Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan on the high end and Andy Benes on the low end. How about John Smoltz, a pitcher with very similar mileage on his arm at this point of his career as Cain who ended up injured… at age 33.

The Giants had to pay full boat on the contract. To maintain his WAR values, he will have to stay healthy and maintain his efforts. That won’t be easy, I’ll acknowledge that. “Cain’s future is something of a coin flip. He may or may not stay healthy.” – that quote applies to every single pitcher. I challenge you to find a younger and healthier pitcher coming onto the market to throw money at. From 2006 til now: 32, 32, 34, 33, 35 and 35 trips to the bump. He is as steady as a rock.

Everybody throws down Kevin Brown (way older), Mike Hampton (not nearly the performance record) or Barry Zito (Giants fans know the name) to emphasize the risk and downside of big contracts. Well, how about the names Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan. Ryan is a direct comp and Seaver not only personally loves Cain but has a similar pitching style. Don’t mention those guys names to Mets fans unless you have some time on your hands. The point being there is upside to be had in these contracts as well as the downside everybody always cites.

Further, he is young. And that is where you tilt the odds from your 50-50 quote. Late birthday (Oct 1, 1984), been in the majors from ages 21-26, this contract will handle 27-32 and possibly one more year which is getting into Philly Ace territory in the age department.

So your assertion that the Giants should address more pressing needs and spend the 20-25MM on hitters instead of Cain. This is ignoring the current needs of a club that has very little pitching ready to go (Wheeler wouldn’t be ready next year most likely either). Taking Cain out of that rotation opens up a giant hole. Fortunately for Giants fans this won’t be a scenario anymore, but the Dodgers could have easily thrown 7/150 or more at Cain next year and made a twin killing with that free agent scenario. The Giants need a bridge to their 18-19 year old talent (which is gathering at Augusta as we speak, baby!) and what better place to spend it then on their very own guy, a fan favorite, de facto captain, longest tenured Giant and anchor of the pitching staff. Who has the added bonus of driving sabermetrics folks insane with his xFIP.

Brian Sabean gets nitpicked all the time (sometimes with cause) and the ownership gets taken to task for their Rainy Day Funding ways (usually deserved). Today they both stepped up, and they should be congratulated. Further, in the real world of GMs and free agents, no way was this an overpay for Cain. The next year in the market he gets bid way over this value by big market teams looking for front line starters. Others have addressed that part already, I’ll just say I agree that while the Giants are good with reclamation projects they’ve been better with drafting top line starters with their first round draft picks. But if you want to see a pitching factory, you start paying attention to that Augusta staff next year.

One last thing and I’m off my soapbox: I would love to hear your ideas for free agent bats that Sabean can go grab. My view is he is changing his ways and embracing the dark arts of prospecting. The broke down vets are becoming fewer in number and the contracts are smaller and for less years. Teams lock up premium talent early – Kemp, McCutchen, Votto, all gone for example. The Giants don’t want to be on the middle market scrambling to overpay for mediocre bats. They spent their money wisely today.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

Wow, impressive length!

Wrong examples on locking up premium talent early, you listed position players, which I know that you know is less risky than pitchers. Verlander, Haren, Weaver, all the Tampa guys, King Felix, this is the norm, to sign your premier SP to a longer contract, covering up to their early 30’s.

Yes, risky, but even hitters carry some element of risk as well, maybe Fangraphs can do an indepth study of long-term signings in general, not just an 8 player sampling, but all deals for at least, say, 3+ years, and see how they turn out for the teams. I would suspect that there were a lot of duds in there, both hitters and pitchers. While pitchers are more injury prone, hitters just seem to lose it sooner, we have seen a number of pitchers who pitched well into their 40’s, but Barry Bonds is the only one really doing it at over 40, among position players, where maybe they have one last good season at 40-41, but not multiple good years.

More pertinent here would be an examination of the deals where the team signed their own potential free agents to a long-term deal and see how that went. Do teams know their own players better? Or is it just a coin flip as Dave suggests? Or is it just a bad deal in general, perhaps, for teams to do this?

Shankbone
Guest
Shankbone
4 years 3 months ago

My bad on that. I was asking for examples of hitters that the Giants could sign because I don’t see many good ones coming, I just wanted to note some recent examples of teams grabbing their talent before it can go to market. The Giants have pitchers, which do have more risk, but if they are top of the line pitchers, there is ultimately more reward to be found there as well.

Richie
Member
Richie
4 years 3 months ago

+1 on this post. Research courtesy of Matt Schwartz has shown that teams do qute a bit better when resigning their own. That ought to be accounted for here, too. If you factor in a ‘Schwartz effect’, how does the deal look then? (or did Wendy actually cover that in her article?)

Shankbone
Guest
Shankbone
4 years 3 months ago

In my Matt Cain haze I stated that Brandon Webb is a lefty. This is obviously wrong. He is a sinkerball pitcher, a different type of pitcher than Cain, which was what I was getting at. Cheers.

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 3 months ago

tl;dr

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 3 months ago

brandon webb didn’t blow out his arm, he developed shoulder bursitis and had a torn rotator cuff

Shane H
Guest
Shane H
4 years 3 months ago

Since he lost like ten miles an hour of gas even three years later lets just call it blowing his arm out.

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
4 years 3 months ago

I think it is a fair deal right now to the Giants only because of future contract inflation. There seems to be a general consensus going around that salaries are about to go through hyper-inflation once again because of the super-rich TV deals that the clubs are signing now. By locking in the contract now the Giants are guaranteed to keep at least one of the Cain/Lincecum duo and saving a tiny bit from the assumed rise in the contract if they had waited one more year.

I think this deal says more about what the Giants internally think about Lincecum’s future than anything it says about what the Giants think of Cain. This deal is not done now if they thought signing Lincecum to a long-term deal was a wise move.

MightySlacker
Guest
MightySlacker
4 years 3 months ago

Where does this hitter exist? What free agent coming this year or next do you cross you fingers and is a “safer” bet for a contract that like this? Better yet, what mega contract signed in the last 3 or 4 years has a better shot of living up to the contract? Jayson Werth? Carl Crawford?

If you don’t give this contract to Cain, you don’t give it to anyone. Everything you wrote above can apply to any pitcher that’s ever played the game, there as been absolutely nothing to suggest he’ll become an injury risk or his production will drop. If it’s a risk, I’d like to see a safer bet.

The Giants currently have young position players coming soon, and no starting pitching depth. 4 potential starters Sandoval, Posey and Belt and Crawford will be relatively cheap for the future, with Brown and Panik coming, that leaves a couple OF spots, or just one if you move Belt to OF, Posey to 1B and one of the C prospects pans out. Regardless of what happens with Tim, you still have 2 Aces in Cain and Bumgarner for the next 5 years minimum. If you let cain leave, there’s a good chance in 2 years the Giants would have Bumgarner and 4 empty rotation spots, but hey, they’d have a hitter

xeifrank
Member
4 years 3 months ago

Yeah, big overpay. Take a look at the Matt Cain skill set comparables.

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 3 months ago

how’s a 4-year downward trend in FIP, xFIP, and SIERA for a skillset?

xeifrank
Member
4 years 3 months ago

Meet John Danks.

Pat
Guest
Pat
4 years 3 months ago

Dave,
No mention of Cain’s excellent postseason performance? The Giants have a world series championship thanks to his arm. Once a player shows he can perform when it counts their values rises and it should. Some folks compare Cain’s contract to CJ Wilson. Really? CJ Wilson was putrid in the postseason. 4 starts, not one of them of quality last year. Matt Cain is quality. You say postseason is a small sample size. True, but that sample matters more than any other. It’s the difference between rings and empty fingers. Paying big bucks like this for a pitcher is obviously risky. If there ever was a pitcher that did not fit the mold of risky, it’s Matt Cain. He’s a Hall of Famer. Hall of Famers who give their team 200+ innings of great pitching get paid.

Richie
Member
Richie
4 years 3 months ago

How about some research on your part showing that post-season performance does carry over? Or showing that Matt Cain is a Hall of Famer (sheesh).

wat
Guest
wat
4 years 3 months ago

U mad, Richie?

Richie
Member
Richie
4 years 3 months ago

grrrrrrr!

(probably too late for any attention, tho’)

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
4 years 3 months ago

Give me a break! There are easily 20 players who were the difference between the Giants winning the series and not. Should they have locked them all up for over a hundred million bucks?

jpg
Member
jpg
4 years 3 months ago

What I don’t understand is why they had to blow Cain out of the water. Was he really going to turn down 5 for $85 – $90 million? Considering Verlander, Weaver, Felix, C.J Wilson all signed deals in that range I’m guessing he would probably taken it. Sure he could have gotten more if he waited it out and hit free agency, but so would Verlander and Weaver and the others. They chose security in exchange for maximizing earning potential. If no such “home town discount” were available then they should have played out the year and dared someone to match the $22 mil per offer. If he stays great. If he leaves you reallocate the funds and fill other holes. The whole point of locking up a young player and assuming risk is that the surplus value pays off in the end. The Giants essentially paid full retail when they held the leverage of still having him under team control for this season.

Richie
Member
Richie
4 years 3 months ago

Who’s Cain’s agent? (don’t know, just wondering if it is you-know-who)

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

No it is not Scott Boras. His agent recently merged with another group of agents, the same outfit that represents Buster Posey.

Believe me, it didn’t take Scott Boras to get this done. Cain’s agent would have had to be a complete incompetent for him to get anything less.

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

The answer is yes, he would have turned down 5/90. This is not about what pitchers have gotten in the past. It’ about what they will get in the very near future. Cain and his agents aren’t stupid. Yes, he would be taking on a small risk of getting injured this year, but with the new Dodger ownership coming online and only 2 other comparable FA pitchers available, Grienke and Hamels, he was looking at easily getting 6/150 or even more as a FA.

Mark my word. If Hamels and Grienke hit the open market next offseason, Cain’s contract will look like a bargain!

jpg
Member
jpg
4 years 3 months ago

You’re probably right I just think it’s a bit much since they aleady have two ace quality guys in the fold. One is about to get the richest deal in history once he hits free agency in a couple of years and the other is still under team control for a while but will probably get a big extension to buy out his arb years and a few FA years. That’s going to be a lot of dough. It’s like a say below, there are few teams in better position to absorb losing an arm like Cain’s. I totally understand where Giants fans are coming from on this but I probably would have gambled and played out the year.

Bhaakon
Guest
Bhaakon
4 years 3 months ago

You shouldn’t be comparing Cain to guys who publicly took less than they could have, had multiple years to go before free agency, and/or have suffered significant enough injuries in the past to put the fear of god into them. This was Cain’s walk year, he’d already said he was willing to test the market after a series of very team-friendly extensions, and he’s been healthy as a horse since that freak stress fracture in A-ball. The Giants had no leverage.

jpg
Member
jpg
4 years 3 months ago

What your saying makes no sense. For one any deal he signed in the past was to avoid arbitration. If he had signed a ” team friendly” deal it would have bought out at least one FA year. Secondly, saying the Giants had no leverage is a massive overstatement. The Giants had him under contract for 2012, already have two other guys who are top of the rotation type talents, and recently won a WS. Zero leverage? Please. The Giants had all the leverage.

Bhaakon
Guest
Bhaakon
4 years 3 months ago

Any deals he signed in the past are in the past. Cain already has six years of service time, so this deal only covers his FA years. Therefore, comparing it to contracts that bought out two or more arbitration years is fallacious.

Second, the Giants had no leverage because they had nothing to hold over Cain. Having other good pitchers and winning a world series does nothing to force Cain to sign. It puts the team in a better position to let him walk, but it doesn’t give them any ammunition to temper his salary demands. The exception being the one remaining year under contract, but, like I said, Cain has been so healthy that he probably felt that was a trivial risk (correctly or not). So did the Giants have to pay him? No. But they didn’t have any leverage to drive Cain’s asking price down either.

BrianJ
Guest
BrianJ
4 years 3 months ago

Pretty sure the only thing I’m getting out of this is a great example of cherry picking.

themiddle54
Member
themiddle54
4 years 3 months ago

Bonds is the only Giant to hit more than 26 HR in the last 10 years. If Sabean signs a bat–some guy who hit 30-35 HR the past few years–he’s paying for 30-35 HR production on the open market. That means likely paying a premium. In his park, Sabean cannot reasonably expect to get the right return on that premium. He’s gonna pay for 35 HR and get 22. Buying a hitter in SF means putting the player in an environment that works against his strengths rather than with them.

On the other hand, if you pay a premium or an overpay on a pitcher in AT&T–guy with a good FIP, high GB rate, strong peripherals, durable arm entering his late twenties–you’re putting (or in this case keeping) him in an environment that makes him even more valuable, because it supports his strengths rather than working against them.

pft
Guest
pft
4 years 3 months ago

I look at his declining velocity the past few years and wonder how effective he will be with a 89-90 MPH FB.

Who knows, maybe it works out for them. You can not win w/o assuming risks. Supposedly teams know their own pitchers better than those who sign FA pitchers let go by other teams.

wat
Guest
wat
4 years 3 months ago

Velo declining, performance increasing. I’d say he’s just fine with 89-90 mph fastballs.

Shane H
Guest
Shane H
4 years 3 months ago

I know his average velocity has gone down 5 of the last 6 years but I wonder if he has just “learned to pitch” more than “throw”. I’m wondering if he has close to the same gas but it just does not show up that way because he is holding back.

jdbolick
Member
Member
4 years 3 months ago

Would this column have been written if not for Cain’s horrendous run support and therefore relative lack of wins? His rate stats and peripherals argue for him being a truly elite pitcher, and Cameron presents nothing to indicate any level of risk beyond that attributable to any starting pitcher. Frankly, I expect better than this from Dave. This seems like a “need to write something about Cain’s extension but don’t have any real ideas” faux-opinion piece.

xeifrank
Member
4 years 3 months ago

Which rate stats/peripherals are elite? Good, yes. Elite, no. His rate stats and peripherals make him Shaun Marcum, Daniel Hudson, Jake Peavy, Hiroki Kuroda or John Danks.

Cain last two years.
K/9: 7.2
BB/9: 2.51
GB/FB: 0.91

Kellin
Guest
Kellin
4 years 3 months ago

The guys with a WOBA against better than Matt Cain’s ..262 last year:

Verlander
Kershaw
Hamels
Halladay

seems like an elite list to me

Kellin
Guest
Kellin
4 years 3 months ago

Also, why in the world would you post the GB/FB ratio as a qualifier for a pitcher being elite, when the same pitcher is know for an unbelievably low FB/HR ratio? For Cain it’s not a negative at all to produce fewer GB’s, whether it’s all park factor or not he turns FB’s into outs.

Rick Reusch-Roll
Guest
Rick Reusch-Roll
4 years 3 months ago

In Cain’s case, continuing to focus on the typically predictive rate stats for pitching success just promulgates the disparity in true results and perceived skill. He achieves success differently than these textbook stat forays will ever predict. I think we ought to have long passed by quoting these numbers as an accurate depiction Cain’s skill.

In watching games, it is abundantly clear to me that Cain is elite. Just because its not purely through K’s and GB’s is an overly simplified argument that doesn’t address the actual player we’re talking about.

Tom
Guest
Tom
4 years 3 months ago

So in this tremendous analysis of ERA-, FIP-, xFIP- and the park he plays in… the conclusion is it’s an iffy contract because pitchers get injured?

Almost all of the bad examples involved health issues, all the good ones are good health… so does the ERA- really factor in or is that just fancy window dressing for an analysis that seems like: “depends on whether he stays healthy or not”

Also doesn’t fWAR and the “-” stats factor in the park? And if this is a significant factor wouldn’t the opposite effect apply to hitters… pay market value for a neutral performance would mean lower performance at SF? Yet you only seem to hear this argument made in one direction.

Brian Sabean
Guest
Brian Sabean
4 years 3 months ago

Call 9-1-1, I got raped by this contract!!!!

Sleight of Hand Pro
Guest
Sleight of Hand Pro
4 years 3 months ago

cant thumbs down enough…

mister_rob
Guest
mister_rob
4 years 3 months ago

I love how Dave continues this theory of his that the Giants can just accumulate blah pitchers and get the most out of them based on his few examples
You can do that with just about any team. Watch….
Im a Cubs fan. The Cubs got Dempster off the scrap heap. They’ve recently got better than expected years out of people like Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelany, and Randy Wells. THey made Ted Lilly look better too. Maybe the Cubs should never spend big money on a pitcher either

themiddle54
Member
themiddle54
4 years 3 months ago

Including Dave Duncan Black Magic, which has failed more often than it has worked.

Terry Benish
Guest
Terry Benish
4 years 3 months ago

You’ve been down on Lincecum since he was in college and completely wrong about that so far. If you keep plunking the same note, you’re bound to be right at some point.

For a long time you touted Brandon Morrow as a superior pick. You and Chuck Armstrong.

I Agree Guy
Guest
I Agree Guy
4 years 3 months ago

Uhhhhh, what?

Astromets
Guest
Astromets
4 years 3 months ago

You say: “In reality, Cain’s future is something of a coin flip. He may or may not stay healthy. He may or may not continue to prevent hits on balls in play”

This is the point of your article and why you wouldn’t have signed Cain? Because his future is uncertain? Every single major league player has an uncertain future. Sure, there are guys who are clearly getting worse, and one could be pretty certain their future is bleak. But any young pitcher or hitter could get any crazy injury and/or stop performing up to the ridiculous standards they had set for themselves. Every long term contract is a risk, so you have shown no reason why one for Matt Cain specifically wouldn’t be worth your money.

Jesse
Guest
Jesse
4 years 3 months ago

Wow, this was an awful article, with close to zero validity.
Congrats to the Giants and Cain, he earned it.

Rick Reusch-Roll
Guest
Rick Reusch-Roll
4 years 3 months ago

I feel that it is inadequate to analyze this deal with the select comparables here. And it seems to me in reading between the comparables, it actually favors this deal for Cain. I guess I see him as on the healthier side of this group, with perhaps the best make-up of any of them. To any viewer, Cain is obviously an elite gameplanner, regardless of his only above-average stuff. I think that actually bodes well for him as he ages.

In a value-added sense, the Giants were able to capitalize on the opportunity to lock up this franchise’s current generational leader through his elite prime and without many late-age years. It seems to me a wise way to organize the roster construction going forward.

Collaterally, I’d rather see the Giants lock up Bumgarner than Lincecum hereafter.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
4 years 3 months ago

All you had to say is “he’s 27, and he’s a pitcher”. That’s why you shouldn’t give him this much money.

CJ
Guest
CJ
4 years 3 months ago

Barry Zito outperformed his FIP for 1300+ innings over the first six years of his career, by about half a run. That changed.

[note: Mr. Zito’s ERA and FIP converged, but he was just bad. Not saying that Cain will turn into Zito, especially since Cain is getting better re: FIP].

Yes, Mr. Cain probably has a skill that prevents his ERA from coming up to meet his FIP. But to say that at, bang, 1000 innings that it’s a dead-lock, money-in-the-bank guarantee? Seems a little premature.

AA
Guest
AA
4 years 3 months ago

Not all of the comparisons are really appropriate. Peavy had/has scary mechanics and got hurt. Zito too has poor mechanics and has likely seen severely decreased velocity as a result, not to mention playing in Oakland all those years. Zambrano is a head case.

Cain’s tERA numbers are much closer to his ERA results than his FIP, and especially xFIP. Part of this is his ability to induce popups, which FIP is really poor at calculating.

Matt
Guest
Matt
4 years 1 month ago

Good article, but Beckett has been injury prone his whole career and Peavy was always small and prone to fragility issues so I think they don’t work as comparables on that basis. Also, Cain’s career has already had more sustained success than the rollercoaster ride of zambrano’s. I don’t know about Webb per se, but I’d say it’s a lot better than a 50/50 proposition on that basis.

SF 55 for life
Member
SF 55 for life
4 years 1 month ago

Why I would haven’t signed Matt Cain . . . while he does throw Perfect Games he doesn’t throw xPerfectGames

lol
Guest
lol
4 years 1 month ago

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

question
Guest
question
4 years 1 month ago

is that you, Krukow?

Worse Than Matt Cain
Guest
Worse Than Matt Cain
4 years 1 month ago

Matt Cain. Better than you.

Perfect Game
Guest
Perfect Game
4 years 1 month ago

He saw this message board before he threw his perfect game. Glad the giants offered him the money now?

Next Joke
Guest
Next Joke
4 years 1 month ago

Eat Crow

Mikem
Guest
Mikem
4 years 1 month ago

Cant wait for the follow up article

lol
Guest
lol
4 years 1 month ago

lolololol

Richard Trickle
Guest
Richard Trickle
4 years 1 month ago

Oh boy, one perfect game. That sure makes him the best pitcher in all of baseball now, right? Hurp derp pay the man 20 billion dollars, he had one amazing game!

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