In a Run Support League of His Own

Anyone familiar with my work, be it here or elsewhere, can tell you that there is no pitcher I have covered more in my time as an analyst than Matt Cain. The Giants righty has been a favorite of mine since entering the big leagues in 2005 and I have always felt somewhat sorry for the guy. See, Cain generally pitches quite well though it fails to matter due to the poor quality of the Giants team he plays for. Quite simply, they do not score runs for the guy.

In his young career, Cain has a 3.87 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 1.26 WHIP, right around league average 72.0% LOB rate, K/BB above 2, opposing BA of .229, and BABIP of .276. Despite these very solid numbers his career record is a measly 26-35.

Last year, Cain allowed a maximum of two earned runs in 18 of his 32 starts, yet managed to go 5-7 with 6 no-decisions in those games. The bullpen blew five of his potential wins as well, giving him one of the, if not the, best 7-16 seasons in history. This year has been slightly better in that department: In 11 of 17 starts he has allowed a maximum of three earned runs and gone 4-1 in those games. Still, six no-decisions in games of that quality is a bit high.

In 2005, of all starting pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, his 2.53 RS/9 (run support per nine innings) was the lowest in both the NL and MLB. In 2006 it evened out a bit, to the tune of 5.10 RS/9, right around the middle of the pack. Last year, his 3.51 RS/9 was again the worst in the NL and MLB. And this year, his 4.10 RS/9 ranks the 11th lowest in the NL. All told, over the last three calendary years, Cain has received 4.10 runs of support per nine innings pitched, the lowest of anyone.

Second place in that span? Why, Ian Snell of the Pirates… at 4.56 RS/9. Cain has received just about a half-run per nine innings less of support than his closest “competitor.” The average run support for pitchers qualifying for inclusion was 5.01, meaning Cain is supported almost a full run less per nine innings than the average starting pitcher in this span. And, with the Giants seemingly having no idea what they are doing from an offensive standpoint, there is very little to suggest something like this could drastically change. By the time Cain can hit the free agent market he could be a heavily coveted pitcher with a career W-L to date around 20-30 games under .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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I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if at some point over the next few years, Cain pitches a no-hitter and gets tagged with a loss for his efforts. Tough to hit, issues his share of walks, plays on a bad team…if there’s a pitcher to bet on for doing that, it would have to be him.