What the Heck is wrong with Matt Cain?!
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain is currently 5-5 with a 4.85 ERA. He has struck out 102 batters in 111.1 innings of work. His WHIP is a respect 1.14 and yet those aren’t the numbers we have come to expect from the Giants ace. He career ERA is a sparkling 3.38 and only once has he finished a season with an ERA above 4.00. That season was 2006, it was Cain’s first full year in the Bigs and he went 13-12 with a 4.15 ERA. Not bad for twenty-one year old rookie.
Cain is now twenty-eight and coming off of the best season of his career. His 16 wins, five loses, 2.79 ERA, 193 strikeouts, 68 earned runs and 1.04 WHIP were all season best totals. Through his Friday’s home start against the hated Dodgers in which he was torched for eight earned runs in just 2.1 innings his negative totals are already inching closer. Cain as mentioned before already has five loses. Granted a five lose season by a pitcher with 30 plus starts is a pretty amazing feat. This season in 18 starts Cain has already given up 60 earned runs and 34 walks, compared to totals of 68 earned and 51 walks in 32 starts last season.
Cain is a very well respected player throughout the league. He has made three All-Star teams and won two World Series rings. But something is definitely not right. He has given up 16 homers already this year. He gave up 21 last season. Hence, his HR/9 rate is 1.3, his career average is 0.8. His BB/9 rate is 2.7, which is up from 2.1 in 2012. His career average is 3.0 but remember young starters a very walk prone and Cain was not exempt. Through his first four full seasons his rate was 3.6. The three years that followed his rate dipped to 2.4. Again this season that rate is 2.7? Are we seeing a leveling off of Cain. Meager decimals behind periods may not move oceans but considering his homer runs allowed and walks are up Cain is showing signs inconsistency. His batter against numbers are not that shocking compared to his career averages. The OPS is up this year to .689, it was .635 in 2012 and his career average .659. The one weird number is Cain’s batting average against ball hit into play (or BAbip). This year his BAbip is .258, last season it was .264 and his career total is .268.
So what the heck is wrong with Matt Cain? Is he to old? It has been said that most baseball players are in their prime at age twenty-seven. You take that however you want. That statement is mostly true when are dealing with hitters, pitchers tend to peak in their 30’s. Or do they? Fellow rotation mates Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum career’s have taken similar paths. Zito was turned twenty-nine during his first season in San Francisco in 2007. He went to post career worst numbers that year and then again in 2008. He has never been remotely close to the player he was in Oakland. Lincecum posted a 2.74 ERA at age twenty-seven and 5.18 ERA at age twenty-eight. This season he is 4-9 with a 4.66 ERA.