A harsh mistress she is, this Lady Baseball, a harsh mistress indeed. Matt Cain threw a stinker today, and the feebleness of our offense was cruelly exposed by an efficient Jason Marquis. Here I was, gettin' all excited and everything, and then we go out there and look thoroughly limp.
Starters are going to have their rough spots--I can live with that. And Cain has gotten the results so far, posting quality starts and bagging a pair of W's. But I have to say that my worry-wart is coming to the surface, and some disturbing trend lines are emerging. I know, the Small Sample Size Demon is screeching at me, like I hope he screeches at all of you, but there are some concerns, mind you, some nagging doubts, some niggling niggles, to wit:
- 2006 K/9 8.45
- 2007 K/9 7.34
- 2008 K/9 7.69
- 2009 so far, strikeouts per 9 IP, 6.23
All the projection systems (courtesy Matt's FanGraphs page) have him getting at least 7.52 K/9 for 2009, this is across the board, CHONE, Bill James, Marcel, and ZiPS. To the stat-geeks, Matt is underperfoming on a crucial indicator. Another "peripheral" that has me niggled is one I've talked about a lot, and that is Matt's ability to induce GROUND BALLS. Let's take a look at his percent of all balls in play that are ground balls:
- 2006 35.6
- 2007 39.4
- 2008 33.2
- 2009 so far, GB% is 31.6
Today he faced 27 batters, threw 102 pitches, and managed only 3 groundballs and 3 strikeouts. I suppose the plus side is that he threw six innings--he didn't implode in the third and walk away with one of those Zitovian 2007-08 lines. And, of course, it is only his 5th start, he's got a couple dozen more to go this season before a jury can weigh in on the evidence. One thing is for sure, he's throwing his curveball (CB) and changeup (CH) more than ever, and relying less on his fastball (FB):
- 2006 72.0% FB 14.1% CB 05.8% CH
- 2007 64.5% FB 08.6% CB 10.4% CH
- 2008 65.4% FB 10.2% CB 10.6% CH
- 2009 59.4% FB 15.5% CB 11.7% CH
The rest of the time (12.7% career), Matt throws a slider. His average fastball velocity is down as well, from a high in 2006 of 93.2 mph, to a current 91.5 mph. I can't say I always enjoy my time on FanGraphs--it has a way of shoving unpleasant facts down your throat--but I sure learn a lot. I'm going to say "it's May, it's May, the lusty month of May" and assume Matt will throw a great start next time out, and that his performance will creep up to ever-higher levels of studliness as the year goes on. Regression to the mean, my arse.
And Young Mr. Sandoval smoked a dinger, so there's still some Joy in Mudville.