Baseball Prospectus is one of those fee sites, and they offer for free only a small portion of their work. Checking the Numbers: The Cain Mutiny by Eric Seidman is a tantalizing piece, but you only get to read the first page. He talks about the ERA-FIP split we've kicked around before. Matt's ERA is very low, but his FIP is high. In other words, he's putting guys on but not letting them score. Is this indicative of declining skills and good luck? Or is Matt just stepping up when the situtation is tough and getting the big outs? I don't know the answer, but I'm willing to put my faith in Matt's gnarly clutchness and savvy gamerissitude. "Strand rate" is the key number here: the league average, as Mr. Seidman points out, is about 72%. Matt's at 89% so far this year. He's likely to regress, of course, but what does that say? Here's Seidman's take (emphasis mine):
From 2005-08, only an Alfonseca-sized handful of pitchers have exceeded a strand rate of 80 percent, with Johan Santana's 82.6 percent in 2007 topping the chart. Suffice to say, the likelihood that Cain's impressive rate will hold is extremely low. Even with that caveat, such a high rate of marooning baserunners indicates an ability to bear down when runners reach base. Unfortunately, too many neglect to ask why or how this has occurred, simply reaching this point and dismissing the hurler's performance as a fraud. Keep in mind that over the last ten years the league-average slash line with the bases empty is .260/.322/.419, compared to .270/.336/.426 with runners on. Cain has been spitting in the face of those numbers so far this season:
Bases PA AVG/ OBP/ SLG BABIP
Empty 134 .339/.403/.479 .402
Men On 110 .141/.236/.228 .145
Alas, you have to pay for the rest. Food for thought, though, don't you think? The St. Louis Cardinals are currently 8th in the NL in runs scored (217), 6th in the league in OPS (.750), and are playing .596 ball. That ought to be a nice test for our studly young righty.