Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Relentless Cain gets it done

Matt Cain continued his studly ways in Cincinnati tonight, tossing a 7-hit shutout against a good-hitting team (.351 wOBA 1st in NL). Not only that, he laced an RBI single up the middle in the 8th inning to score Buster Posey and make it 3-0. What a great ballplayer we have! Juan Uribe golfed a home run in the 4th inning to start the scoring and give Cain the only run he needed. Bengie Molina rose from the dead to stroke an RBI single just ahead of Matt's to make it a 2-run lead.

Cain came into the game with a 0.996 WHIP, and with 9 baserunners tonight (7 hits, 2 walks), his 1.000 mark puts him 3rd in the NL behind Ubaldo Jimenez and Adam Wainwright. Matt Cain doesn't overwhelm you. He doesn't have Lincecum's electricity--or his hardware. He doesn't have the "swing-through" stuff that Jonathan Sanchez flashes. But he has 85-1/3 innings, 5th in the NL, behind Roy Halladay (93), Adam Wainwright (88), Dan Haren (87-2/3), and Ubaldo Jimenez (87-1/3). He just keeps it coming with all his pitches for as long as he can. He was throwing 93-mph fastballs in the 9th! Cain gives up a lot of fly balls, and you'd think that would hurt him in the Reds' ballpark, but it didn't tonight. The Reds seemed like they got some good swings but not solid contact. Matt Cain is only 25, but he pitches like a grizzled veteran. He was so bloody calm all evening, mixing it up, trusting his arsenal, hitting his spots, just exuding confidence and control. The guys made all the plays behind him, too. Our fielding has been exceptional, don't you think? That has to help a pitching-dependent team.

Final line: 34 batters faced, 116 pitches (78 strikes), 7 hits, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts, Game Score 76.

Here's a stat line to enjoy, Buster's first 10 games in 2010:  .444/.487/.556




Anonymous said...

The fly balls are a concern, but they aren't blasts as much as they are lazy flyouts. Cain needs to strike out the opposing pitcher every game. It's a joke how often he goes to 2 and 3 ball counts vs the pitcher. Until he does so, he won't rise to the next level.

Zo said...

The next level??? I'm not sure how much higher he could rise from his recent performances. He is a power pitcher - he will give up some long flys from time to time. NL pitchers are not easy outs these days, similar to Matt himself. His biggest problem (at least recently) is playing for a team that almost always refuses to support him with some offense. Hopefully, that will not continue.

Bob said...

You should be very proud of your boy, MC, you've raised him well.
There's been a definite improvement in the team chemistry lately. Should the credit go to Posey?

Anonymous said...

Matt Cain has the second worst FB/GB ratio in the NL. He needs to cut down on the fly balls because they will start falling soon.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I used to be more concerned about Cain's GB%, but I'm less so. Yes, some of those FBs will be HRs, but lots of great pitchers gave up a lot of HRs and still won (Schilling for example, Jim Hunter, Jamie Moyer, etc.). I think keeping the walks down matters more and I'm more concerned with the low strikeout numbers than the low GBs. Fly balls make outs more frequently than ground balls, but fly balls that become hits are more damaging. It's a balancing act. If you keep the walks down you don't hurt yourself. I'll live with 1 fewer K per game if there is 1 fewer BB as well!

Matt's excellent FIP (3.31, 10th in NL), is a run higher than the league leader Roy Halladay (2.32). More revealing is his xFIP ("expected" FIP, based on "expected" outcomes of all the types of events a pitcher controls), which sits at 4.50 right now. That suggests he's had some luck with batted balls (good fielders? good home park?) and he'll probably see his ERA and FIP trend toward his career means (3.40, 3.84) as the season progresses.

Nontheless, he's pitching magnificently, and we should worry less and enjoy more. Lots of guys learn how to pitch and get outs even if they don't rack up the gaudy numbers. And guys get better, too, and I think that's happening with Cain. Hell, he's only 25. His next start will be his 150th. It's a great combination of youth and experience!

Anonymous said...

I love watching him pitch, but I still worry about:

Hits to pitchers.
Walks to pitchers.
The need for multiple defensive saves per game due to excessive fly balls.
10+ pitch abs due to multiple fouls.

One or two more ks per game that would coincide with a couple fewer fly balls would result in him joining the elite pitchers of the game. And if it just so happens that those ks come vs pitchers, he solves all of his problems at once. His FIP comes down if the pitchers manage to place less contact.

But yes, he is pitching magnificently. I just want this to last his whole career. He gets better every year, but there is always room for improvement.