Sunday, August 1, 2010

7-2/3: zip, zilch, nada

Matt Cain threw an outstanding ballgame (Game Score 77), and with a little bit o' bloomin' luck might have finished the 8th. As it was, newcomer Javier Lopez got an easy out and the Giants went to the dugout up 2-0 and smelling a sweep. Brian Wilson came out for the 9th after a two-game hiatus due to back spasms and collected the save. The Giants swept the Dodgers on national TV to complete a terrific weekend of baseball.

Cain threw a season-high 124 pitches to 27 batters to get those 23 outs. He allowed only 4 hits, all singles, and had 1 walk against 7 strikeouts. He was able to throw all of his pitches for strikes and that kept the Dodgers guessing. Matt got 22 called strikes, 17 swinging strikes, 20 foul strikes, and 19 in-play strikes, and induced 10 ground balls to only 5 fly balls. He also helped himself out by picking off Matt Kemp in the 2nd. Once again he was matched up with the other team's ace and once again he and the team responded.

It was a great win for the club, and a personal milestone for Cain as he finally logs a "W" vs. LA. The Giants are tied with the Padres with 61 wins, the most in the NL. The Giants have scored 0, 1, or 2 runs for Cain in 55 of his 159 starts, and he's 7-38 in those games. (Here's a more detailed breakdown if you want to see some freaky numbers.) Assigning wins to pitchers, when a win is so clearly a team stat, seems a silly custom to me, but that's how it is. The GIANTS got a great performance by their 25-year-old veteran and turned that into a win.


Here's some notes on Cain and the Dodgers:

9 Sep 2007: Giants beat LA 4-2, Cain ND despite 7 IP and 2 ER
21 Sep 2008: Giants beat LA 1-0 in 11, Cain ND despite 6 shutout IP
27 Sep 2008: Giants lose 2-1, Cain L despite 7 IP and 2 ER
15 Apr 2009: Giants lose 5-4, Cain ND despite 6 IP and 2 ER

In six starts in 2008, Matt had a 2.79 ERA vs. LA but was 0-3.

They haven't all been stinkers.


Anonymous said...

Simply fabulous game. Now let's cover some Rox with Paper!

Greg Wurz said...

That chart is sick. in 2007 the Giants scored 2 runs or less for Matt 14 times! he was 1-13 in those games with a 3.45 ERA! for the season he was 7-16 with a 3.65 ERA. Which means he was 6-3 in the decisions he had in which the Giants scored 3 or more runs for him! Man I love this guy but he can not catch a break!

JC Parsons said...

I knew everybody would go off on run support, yada, yada. We all know Matt's a tough luck guy but when it goes on for as long as it has against the doggers, that can really get into your head. Truthfully, I think it was getting to Matt, as you account many of his starts were good but NOTHING like yesterday. So, this is NOT a criticism of Matt, it is praise. The game is so much more than "bad luck" and he deserves credit for a GREAT job and not just regressing to a mean. Sometimes it feels like a "W" does belong to the pitcher.
Way to go, Matt. You are well on the way to being a truly great Giant.

M.C. O'Connor said...

When a good pitcher has a weird record (like 0-8 against a team) there's a great deal of bad luck ("flukiness") involved. Sure, the Dodgers had their way with Matt a few times, after all, they were a pretty good club from '06 and '09, with good hitters who were patient and liked fastballs. So there's that. But the record showed the weak-hitting Giants also failed to help their young pitcher, too.

We have this tendency as fans to assume there is some kind of moral failing on the part of a player who doesn't perform in some "clutch" situation or to some invented "standard." Sports-writers are particularly bad about this. I'm glad the GIANTS won, and I'm happy for Cain so he doesn't have to spend the rest of his career hearing about the odd quirks in his record instead of the successes.

The Dodgers have 4 playoff appearances in the previous 6 seasons. They WERE the power in the West. It looks like those days might be over.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I like Grant's (McCovey Chronicles) take on it:

Matt Cain: 14 starts in his career against the Dodgers, 0 wins. It was of the most ridiculous stats in baseball. Don’t even look for hyperbole in that statement. When a pitcher as good as Cain goes winless in 14 of anything -- night games, games in May, away games -- it’s a total fluke. Fluky fluky fluke fluke. He doesn’t lack some sort of viscous rival-pummeling gland next to his inner ear. In 2008, Cain had a 2.79 ERA against the Dodgers in six starts. No wins. Fluke.

And wretched offense. But we’ll focus on the fluke part for now. It was The Stat That Must Not Be Named around these parts. It meant nothing. Cain is good. Cain is fantastic. Cain can be my wingman any time. It meant nothing.

The bit about lacking a "rival-pummeling gland" is particularly good.

Brother Bob said...

Let's not forget to give Renteria some credit for being the offensive hero. This is exactly the sort of blind-pig-finding-an-acorn moment that we will need down the stretch.
If Cain had been 8-0 career vs LA would that have been a fluke? I think not.
No hard feelings, Doggers, I wish you well for the next few games. (Nah, fuck you, Doggers, just beat the Padres.)

M.C. O'Connor said...

Yes, if your team is .500 or well below against another team and one pitcher is 8-0, yes, there's some "flukiness" invovlved. Pitching win-loss stats involve a hell of a lot more than just the pitcher. Take a look at Kirk Rueter--he enjoyed some serious run support (Bonds, Kent, etc.) and is "the winning-est lefty" in SF history. I like ol' Kirk, but do we really think he was one of the best pitchers ever to wear orange and black? Put him on the 2007 Giants and see what he does.

Pitching wins is great for the backs of baseball cards but not the best indicator of skill or pitcher caliber. Wins are what teams do, not individuals.

JC Parsons said...

Without any stats I can tell you that Matt has rarely been the pitcher he should have been against the doggers. It would be "anecdotal" and probably of no "empirical value" yet I'm confident in my assessment. The stats back it up too (ERA is almost a run higher, BB/K ratio is much worse).
These guys aren't machines subject to random successes. They are subject (as we all are!) to "moral failings" and conversely, to magnificent accomplishments of character. I know sportwriters love to talk about that, but that doesn't make it untrue.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I never said it was "untrue." I merely lack the hubris to assume I can correctly identify it and assign it a proper explanation. I accept that athletes are human and subject to variation in performance and ability.

I make the general assumption that all athletes are trying hard to perform their best. I cannot know if this is true or not, and I certainly cannot rely on the Bruce Jenkins' of the world for that information. I am simply unwilling to use armchair psychology to diagnose people I watch on TV and I don't like conjuring up reasons for things, either.