Matt Cain gave up two solo home runs to two power-hitting Dodgers outfielders, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, and that was enough for LA to take the opening game. The Giants got a solo homer from an unlikely source--Tony Abreu--and that took care of their scoring. Hyun-jin Ryu had the rest of the team befuddled for his seven innings, allowing only four hits and one walk. Brian Wilson pitched a perfect 8th, just to rub salt in the wounds, and looked sharp doing it, throwing only ten pitches and striking out two. Like last week, my takeaway from this game is that Matt Cain is back to looking like Matt Cain. After the worst April of his career, the big righty has gradually righted the ship and that bodes well for 2014. His September numbers tell the story of the season for the Giants: 28 IP, 27 H, 7 R, 18 K, and the team goes 0-4 scoring only 8 runs. If this was indeed Cain's last start, and I hope it is, he finishes with exactly half the pitcher-wins (8) he had last season (16), and twice (10) the number of losses (5).
Take a look at FanGraphs. Matty threw his slider in 2013 more (28%) than ever before, and and his fastball less (49%) than ever before. His home run rate (1.1/9) and home run to flyball rate (10.8%) are his highest ever. Interestingly, his xFIP (3.88) is in line with the last few seasons: 4.16, 4.00, 3.78, 3.82 since 2009. He was about half a run higher than that for 2005-2008. His walk and strikeout rates have been pretty consistent, and his 2013 BABIP of .260 is right at his career mark (.264). So, what happened? Why did we see so much "Bad Matt" this season? I like to think it was fatigue--both mental and physical. The burden of expectations is a heavy one. After a near-perfect 2012, a little "regression to the mean" is not surprising. The wear-and-tear of innings pitched and batters faced is also a big one, and I hope the Giants address that with their starters next season. Cain has pitched better since he was on the DL--maybe skipping a start or two now and then throughout the year could become a regular practice. Looks like they are shutting down Madison Bumgarner for the season (Barry Zito gets the start tonight). I find it hard to argue with that.