Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dodgers Dingers Sink Cain, Giants

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.




Brother Bob said...

I want to argue with letting Zito pitch but frankly my dear I don't give a damn. So mark down tonight's game as a forfeit. Whatever.

Zo said...

I think Zito deserves a last start, and the "fans" better damn well give him a nice round of applause for his efforts. After all, he wasn't the guy who decided to puke money all over the biggest name free agent when Bonds left. He just said Ok to the deal. I put fans in quotes because if they don't, they don't know enough to qualify. Also, I am not sure there was a "bad" Matt Cain, I am going to look into this more and see if I can make a good argument. A few stinkers among his starts, to be sure, but this is commentary for a bit later.

Shankbone said...

Cain's June and August were sweet. Good analysis there on what went wrong. I can't help but think he just made a bad pitch in a bad spot where he knuckled down last year. Giants pitchers are burned out on having to make every pitch every time in every spot. But also April was absolutely dreadful - 9 HRs.

Gigantes gave the Horse the usual run support - 0-2 runs for half his starts. Glad he righted the ship and isn't a questionmark for next year, we got enough of those already.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Agreed. Not Zeet's fault he was overpaid. Give the guy credit, he worked hard and barely missed a turn. And we used to joke that "it would be worth all $127M if he wins Game 7 of the World Series." Well, he came close. Made a hell of a contribution to the 2012 championship. And was mostly a solid 5th man (19 QS, 1.5 WAR)for the 2010 team. He certainly has earned a send-off, and I hope the fans give him some appreciation for being a good soldier.

That being said, I'm not sure I want to watch him pitch tonight! Could be ugly.