I've a DVD of Matt Cain's perfect game from 2012 and we watched it last night. Even though we knew the outcome we still got shpilkes as the outs piled up. It was a great performance, of course, and a milestone for the franchise, and Matty was at the peak of his powers and would lead the team to a World Series title. The next few seasons weren't so kind to the big righty and he eventually had to have multiple surgeries just to stay in the game. He's now penciled in as the team's fifth starter. I remember when he came up (way back in '05) the "talk" was all about his simple, repeatable mechanics and how that would serve him well in his career. And those mechanics did indeed serve him well for about 250 starts. But mechanical soundness also requires physical health and even the guy they call The Horse succumbed to the rigors of pitching in the bigs.
The Houston Astros team that Cain and the Giants beat that night in June was in the midst of three last-place finishes, all of those teams losing over 100 games per season. Only three players--Jose Altuve, Jason Castro, and Jed Lowrie--on the field for the Astros that night were on their 2015 playoff team. With Lowrie back on the A's only Castro and Altuve are suiting up for the 2016 team. That's a lot of changes in a short span but they obviously worked! The 2012 season was their 51st in the NL, they were shipped off to the AL for 2013. Their AAA affiliate is now the Fresno Grizzlies after the Giants hooked up with the Sacramento River Cats.**
The Giants had a few guys on the field then that are no longer with the club: Joaquin Arias, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Theriot, Emmanuel Burriss, and Melky Cabrera. But Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, Gregor Blanco, and Angel Pagan remain. (Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro had yet to join the club.) Coming back to Matt Cain, what can we expect of the 31-year old with 1872 innings under his belt and 7734 batters faced over eleven seasons? I wish I could answer that. Here's what I'd like to think: his veteran savvy clutchness will give him the mental tools to succeed. If his body responds to the post-operative therapies then he will be a good pitcher again. Will he be the All-Star he was? That's more of a stretch for me, but the good news is that he doesn't have to be. "Fifth starter" doesn't seem to fit next to his name, but with Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto as co-aces and Jeff Samardzija as the new innings-eater the pressure is off Matty (and Jake Peavy as well) to put up big numbers. Stolid consistency has always been Cain's calling card and that's what the team will need. He can do that. Maybe his average game score won't reach the high peaks we saw from 2009-2012, but he'll rack up his share of quality starts and that will be hugely valuable.
**I tagged the reference to the River Cats because the Giants will be playing an exhibition game in Sacramento on Wednesday, March 30th. Neither website has information other than the date and time (6:05 pm) but I think it would be really fun to go. If you guys hear or see anything about this game (er, BroBob?) in the meantime please let me know!
I'm trying not to enjoy the spring weather we are having here as I'm not done with my ski season. I need a few more big storms and powder days. They can have all the sun they want in Arizona, I want some El Niño action.
Otherwise, GO GIANTS!