Monday, February 13, 2017

Raising Matt Cain

Almost 2000 innings pitched. Over 300 starts. Twelve seasons in orange-and-black. First-round pick out of high school. Youngest player in the bigs on his debut. A brace of rings. 31 career WAR. Three-time All-Star. A perfect game, the only one in franchise history. He's done it all, the big fella has, and now he'll fight for a spot in the rotation. Rookie phenom Ty Blach might send the man they used to call The Horse to the bullpen. The ravages of time have not been kind to our original stud, as we know 32 years of age is old in baseball.

So raise a glass to the lad from Tennessee, the first brick in the House of Champions. After Matty came Timmy and Buster and Madison and the rest, but Matty was first, and he was the one I picked as my favorite. He didn't disappoint!

First Spring Training workout tomorrow.



p.s. Nice piece from Andrew Baggarly about Cain.


Anonymous said...

The previous post sprouted a warning that comments needed moderator approval. This post doesn't have that warning. Has the policy of the blog changed from in- to exclusion, or is it as welcoming as it has always been. Can you clarify, MC, or can one of your founding cohort?

nomisnala said...

Not sure what had been going wrong with Cain the last few years, outside of injury, but I clearly hope he can once again be the old Cain. He is only 32, and maybe he can get his form back. Before 2 years ago, his peripheral stats were very similar to Zack Greinke, except in the win loss column. Then 2 years ago, Greinke had a great year, and Cain did not, and their stats started to go in the opposite direction. Seems that we do have an option or two if Cain does not come through. I would like him to have a great year, and get his win vs. loss record be above 500. He has been too good a pitcher to have a career record below 500.

M.C. O'Connor said...

@ anon
I believe the blog is set up so that anonymous comments require a "prove you're not a robot" dialog box. (I'll admit I don't know for sure as I never comment on my own blog anonymously!) That was to discourage spam, we had a rash of that some time ago. You should be able to post without moderator approval. Easier still is to just create a login ID you can use (a "handle") for this site. If you have a Google ID it should be seamless. Let me know, I'll tweak the settings if needed.

Yeah, Matty has always been the hard luck guy. He's the one player that caused me to give up on things like pitcher-wins and even ERA. He's pitched, at his peak, almost as well, maybe even as well, as people like Justin Verlander and as you note Zack Greinke. Very similar to both, really. We know that he's been a stud and put together so many stretches of quality innings for the team that it's hard to believe, still, that his career may be at an end. I think he's still got the stuff and I feel good that this year--probably his last in SF either way--he will be healthy and we will see better results. One more year in the minors for Ty Blach, then he can take the spot in 2018!

M.C. O'Connor said...

Looked back at my settings and comments on posts that are older than 14 days get moderated. During the season we never have a thread go that long, sometimes in the off-season we do. That's what happened. Otherwise RMC is still public and still open to anonymous comments.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Never enough arms for the 'pen!

Zo said...

32 is not too old to pitch. Matt Cain may have a few years left in him - he certainly seems like the type of guy to put in the work and have the drive necessary if he were capable. According to the reports, he is healthier than he has been in a couple of years. I'd hope those years can continue to be with the Giants, but then the management has not been the type to hang on to players when they have not performed, even crowd favorites. Speaking of which, I read where Tim is trying again to make it as a starter, but has yet to find a team willing to commit to him.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I would love to see Timmy try the bullpen. I'm sure he'd find work. I've my doubts about him ever making it as a starter again. But you can't fault a guy for self-belief and the desire to keep going, even if it seems Quixotic to fans.

Matty has been paid to throw heat since he was 17. You know that's taken it's toll. We forget that only the real freaks can pitch into their mid- and late- thirties. Anyone who can perform at a high level for a decade in the bigs is amazing. The number of guys who can last past that is pretty small. But I agree with you, Matty strikes me as one of those guys who can keep the fire burning. If he's healthy, and he ought to be, we could see a good season from him. His last one was 2012!

I believe the team has a 7.5M buyout for 2018. He's making 20+M now. Regardless of how well he does I don't think the math works for him to stay in SF.

nomisnala said...

If Cain has an ERA below 3.30 and makes approximately 30 starts with 200 innings, I could see his career continuing. It of course depends on his potential salary for 2018 if the criteria I mentioned actually happen.

M.C. O'Connor said...

30 starts/200 IP and sub 3.30 ERA is an ace in anybody's book. From 2009-2012 that was Matt Cain. I have a hard time thinking he'll reach that level again, but as a 5th starter he doesn't have to. (Only 15 guys in the bigs hit 200 IP last year, Giants had three of them. Only 18 were 3.30 and below, Giants had two.)

With the increase in homers all across the game, I think Cain's biggest challenge will be the long ball. He's always relied on the high fastball and if he doesn't have his old movement and/or speed he may have to find another way to get outs. But I'll live with gopher balls if he's healthy and can give the team a full season of near league average production, or at least a notch above most fifth starters. If he is a steady back end guy I will be more than happy. Not saying I wouldn't love a surprise, but I'm not expecting one.

Zo said...

Feb. 17: Giants apparently sign Aaron Hill to a minor league contract.
Another infielder. Do we need another infielder? Could he be like Hwang, a guy who maybe could end up in the outfield if Parker/Williamson aren't quite ready? I don't know the answer to these questions.

M.C. O'Connor said...

No one does. Not even the Giants. Stockpile, stockpile, stockpile.

M.C. O'Connor said...

The Giants are mentioned in this FanGraphs piece, they talk to Dave Righetti.

I cut-and-pasted the section:

Dave Righetti is as well-regarded as any pitching coach in the game. “Rags” has held the job with the Giants since 2000, and he has three World Series rings to show for his efforts. The plaudits he’s received are deserved.

He isn’t the only person responsible for the club’s mound success. Mark Gardner has served as San Francisco’s bullpen coach for much of Righetti’s tenure, and Bruce Bochy, a former catcher, is a pitching-savvy manager. Upstairs, senior vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow has a stellar reputation of his own.

And then there is Bert Bradley. He’s not well-known outside of the organization, but according to Rags, Bradley is an integral piece of the pitching puzzle.

“Bert is our (minor league pitching) coordinator, and he gets involved with everything,” Righetti told me last summer. “Whether it’s dealing with the draft kids, hiring a new coach in the system… anything to do with pitching, he has a say. Every night, our minor league coaches need to write a report, and that includes something on the other team. Bert looks at those. He’s got a lot on his plate.”

Righetti does as well, but organizational pitching philosophy isn’t part of his purview.

“In the minors, that’s Dick Tidrow, and then Bert Bradley on down,” Righetti told me. “I don’t have a say in that. I never have. When I was working in the minors (in 1999), my job was to rove, and to scout, and the boss was Dick. He’s still the boss. The buck stops with him, But as soon as a kid touches Giants soil, so to speak, Bert is involved with him. He plays a big role here.”

M.C. O'Connor said...

Although this is from a fantasy site and I don't do fantasy baseball, it sums up my feelings about Buster Posey and my lack of worry about him despite his poor second half last season:

Here's the link.

Looking forward to seeing Buster in action in 2017!

JC Parsons said...

hey everybody! I guess I'm ready to get back into the fray. I needed the off season bad.

So do I like what we have done so far? HELL YES. Getting Melancon was a no brainer and is clearly the key. Just about as important was the late pickup of Will Smith, who I think may end up as the eighth inning guy. Right there we have effectively dealt with our obvious weakness. Also a full year of Moore is a very big factor. When you have three starters that go deep regularly, the bullpen can really start to take shape. So, I think our pitching is much improved right off the bat. And if Matt Cain can actually fight off the push from Blach, etc. that is a very good sign.

I am very much in love with the group we are bringing to spring. Having some hungry, classy veterans like Morse, Hill and Rollins will just make everyone better. Getting Hundley as Backup catcher is a big upgrade of the bench. Bringing in a Korean hot shot is also very exciting; we should have been doing that for years! I expect Gorkys and Kelby to keep their jobs but you never know. It really seems like the best mixture of youth and experience at Spring Training in years. I'm thrilled. Now we just have to avoid injuries.

Biggest early questions (at least the ones that popped into my brain right now):
Is Joe Panik a top of the order type hitter?
Is Hunter Pence a fragile type that will need regular rest?
Can MadBum do it again? Is it fair to count on 200+ innings forever?

Zo said...

I agree about Moore. I think he is the underrated player who will surprise on the upside this year. Another stud lefty, that's huge. I would also not be surprised (but really, it's more of a hope) that Matt Cain shows us he is a number 4 pitcher, not a number 5. That's not because I expect Smardjy to fail, I think he will give us what he has shown us so far.

I read where Joe Pan's eyes were affected by his concussion. He says they are now fine. No more of those, please.
Hunter seems fine - tough to tell with those injury things. What separates a great career from a good career is often longevity and number of at bats.
MadBum is 27, just at his prime for pitching. Keep in mind Timmy and Matt at age 27. Also, his motion just doesn't look like it puts the stress on his arm like some pitchers. Of course, not forever, but hopefully he will be a Giants ace for awhile yet.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Seems Smith is the first Spring casualty--elbow inflammation. I know there will be more. Health, ultimately, decides more championships than talent. Anyway, let's hope our guys who get hurt get hurt EARLY so they have time to recover and get back to work. Losing Smith in the middle of September would be way worse, eh?

By the way, if you spend time on Baseball-Reference (I sure do, wonderful site), you can get an "ad-free" experience for $20/year. Seems like a hell of a deal.