Key Statistics: Despite being 5 games under .500 for his career, Matt Cain has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, both on the field and in fantasy. Since 2006, he’s gone 57-62, 3.45 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.4 K/9 with a 2.21 SO/BB ratio. Pretty dominant. He’s averaged almost 210 innings in his last 5 seasons and capped those off with this line last year:
13-11, 3.14 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 177 K, 7.1 K/9 in 223.1 IP.
The knock on Cain was always that he is a 3 category contributor, as he consistently lacked the wins relative to his other superior statistics. From 06-08, despite a 3.85 ERA, a 1.30 WHIP, 528 K, 7.8 K/9 in 608 IP, he was 28-42(!). However, the past two seasons, his luck has turned around. With better run support, Cain has gone 27-19, winning 14 and 13 games respectively. Seeing as Cain and his team have allowed him to keep consistent win numbers two seasons in a row now, perhaps he is now a 4-category contributor…
Skeptics Say: …or maybe not. Though Cain’s run support has been better the past two seasons, he still placed in the bottom third of qualified starters in terms of run support average. Those really aren’t the type of reliable numbers you can depend on going forth into the 2011 season. Here are his rankings from 06-10
2006: 54th out of 83 qualifiers
2007: 80th out of 80 qualifiers
2008: 88th out of 88 qualifiers
2009: 65th out of 78 qualifiers
2010: 72nd out of 92 qualifiers
Yes, the numbers obviously support Cain getting better run support the past two years and his numbers have reflected that – but that doesn’t make him a great or dependable source for wins. The “win” category is probably the hardest of all to predict – remember when Jeff Suppan was winning between 13 and 17 games a season with the Cards? Even with one of the best ‘pens in the league and a World Series trophy not withstanding, that Giants offense is still atrocious. A drop in run support and thus a drop in wins for Cain wouldn’t at all be unexpected.
Peer Comparison: To magnify how much Cain’s lack of run support has affected his standing in the eyes of league observers, look no further than Zack Greinke. The 2009 AL Cy Young winner has put up numbers pretty close to Cain’s 2006-2010 average. Take a look:
Cain: 57-62, 3.45 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 876 SO 7.4 K/9 with a 2.21 SO/BB ratio in 1,049 IP
Greinke: 47-39, 3.32 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 717 SO, 8.3 K/9 with a 3.57 SO/BB ratio in 780 IP
Obviously Greinke’s numbers are a bit more impressive. He won a higher percentage of his games with arguably the worst team in the American League through those years, struck out more batters per nine and had a higher strikeout to walk ratio (Cain pitched almost 300 more innings because of Greinke’s injuries and “emotional problems” from 2006-2007). However, Cain’s peripherals are just as good as a guy who won the Cy Young. That all being said, I’m definitely taking Greinke first this year. Based on his trade request subsequent trade this offseason, Greinke was just not happy last year playing another season for a perennially losing franchise. I’d expect a Roy Halladay-type rebirth for him this year in Milwaukee (which means, “The Good Land” in Algonquin), with that prolific Brewers offense behind him.
Lineup Outlook: I already ruined this one with the “Skeptics Say” portion, but squeezing another World Series run out of these Giants might be tough. Though they resigned their best hitter from last season (Aubrey Huff), they lost 24 of their homers in Juan Uribe and replaced him with a 37 year-old Miguel Tejada. They are also hoping that Mark DeRosa and Freddy Sanchez can stay healthy for a full season, Buster Posey doesn’t have a sophomore slump, Pablo Sandoval can have a comeback year, Andres Torres can maintain from his breakout year and Cody Ross can prove his worth over 162 games. Regardless of if all this happens, they are still relying on the premise of Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Mark DeRosa and Freddy Sanchez producing runs. That sentence is scary in itself.
What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #20 Starting Pitcher & #83 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #19 Starting Pitcher; Tristan Cockroft of ESPN.com: #71 Overall; John Halpin of Foxsports: # 110 Overall; Couch Managers: #69 Overall; RotoChamp: #55 Overall
Projection: I just don’t believe in this Giants offense to produce enough for the same number of double-digit wins Cain has enjoyed the past few seasons. However, I completely expect his excellence and consistency when it comes to the other four categories, making him a great option for SP.
9-12, 3.25 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 180 K in 220 IP
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