In San Francisco they like to call Matt Cain the “horse” because he gobbles up innings like a horse eats grass. Coming into the 2012 campaign, Cain had pitched at least 200 innings in five straight seasons with the Giants and that streak looks like it will continue after this season ends. The longest tenured Giant is one of the most durable players in the league, and that is a big reason why Brian Sabean made him the richest right-handed pitcher to ever take the mound in a major league game.
Ever since Cain toed the rubber in his first major league start against the Rockies back in 2005, he’s always displayed great command of his pitches, and 2012 has been no different. In 57 innings pitched, Cain has walked just ten batters and he leads the National League with a 0.82 WHIP. This impeccable command of the strike zone has allowed the “horse” to pitch at least six innings in all eight of his starts including one complete game shutout of the Pirates on April 13th.
Cain is the complete opposite of the Tim Lincecum of 2012, his fellow teammate. Lincecum often works himself into trouble with walks which drives his pitch count up, leading to fairly early exits. Cain on the other side of the coin works quickly and efficiently. He rarely throws more than 20 pitches in an inning, but still manages to maintain an 8.48 K/9 average.
Adding one pitch to any pitcher’s arsenal can make that pitcher’s strikeout numbers rise tremendously. When Matt Cain first entered the major leagues, he didn’t even know what a changeup was, but then someone showed him the grip and his strikeout numbers really sky-rocketed from there.
During his rookie year he kind of got a feel for the pitch, only throwing it 2.7% of the time, but now the changeup is his go to pitch in strikeout situations. In 2012 he’s throwing it 18% of the time, and batters just can’t hit the simple, yet effective pitch.
Can Cain win his first career Cy Young award in 2012, though?
Many people around baseball think that Cain will be one of the top contenders for the award come season’s end, but there’s one thing that could doom his chances and that thing isn’t in his control. I bet some of you guessed it, but for those who didn’t, that thing is his win-loss record. I’m sure the word is out by now, but for the past seven years the Giants offense has never been able to scratch out a few runs for Cain. He’s taken countless 2-1 or 1-0 losses during his career as a Giant, and the Cy Young voters have to take the pitcher’s win-loss record into consideration before placing their vote even though stats like ERA and WHIP are much more meaningful and judge the pitcher’s talent better.
Throw the win-loss record out the window and you have a Cy Young caliber of a pitcher year in and year out.