"Cy Young candidate". I haven't gone as far as to say that, partly because I've been accused of being too Pollyanna-ish, but given how well he pitched in the second half, after the all-star game, I don't see how that is being so outlandish: 3.26 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 2.48 K/BB, 9.0 K/9, 3.6 BB/9.
He's 22 and one of the most valuable commodities in baseball - a young pitcher with years of cheap service time ahead of him. The San Francisco Giants, and in particular their General Manager Brian Sabean, may have a reputation for assembling old teams but Cain is one of the best young players, position or hurlers, in all of baseball. I look for Cain to be a Cy Young candidate in 2007.
That ERA would have ranked him 4th in the NL last season and the key thing was that his BB/9 was so low, relatively, for him. Ideally, you want it under 3.0, but when you are striking out 9 batters per 9 IP, getting under 4.0 is perfectly good as well, particularly when he can get hitters to get less hits overall, as his H/9 was only 7.0, when most pitchers struggle to get it to 9.0.
However, I must note that I used Baseball Musing's Day by Day Database and calculated the leaderboard for ERA for the second half of 2006 and Matt was much further down the list: he was 10th with his 3.26 ERA. Still, that's not too shabby a spot to be in, as a starting pitcher. And an even greater place to be when you are only 21 years old. He will be 22 for the 2007 season.
And we got him for another 5 seasons, at the minimum, yippee! Unless, that is, the Giants took my advice in my prior post and offer him a 7 year contract (looking back at that contract I proposed, the Giants probably should make at least one team-option for the final year of the contract, and perhaps the last two years, but you don't want to insult him either).
And as I noted in that same post, hopefully the Giants will be announcing a nice, long (and cheap) contract with Cain sometime in spring training. Go Giants!