Friday, September 29, 2017

Your 2017 Giants: Cainer Retiring, Thanks for Everything!

Matt Cain has announced that he will be retiring (most likely) after this season and will have his final start for the Giants on Saturday, September 30.
ogc thoughts

I wanted to give thanks to Cainer (the Horse, as some has called him as well) for all that he did for Giants fans.  He was the light at the end of the tunnel for long suffering Giants fans who were still waiting for our first World Series Championship.  And he not only helped deliver that (while shutting down three teams with ZERO earned runs in 21.1 IP in 2010) but helped to lead the way to the second one as well by winning all those elimination games where we were up against the wall.  As Baggarly has noted a number of times in his column already, Cain has a better ERA in the playoffs than Bumgarner, with a 2.10 ERA in 8 playoff starts, 1.84 ERA in 2 World Series starts.   We rode on his back for two World Series Championships.

Unfortunately, the strain on his arm in accomplishing his Perfect Game appears to have been the trigger point for the downturn in his career (as I demonstrated via PQS), as he suffered through injuries and surgeries, and never was able to return to his former self for more than a few starts.  He gave us his all.

Many begrudged him his big contact, since he basically was broken for all those five years at $100 million.  But any of us who watched him grow and blossom in the minors, then bust out with that great first few starts which gave many of us dreams of another Giants no-hitter (which he delivered in grand fashion with his Perfecto), then watched as he accepted second fiddle status when Lincecum came up (players with lesser talents and bigger egos would have chaffed at that and Timmy's flamboyant personality), know that he was always giving us his all, with every game, with every pitch.

Many wanted to trade him.  Some wanted to trade him during the end of Bonds career, as they wanted to try to win with Bonds.  These could not see the long-term view that he was the start of the next era.  Some viewed Cain as a loser, who would, as many were wont to say, get "Cained" by losing games that we should have won.  While I could sympathize with having such a viewpoint, as I feel that there are players who do just enough to lose, I always backed Cain because the key thing was not whether we won or not, but whether he pitched well enough to win.

And he did that a lot during his career, as his career DOM% of 58% attests to.  Only great pitchers are able to do that in a season, and he did it over his long career, even with the down period.

And he broke out in 2009, starting a four season streak of great sub-3 ERA (overall), culminating with his Perfecto.  But as I noted, his PQS immediately hit the dumper after that game, the strain on his arm finally broke free the elbow chips that led to his surgery, and his career decline was begun.   Now, after his third pretty poor year, but ironically his healthiest since 2013, he's calling his career, retiring as the longest serving Giants without playing for another team, in the San Francisco franchise era, according to what I've read.

He was undervalued for most of his career.  Every year, the prospect rankings would rank a Dodger prospect as better than Cain.  And every other year, it would be a new prospect.  And he outlasted most of them (I think Edwin Jackson is still around), and more importantly, outperformed all of them.  Even while he had that great streak, people wanted to trade him for this hitter or that.  And especially once he was in his decline, they just wanted to dump him.

Perhaps it is just that type of era today, but he has been a great Giant, worthy of his big contract, worthy of the accolades that fans have giving him, so I don't see why the team has to be cold blooded and just drop him, when he has been the most exemplary player and person.   Respect that he's been a great Giant.  Respect what he has done for us, and he has done great things.

Maybe it is the Bill Walsh syndrome, especially in the Bay Area.   But that applies more to football where a career can be over in an instant anyway, and most contracts are not guaranteed.   In baseball, particularly when you are a good player, the player can be around for over a decade.  Cainer was with us for 12 full seasons (including injury interrupted ones) plus his great call up in 2005.

And he delivered quality starts over much of those 13 seasons. His PQS DOM% was over 50% (sign of a very good pitcher) all through his career until 2015.  And he was over 50% during his four great seasons, reaching his zenith in 2011 with 76% DOM%, which only the elites do.   And as I noted above, he had a career PQS of 58%, over 50% is a sign of a great season, 70% is a sign of an elite season, so Cain was great over much of his career.

Thanks for a great career, Matt Cain, have a great time with your wife and two daughters!  Enjoy the luxuries that you earned with superlative pitching, proving to unrepentant sabers that, yes, pitchers can have a BABIP under the mean, that pitchers can avoid hard contact and reduce the number of homers they give up, as you did both of them, and well, for most of your career.  Enjoy the three rings when you look back at all that you accomplished.  Look forward to you getting added to the Giants Wall of Fame the moment you are eligible.  We Giants fans owe you everything for what you contributed to this dynasty.  Thanks again, much appreciated!

5 comments:

  1. I screwed up: I didn't include his horrid 2017 PQS numbers into the final tally.

    Still, he basically had nothing below 52% until 2015, and nothing below 55% except for his first full season when he was at 52%. It was his ability to keep HR/FB% below the mean and BABIP below the mean (which helped two main components of PQS, having less than 2 homers and hits equal to or less than IP), which made up for the fact that he was never an outstanding strikeout pitcher, like Lincecum was.

    ReplyDelete
  2. How about that final start of his career (it appears that the initial "maybe" is now fully for sure retired)? Pretty much encapsulated his whole career!

    Line: 5 IP, 2 hits, 1 walk, 4 K's, no homers, 0 R/ER.

    Other common details: Left with the lead, lost the win almost immediately, the Giants took back the lead, then lost the game in the 9th as the bullpen failed again, and the offense just was not good enough to win.

    The only way that could have been more perfect is if he had thrown 6 IP.

    ReplyDelete
  3. showed me that much of his problem the last two years are mental. With the strong desire to pitch well in his final outing, he was able to do so. I have to think that his powerful mental drive during his earlier years of his career had faded a bit the last couple of years after some injuries. I hope he stays with the giants in some capacity. He should not have any financial worries if he handled his money appropriately.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment.

      I don't know if it's entirely mental, though that is certainly possible, given his statements about family. We've always known him as a bulldog, so I can't believe that's a major factor.

      I think that him not pitching in the last month was the biggest factor. When a pitcher has a well rested arm, and he still has his abilities, I believe that he will be able to throw a good game. And Cain did.

      That's why I believe that, if he wanted to, he could have pitched relief, at least as a Core Four type of set-up reliever, perhaps as a starter, because of his mental makeup.

      I have to believe that he'll be there at Spring Training every year. I think that he'll be scouting prospects in the area around where he lives. I can see him paying forward by helping out in his local youth leagues and giving free lessons, as he wrote about how he learned pitching when he was young, in that great post he wrote in The Player's Tribune: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/forever-a-giant/

      Given how much it was mentioned early in his career that he learned from a former pro, which explained his preternatural maturity as a young player, I was shocked that this teacher was not mentioned at all in his post. Perhaps that was over played by the Giants PR to promote his maturity (you can see common characteristics by reading through Baseball America profiles).

      Yes, hopefully he's set for life, as long as he didn't give all his money to one rogue, bad advisor, like Peavy did. It was sad to hear that he lost almost everything, and I would guess related to his recent personal problems.

      Thanks again.

      Delete
  4. Great post by Cainer in The Players Tribune: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/forever-a-giant/

    Must read for any Giants fan!

    ReplyDelete

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