Matt Cain has been one of the most consistently underrated and effective pitchers in baseball over the last five years. Never has that been more true than today, when Cain pitched a complete game 3-hitter in one of the most important starts of his career, moving the Giants into first place, half a game ahead of the Padres, and grabbing a crucial series win over Colorado. The win also puts the Giants one game up of Atlanta, their main competitor for the wild card should the Padres wind up taking the west. Cain’s consistently been among the pitchers getting the least run support in baseball, resulting in mediocre records and probably less hype than he’s deserved. He’s been above 3.5 WAR in each of the last five years, and in 2010 has put up his best season yet, at 4.1 WAR (before today’s start). Cain, in his sixth year, is now the longest-tenured Giant. The 26 year old received a 3 year, 27.25 million dollar extension, and has been doing all he can since to prove he’s worth the money. Cain’s now in the top 10 in WAR among NL pitchers, and his 3.54 FIP ranks him in the top 15 in the NL.
As I mentioned, Cain’s gotten ridiculously unlucky in terms of the support he’s received from Giants pitchers. In each of the last four years, he’s been in the bottom 20 in overall run support. He had the second least runs put up for him of any pitcher in both 2007 and 2008, getting 3.51 and then a ludicrous 3.14 runs scored for him per game. Recently, he’s been getting a bit more help, but his 4.18 runs per game in 2009 and 4.11 in 2010 were both in the bottom 20 as well. As a result, he’s compiled an overall record of 41-48 in the last 4 seasons, with a FIP under 4 in each of those years.
So consider this my post to highlight Matt Cain, one of the best pitchers in baseball, and one who has flown under the radar to some extent. With Cain and Lincecum, the Giants have one of the best young one-two punches in baseball. Expect the two young Giants to front the rotation for some years to come, and Cain to keep twirling gems like the one he put together today in one of the biggest starts of his career.