When a pitcher has a season that includes a perfect game and starting all three postseason clinching games for the World Series champions, it’s pretty easy to imagine that the next one won’t be as sharp.
That was the case for Matt Cain in 2013, but his 2013 season wasn’t only a disappointment because of the lofty expectations he’d set. No, he was one of many top-flight starters who didn’t perform, leaving fantasy owners across the board frustrated.
What Went Wrong?
This guy probably is my favorite player and I don’t want to come off like an apologist. He wasn’t consistently right all year long. Whenever Cain would have a good start or two and look like he’d be coming out of a funk, he’d get shelled by a bad team or two in a row and be right back at square one.
But I would like to show you some numbers from this year and contrast them against his 2009 season.
In most ways, 2013 was on par with or even better than 2013. But, you can’t ignore one other comparison.
- 2009 ERA: 2.89
- 2013 ERA: 4.00
If you believe in things like coming through in the clutch, Cain clearly did it a lot more in 2009 than in 2013. If you believe in bad luck, he was just unlucky in 2013.
Most of the peripherals from Cain in 2013 were right about on par with not only 2009, but every year since 2009. It certainly starts with making the right pitches at the right time, and Cain didn’t do that in 2013. But if you pitch long enough, you’re also going to have seasons that don’t add up. Where you get hitters out at the same rates as seasons before, but enough hits are bunched together to inflate the ERA. That definitely happened in 2013, as well.
What Went Right?
I can almost copy any paste the same table from above with Cain’s peripherals, but I’d rather not do that. You guys are more than capable of scrolling up.
Something else went right for Cain, though, and it gives us fantasy players a decent amount of hope heading into next season. Look at his splits before and after the All-Star Break.
I’m not going to say that Cain will be at a 2.36 ERA next year, but he should be a lot closer to that than the 5.06 mark. He clearly made the pitches a lot more often in the second half of the season, and made adjustments to whatever was going wrong in the first half. Looking at his 2013 Game Logs, you’ll see that his ERA decreased in all but one second half start.
What Will 2014 Offer?
Coming into 2013, the San Francisco Giants had been one of the most consistent winners in baseball, posting winning seasons from 2009-2012, winning two World Series. So, although they were never an offensive juggernaut, you could always count on them to win games, which obviously helps their pitchers. That’s no longer the case, as the Giants took a hard 180 in 2013, and now they’re a highly unpredictable heading into this season. Wins are always hard enough to project as it is. In the case of Cain, they’re even harder.
But the fact of the matter is that Cain still pitches at AT&T Park, which is probably the best pitcher’s park in the league. The National League West is traditionally not a great hitting division and. Top to bottom, there’s no real reason to think that will change in 2014.
If you look at his ratios all year and his second half, there’s plenty of reason to be hopeful that 2014 will be much better for Cain. The negative is that Cain has always been consistent above all else. In the past, you knew that taking him would mean you’re getting a Top-10 starter, no questions asked.
Now, as Cain gets closer to his 30th birthday (which he’ll hit at the end of the 2014 season), a little more doubt creeps in.
Still, I need a lot more to go wrong to be overly pessimistic. Maybe a few more rough categories, maybe another year where only a few things go wrong. Cain has earned the benefit of the doubt. I won’t say there’s no worry but for now, don’t give up on a guy who’s been good as long as Cain.
Matt Cain: Early 2014 Projections
*Cain’s rough year was one thing that got us to thinking that we need to do better. As a result, we’re partnering with Tanner Bell of Smart Fantasy Baseball to crunch even deeper, so that we might provide the most accurate projections possible for 2014. Look for our full Crackerjack projections in our 2014 Draft Kit coming in February.