I’d like to give Matt Cain a much deserved shout out after he threw 8 innings of 2-run ball last night. He also chipped in with a solo home run for his second longball of the year. Cain has already tied his home run output from last year and if everything goes right, could he challenge the franchise record for most home runs in a season by a Giants pitcher?
Check out the all-time leader board for home runs by Giants pitchers.
- Hal Schumacher, 1934, 6 HR
- Art Nehf, 1924, 5 HR
- Johnny Antonelli, 1955, 4 HR
- Jim Hearn, 1955, 4 HR
- Clint Hartung, 1949, 4 HR
- Clint Hartung, 1947, 4 HR
- Freddie Fitzsimmo, 1931, 4 HR
- Don Robinson, 1989, 3 HR
- Jim Gott, 1985, 3 HR
- Jack Sanford, 1961, 3 HR
The great Hal Schumacher owns the Giants franchise record for most home runs in a season with 6. He also went 23-10 with a 3.18 ERA that year. A year in which the Giants made it to the World Series but lost to the Yankees. Cain is currently ranked 16th and 17th for his 2007 and 2008 seasons. Cain’s a big dude and it’s possible that he could belt 4 or more home runs before this year is over to tie or take the franchise record for most home runs by a Giants pitcher. The Giants always seem to have a few decent hitting pitchers but Cain is one of the more powerful ones in recent memory. Livan Hernandez, Russ Ortiz, and Noah Lowry could all swing the bat but none of them seem to have the same power that Cain does.
A few more thoughts from Cain’s start against the Astros.
Cain seemed to throw a lot of curveballs in the game last night. We’ve seen Cain move from his curveball to favor his slider and changeup over the last couple of years. Here’s Cain’s pitch selection from last night with the help of PITCHf/x and MLB’s Gameday application.
*A warning about my data, for whatever reason, PITCHf/x pegged a few sub-90mph pitches as fastballs and not what I’m assuming was a changeup. I’m not correcting for this because it looks like it only missed 4 pitches. I actually didn’t get to see Cain throw last night — internet cable problems — but I heard Krukow on KNBR this morning say that Cain didn’t have his change working last night and the data supports this theory. While PITCHf/x only tracked 1 changeup, at most Cain threw around 5 of them last night. That’s a big decrease for a pitch that Cain threw 10.6% of the time last year.
So, like usual, it looks like Cain was brining the heat. Last night he threw the fastball 68.75% of the time and at an average of 92.09mph, slightly under his 93.2mph average of last year. The runner up to the fastball, somewhat surprisingly, was the curveball. Cain threw the curveball 19.6% of the time last night. In 2006 Cain threw his curveball 14.1% of the time but backed off to 8.6% in 2008 in favor of the change and slider. As for the slider, Cain threw the pitch 10.7% of time last night.
It looks like Krukow was right and that Cain didn’t have a good feel for his changeup last night. But Cain has the ability to defer to his slider or curveball in times like last night when his changeup isn’t working so well for him. That’s a big reason that I believe that Cain took a step forward last year. The emergence of his slider and changeup gives him more options to work with when he’s struggling with a certain pitch and instead of turning into a 2-pitch pitcher and being predictable, he can still remain versatile with two quality pitches in his slider or curveball.
Here are the outcomes of the 22 curves that Cain threw last night
Cain gave up three hits on his curve, a single, double, and a HR to Carlos Lee in the 8th inning. The Lee HR was on a hanger that Cain left up in the zone. The curve induced two groundouts, two infield popouts, and a flyball out. 8 curves went balls, 3 went for foul balls, 2 for called strikes, and 1 for a strike swinging.
We’ve seen that since the beginning of last year, Cain has thrown the curve less in comparison to his first full season of ’06 but if last night shows us anything it’s that Cain still seems comfortable with the pitch. The curve might not be his #2 choice for attacking hitters anymore but last night he showed us that if and when his changeup, or maybe even his slider aren’t working, Cain has no problem with using his curveball to give hitters something to think about. Even if he threw 8 of his 22 curves for balls, it appears that he created enough strikes with it — 5 total: fouls, strikes swinging, and called strikes — that hitters couldn’t just sit on his fastball all night. A nice job of adjusting by Cain when he didn’t have all of his pitches working for him.