Some more thoughts on the five-year contract extension that Matt Cain signed today.
* Per ESPN’s TruMedia, only four starting pitchers — Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hammels — had lower wOBA against scores last year. Batters averaged a .262 wOBA against Matt Cain in 2011. That really is a remarkable number. The league average wOBA against starting pitchers was .308. Cain is a very, very good pitcher. Even if he doesn’t always get credit (why hello, win-loss records) for it.
* Here’s something that caught me a little off guard: Matt Cain, longest tenured Giant.
* Cain ends up with an average annual value of $22.5M, a little higher than what I had guessed back in December. At the time, I had Cain pegged at $20M AAV.
* Cain’s deal guarantees him $112.5M in new money through 2017. Remember, Cain was already set to earn $15M this season. It’s a lot of money, but Cain’s health history has been good, and I think people sometimes overlook that this is his age 27 season; Cain broke into the majors at 20-years-old. The Giants are buying Cain’s age 27 to age 32 seasons.
* Any contract, to any pitcher, that’s over four years in length gives me the worries, but I think you could make the argument that with the Giants’ current rotation — and foreseeable rotation in the future, and the state of farm — the team really needs a guy like Matt Cain to supplement things. The Giants don’t have any high impact players in the pipeline right now, and if the team let Cain walk, things take a hit pretty quickly.
* I also think that people will worry that Cain could end up like Barry Zito; a player that’s vastly overpaid. I’m not sure I see that point just yet. Pretty much all of Cain’s statistics are trending in the right direction. Whereas Zito was showing signs of trouble as he was leaving Oakland. Make no mistake: forking over $100M+ to any pitcher is a risky move, but Cain is moving in the right direction. He’s helped by his home park some, but I think it’s something that’s sometimes overstated. His career home / road splits aren’t that different from one another. (3.66 FIP at home; 3.71 FIP on the road.)
* For the next two years, the Giants will keep the Cain – Lincecum – Bumgarner trio in San Francisco. That’s huge for a team that’s been so offensively challenged during the Sabean era. (Also, could we please get Madison Bumgarner inked to a deal that would potentially buy out a couple of his FA years?)
So, basically, it all comes down to Matt Cain. He’s been a good-to-great pitcher for the Giants and the extension saves something of a bad offseason. It doesn’t redeem everything, and it’s a risky move, but I am very happy to have Cain in San Francisco for the next 5-6 years.