Fantasy Impact: Matt Cain’s Return
Harken back to 2012 and Matt Cain’s four-month pitching campaign was not a start to the season that many would have expected. Here is a pitcher that just came off winning a World Series title for the second time, and had a career 85-73 record with a 3.81 ERA to go along with 1,278 strikeouts in 1,319 innings, just 41 strikeouts away from averaging one K per inning. When 2012 came to a close, Matt Cain had a 16-5 record with a 2.79 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 219.1 innings. It was his best season to date.
Then rolled in the 2013 campaign, and it looked quite different. It was different for most of the Giants, as they went from champions to just two wins over the last-place Colorado Rockies in the NL West. Cain had his worst season to that point, as he went 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA. It was speculated that many of the Giants pitchers were just worn out, due to the physical strain of winning it all the previous year. The Giants had to be perfect in both the NLDS and the NLCS to advance after falling behind 0-2 against the Cincinnati Reds (NLDS) and 1-3 against the St. Louis Cardinals (NLCS).
When the 2014 season started, it didn’t seem as though the offseason made any difference for Cain. He lost four of his first five starts leaving him with a 4.35 ERA, but he had 25 strikeouts in 31 innings. He did go on to win three of his next five and allowed just 10 runs in 27.2 innings for a 3.31 ERA and 21 strikeouts. He began to look as though things were getting back on track. However, he lost four of his next five, and after a matchup against the Oakland Athletics on July 9, he was placed on the disabled list with a season-ending injury. He required surgery to remove bone chips in his arm.
At the start of 2015 Cain appeared ready for Spring Training, but it didn’t take too long to notice that his arm had other ideas. He went on the disabled list for a tendon strain and began making his way back through rehabbing at the Triple-A level in Sacramento. There he pitched three games and finished with a 4.61 ERA but had a nice 15/3 K/BB ratio over 13.2 innings. Then on July 2nd he finally made his regular season debut, and he struggled. Cain allowed five runs on seven hits over five innings in a loss to the Marlins. He was rusty and in the fourth inning it showed. He gave up two homers in the inning, one to opposing pitcher Jose Fernandez. He also walked four and had only two strikeouts.
Cain has struggled for the last couple seasons, but I think he still has enough in the tank to pitch at a quality level and is a candidate to be owned in deep mix leagues and NL Leagues. He was at 50 percent ownership prior to the start against the Marlins and dropped down to 42.3% following the rocky outing. Cain is worth monitoring as a potential add, but he’ll likely have to prove capable before his ownership percentage moves above 50%.