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Reflections of a True Giant

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Matt Cain holding the World Series trophy after their 2010 victory.

A man was called up with the Giants two years before the first iPhone, when the Space Shuttle was still flying, when Bush II still had three years to go in his Presidency, six weeks before my first kid was born, and when this song was #1 on the Billboard charts:

So, we’ve come a long way, and yet not so much in many ways.

The longest-tenured Giant announced his retirement yesterday, a mild surprise to many, although it’s obvious he wouldn’t be with the Giants next year. Rather, the Giants will not opt for the 21 million dollar extension, favoring the paltry 7 million dollar buyout. Cain knew his days as a Giant were over long before this season started, and apparently he looked inward on his life and realized that he wanted to spend more time with his family, but also respected this organization so much that he couldn’t imagine donning another jersey.

Matt Cain will spend all 13 years with the Giants. No other team will grace his chest. He officially will have the longest tenure with the team without being with any other team since the Giants moved west. He also ranks 3rd all time in San Francisco history for WAR, 5th for strikeouts per 9, and 3rd in strikeouts (only 14 behind Lincecum). Of course, he also has the franchise’s only perfect game from that magical night in 2012 (thanks, Blanco, btw!), and three World Series Championships to go with some gritty performances that enabled the Giants to secure at least two of those trophies.

He started the 2012 All Star Game and made three All Star Games in total. Although he’ll finish with an ERA around 3.69, much of that has been inflated in recent years. He posted a career-best ERA of 2.79 in 2012, 2.88 in 2011, and 2.89 in 2009. He was fifth in Rookie-of-the-Year voting in 2006 and sixth in the Cy Young vote in 2012.

But, despite all of the incredible statistics that Cain has assembled throughout the years, there is one that haunts Giants fans.

Wins.

Getting “Cained” was a phrase that was coined sometime in the 2007 season, and continued thereon. For some magically insane and sadistic reason, the baseball gods seemed to thwart any offensive production during Cain’s starts. Cain often lost games 2-1, 3-2, 1-0. Games he pitched very well in, but was not backed up by offense. It was a far cry from American League pitchers and many National League hurlers that gave up 4, 5, 6 runs, but still got the win. Despite his 3.69 career ERA, Matt Cain will finish with no more than 105 wins, and no less than 118 losses.

Put that into perspective with other pitchers around that ERA for that duration:

Bronson Arroyo has played admittingly longer (16 years) than Matt Cain, but his career ERA is 4.28, a full 0.59 higher, yet he has a winning record at 148-137. Bortolo Colon (20 years) has a career ERA of 4.05, but is well above .500 at 239-176.

To cut out some of the chaff, I looked at pitchers that had more than 1,500 innings pitched and less than 2,500 innings. Matt Cain is under 2100. The results are somewhat expected. Out of the 463 pitchers that qualify in that range (includes starters and relievers), only THREE pitchers have a better career ERA and worse winning percentage than Matt Cain.

Out of 463!

Oh, and when did those three play?

Bob Groom: Played 1909-1918. 2336.1 IP 119-150 (.442) 3.10 ERA

Bob Rush: Played 1948-1960. 2410.2 IP 127-152 (.455) 3.65 ERA

Denny Lemaster: Played 1962-1972. 1787.2 IP 90-105 (.462) 3.58 ERA

Matt Cain: Played 2005-2017. 2080.2+ IP 104-118? (.468?) 3.69? ERA

Let’s take it from a different angle. Only 547 pitchers have won 100 games or more. Out of that group, Matt Cain has the second-worst winning percentage (.468) ahead of Bob Friend (.461) who played from 1951-1966. By the way, out of those 547, Clayton Kershaw is number one (.692). I know, I know. It’s tough to swallow.

Point being, despite this adversity, Matt Cain never complained. Never got too frustrated from being “Cained.” Always made time for the media.

Our fledgling site got our credentials in 2011 and we started covering games. During media day in 2014, after interviewing Matt Cain, he asked what I did in my full time job, because apparently, he realized that I wasn’t a professional journalist.

My colleague Ben, replied, “he’s a marine biologist and dives at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.” Cain looked up at me and suggested that I train him to SCUBA dive. Aside from the obvious contractual prohibitions in such an activity, I did set up a tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium for him through Giants’ PR. A few weeks later, I gave Matt Cain and his family a three hour tour of the aquarium, and even suited up and did a feeding show in the kelp forest tank. After the feeding show is when he recorded our pre-show bumper, and I gifted many of my underwater photographs to his daughter and wife.

 

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Matt Cain is second from left, I’m next to him on the right

 

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Matt Cain and his family look on as a Monterey Bay Aquarium diving safety officer helps me get my full face diving mask off after my kelp forest feeding show.

After that, I covered him at games and the AT&T Pro-Am tournament, where he always refers to me as “aquarium guy!”

I’ll be covering the game on Saturday when he makes his last and final Major League Start, and his last in a Giants uniform. In a park that witnessed the beginning of his career, and some of his major contributions to this franchise’s three world championships.

So, although I have a personal connection to Matt Cain, I will always think of him from a fan’s perspective first.

A gentle Giant. A proud Giant. A Giant forever.

Chad King

Here are our interviews with Matt Cain over the years:

2015:

 

2014:

 

 

 

 

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Episode #128: Baseball is great, but pray for Texas

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Can we never speak of, or see these creamcicle orange unis ever again? (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

You can download the episode here, or stream it below!

Although we didn’t dwell on the hurricane in Texas, we wanted to mention that thousands, if not more, people, are being severely affected by this storm. Please, donate money, pray, do whatever you can to help those in harm’s way.

As far as baseball, Chad and Eric reconnect with Ben to discuss recent developments in Giants-land from their earliest and official elimination from the West, being swept by Arizona, Kontos to the Pirates, Cain getting bombed…wait a minute, jeez, sounds like we didn’t have fun!

But actually, any time you get three guys talking baseball, no matter how depressing it may seem, it’s actually quite enjoyable, because you know what, there’s real life like in Texas. We do also dwell on more positive topics like the player’s weekend uniforms and the Giants mega-interest in Stanton (like that’s going to happen).

@torturecast

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Just Accept It: The Giants Can’t Make the Playoffs…but you Already Knew That

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The Giants would have to be almost as good as the 116 win Seattle Mariners to even sniff the playoffs.

I’m seeing some pretty silly posts on Giants fan sites that with a great second half, they could sneak into a wildcard spot.

Sorry, I’ll give you a few seconds to finish laughing and then take a shot while you weep softly.

Yes, most of us understand that’s not going to happen.

However, if some of you truly think it’s possible, I can’t say it’s mathematically impossible. Clearly it’s not. But, let’s just look at numbers and history, shall we?

The Giants are officially half-way through the season and stand with a 30-51 record. First, they’d have to go a mirrored 51-30 just to finish .500. Ok, we can agree that’s outside the realm of plausibility. Let’s look at what it would hypothetically take to grab a wild card spot, however.

The worst wild card record stands at 87 wins by the Giants and Mets in 2014. Technically, this is only .002 pct pts better than the 1995 Rockies that snuck into the playoffs with a 77-67 record in a strike-shortened season. In the expanded wild card era (since 2012), 10 wildcard teams have averaged 91.1 wins. Of course, the one side-exception is the 2006 NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals who won the World Series after an unprecedented low win total of just 83. That’s just 4 games above .500 for the season. That is an outlier, and for certain, the NL West winner will not have 83 wins, with LA, Arizona and Colorado heading well into the 90 win total.

For sake of argument, let’s take 87 wins as the bare minimum. Then, the Giants would have to go 57-24 the rest of the way. That’s a .703 winning percentage! No MLB team in the modern era has played a half at this level, except the 2001 Seattle Mariners who went 60-21 (.741) in the first half of 2001. Of course, they lost in the ALDS that year, so.

Look, the Giants were incredible in the first half last year, going an MLB-best 57-33 (.633) before the All Star break before a second half collapse that saw them barely make the playoffs (BTW, they were 50-31 at the exact half-way point, almost the mirror image of their record now. That second half collapse is basically continuous with this year’s first half. They’re not a good team right now, nor for the last full seasoned number of games.

Compare this to the Dodgers’ current record, which will sit no worse than 52-29, and that’s only if they lose tonight. They could finish the first half with three more wins than the MLB-best Giants last year. Arizona will also at least match the Giants’ first half record from last year, and could get that 51st win in their 81st game tonight.

Almost certainly, the Giants would need to win more than 87 games to get the wild card, perhaps 89 or 90, which would require the second-best half in MLB modern history, behind the 2001 Mariners first half.

So, back off of the orange Kool-Aid for those of you thinking the Giants “have a chance” to make the playoffs. It’s not happening, but let’s just hope they can avoid the 100 loss embarrassment, which they are on track to exceed.

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