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Entries in Matt Cain (8)


Cain Catching 'Em Looking

Life is good for Matt Cain. He's fresh off a 14-K perfect game, enjoys the best ERA+ (163) of his career since a big league cameo in 2005, and he'll pull in at least $123 million between now and 2018. The Giants ace has taken his game to new heights this season in part by increasing his K rate to 26.4 percent of batters faced, up from 19.9 percent entering the year. Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke are the only starters to punch out hitters more often.

While Cain is eluding lumber more this season (his miss rate is 24 percent, compared to 21-22 percent in past years), a big reason for the strikeout spike is that he's catching hitters looking far more than in years past. In 2011, Cain got 27 hitters to look at strike three. He has already surpassed that mark this season and ranks in the top 10 among starting pitchers in looking Ks:

Most strikeouts looking among starting pitchers

Pitcher Looking Ks
Vance Worley 36
David Price 32
Cliff Lee 32
Joe Blanton 28
Felix Doubront 28
Justin Verlander 28
Matt Cain 28
Jake Arrieta 27
James McDonald 26
Chris Capuano 26


Cain has gotten those looking Ks by stretching the outside corner. Five of his nine looking strikeouts against lefties have come on pitches thrown outside...

Cain's looking Ks vs. left-handed hitters, 2012 ...And 11 of his 19 strikeouts looking against righties have been on outside offerings...

Cain's looking Ks vs. right-handed hitters, 2012

Cain has received some generous calls: 12 of his 28 looking Ks have come on pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. Yet another reason why it's good to be Matt Cain.


Matt Cain: Perfect Game Heatmap


The heatmap above is a visual representation of Matt Cain's pitch locations during his perfect game on June 13, 2012. He threw a total of 125 pitches with a called strike rate of 46%.


Lee v. Cain

At minimum, Philly's Cliff Lee and San Francisco's Matt Cain will pull down nearly $250 million combined between now and 2018. Last night, they showed why. Lee became the first pitcher since Aaron Harang (2007) to last 10 innings, holding the Giants scoreless while whiffing seven, walking none and giving up seven hits. Cain punched out four and walked one in nine innings, allowing just two hits. 

While neither pitcher got the W he so richly deserved, Lee and Cain both produced one of the top five pitching performances of the year so far as judged by Game Score:

Highest Game Scores for starting pitchers, 2012

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec GSc
1 Matt Cain 4/13/2012 SFG PIT W 5-0 SHO9 ,W 96
2 Edwin Jackson 4/14/2012 WSN CIN W 4-1 CG 9 ,W 87
3 Chad Billingsley 4/6/2012 LAD SDP W 6-0 GS-9 ,W 87
4 Matt Cain 4/18/2012 SFG PHI W 1-0 GS-9 86
5 Cliff Lee 4/18/2012 PHI SFG L 0-1 GS-10 85
6 Matt Garza 4/12/2012 CHC MIL W 8-0 GS-9 ,W 85
7 Jered Weaver 4/6/2012 LAA KCR W 5-0 GS-8 ,W 84
8 Justin Verlander 4/5/2012 DET BOS W 3-2 GS-8 84
9 Barry Zito 4/9/2012 SFG COL W 7-0 SHO9 ,W 83
10 Roy Halladay 4/5/2012 PHI PIT W 1-0 GS-8 ,W 83

Source: Baseball-Reference

Lee (79 percent) and Cain (70) each surpassed the 70 percent strike mark, but they did it with contrasting styles. Lee peppered the strike zone while getting lots of ground balls. Cain, meanwhile, relied on jumpy Phillies hitting weak fly balls.

No starter has placed more pitches in the strike zone than Lee during the Pitch F/X era, and last night was no exception. Lee tossed 59 of his 102 pitches (58 percent) over the plate against San Francisco, never reaching a three-ball count while staying low and away against a lineup featuring seven hitters swinging from the right side:

Lee's pitch location vs. San Francisco, 4/18/12

Lee's "pound the knees" approach produced 18 grounders, compared to five fly balls. While Lee stayed low and in the zone, Cain often threw out off the plate to a Philly lineup with six lefty swingers:

Cain's pitch location vs. Philadelphia, 4/18/12

Only 36 of Cain's 91 pitches (40 percent) were in the zone. But Philly hitters chased 43 percent of his out-of-zone stuff. Unlike Lee, Cain took to the air with a 7-to-16 ground ball-to-fly-ball ratio.

Two aces, 19 combined scoreless frames and not a single pitch topping 92 mph on the radar gun. Lee and Cain showed different ways to dominate without elite velocity. We might not see a better duel all season long.

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