Cain

It's a little too early to start proclaiming things about Matt Cain. The pratfalls and foibles of young pitchers throughout history have been run into the ground on this site. Cain is a promising young pitcher. Let's just leave it at that, and not get nuts here.

I mean, you know, let's not go overboard. There's a fine line. He has a great arm, and he's been fantastic lately. His confidence is obvious in recent starts. He still hasn't really scratched the surface of his curveball, which about once a game looks like the greatest breaking pitch in the history of the sport, and that just highlights how effective he can be with his fastball. So let's keep things in perspective.

Okay. Now that you bring it up, a villager outside of San Francisco did see Cain's face on a tortilla. It'd be easy to read a lot into that. But let's not get out of hand. He's just a good young pitcher. I'll start the day off with a simple, Colbertish question:

Matt Cain. Greatest young Giants pitcher of my lifetime, or greatest young Giants pitcher of your lifetime?

Going back in recent Giants history, it's hard to find an apt comparison among promising young pitchers from the past. Here's a short list, with links to the minor league histories of the pitchers. It's bound to be incomplete, so go to the Baseball Cube and bring up what I've missed.

The list, with two names left off intentionally:

One thing that's not right to do is play the "Giants are cursed"-card when these names are brought up. A lot of these pitchers had relatively successful careers, and most helped their teams win for extended stretches. Except for Estes. Well, even Estes had 1997, a season that opens the first chapter of the forthcoming new book, "Why to be Suspicious of Freakishly Low Totals for Hits Allowed: Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Remain on Second Base."  Just because there isn't a Hall of Famer, or even a Hall of Very Gooder, in the bunch doesn't mean this is a list of cautionary tales.

But the comparisons break down quickly. Garrelts and D'Acquisto had control problems that surpassed anything ever exhibited by Cain, and rounded into form at a later age. Hammaker had the control but not the strikeout numbers, even after accounting for a different era, and the combination of fine control/slightly above-average strikeout numbers would also describe Williams. Downs and Estes weren't exactly kids when they found their first success. Foppert's prospect-era fastball is more something for cryptozoologists to discuss, as he never showed anything like that in the majors.

The closest comparisons, in my opinion, which really aren't even that close:

Montefusco zipped through the system on his way to a decent career, but was three years older than Cain before he was even in the system. That leaves Torres, who is the closest comp for Cain when just comparing age and numbers. Including Torres isn't meant to be some M. Night Shamalyan twist at the end of the post. Without knowing Torres personally, it'd be inappropriate to speculate that he was radically different from Cain at the same age when it came to maturity and confidence. However, Torres was radically different from Cain at the same age when it came to maturity and confidence.

Pointless exercise, for sure, but it just might highlight exactly what we're watching. Cain's combination of past minor-league success and current success, especially when considering his youth, is pretty much unparalleled in recent Giants history. Comparisons are useless, but watching the guy throw is amazing. I, for one, welcome our new flame-throwing overlord.

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