Matt Cain Is Skilled, and We Exhort Him

I'm trying to figure out when a Mets blogger from 1972 would have snapped. When after year after year after year of writing paeans to Tom Seaver, the blogger from 1972 would put his feet up on the mimeograph machine and think of a new way to explain that Seaver was good. After a few hours, he'd just get really, really high because it was 1972. And Tom Seaver would continue being really, really good.

Which isn't to say that Matt Cain is a latter-day Tom Seaver, whose Baseball Reference page is one of my favorites to stare at. But Cain is certainly as good as, say, a Matt Cain. And we all know how awesome that is. But if Cain keeps pitching as well as he has, well … hell, I'm not going to jinx him. It might seem like Cain has always been this awesome, that he arrived fully formed out of the minor leagues, but he went through a bit of a transformation:

BB/9
2007: 3.6
2008: 3.8
2009: 3.0
2010: 2.5
2011: 2.6

He started off as a pitcher who was a little wilder than the league average and shaved a walk off along the way. It wasn't just walks, either -- he was putting the ball where he wanted to. I'm no expert, but that helps people pitch better and stuff. And he's having fun now:

2012: 1.7

And he's striking more people out. Willing to concede that's a blip, but I'm also itching to believe that the improved command is real. Over the last two seasons, Cain has become a more complete pitcher. But if he can keep up this kind of freaky-good command, he's basically playing with a Game Genie.

I don't think it's too much to mention after each of the next 21 Matt Cain starts, it's a good thing that we're not worrying about him leaving the Giants to go to the Rangers or Red Sox in 2013. The contract has a few years yet to make us nervous, but it's a fuzzy security blanket right now.

He's also a winning pitcher. For the first time since April 7, 2006, Cain has won more games than he's lost. Welcome to the club. Tell Brett Tomko that you'll send him a postcard. Don't actually send him a postcard. He'll be fine.

Star-divide

This is the point of the post-game thread where I acknowledge the guy having a really hot stretch of hitting. I'll openly ask if this is for real. Then I'll hedge my bets. I'll hide behind the lead vest of sample size, leaving open the possibility that he's for real. Sound good?

So Ryan Theriot is good now. I know, I know. But after the Burriss/Culberson stretch in May, this is like what Mets fans must have felt like watching that first no-hitter. The best part is that it comes when there might have been a mini-controversy at second with Joaquin Arias. I think Arias has proven that he's a viable utility player who can play some amazing defense. He's also a pretty bad hitter. He shouldn't start.

Theriot plays some mumbly-bumbly defense at times, so the temptation might be strong to play Arias. But Theriot's a career .281/.343/.352 hitter -- not bad at all. And that's good for an 83 OPS+ for his career, which is almost exactly where he is for 2012 now; the raw numbers look worse because offense is down over the last two years.

That all applies even when he's not the hottest hitter on the team. Turns out all he needed was to be healthy to be his normal, nominally useful self.

Star-divide

The San Francisco Giants just scored 19 runs in a three-game series at Petco Park.

Star-divide

Think the great is-Crawford-really-good-at-defense debate is nearing its conclusion. Yes, he's had some yips with the routine plays this season. But he can make some absolutely spectacular plays. He had one yesterday in the hole:


At first I thought it was Cameron Maybin running, so I was doubly impressed. Turned out it was Jesus Guzman, who isn't a slug, but who doesn't run as fast as Maybin. But then he did it to Maybin today:


It's that damned arm. So good. That's why even when he was slumping with the routine stuff, he was still the best I can remember in a Giants uniform at turning the double play. Dude can pick it, locks a-flowin', but more importantly, the dude can chuck it. I want to watch him pitch a blowout.

But his hitting, blah blah blah. You know that story. Still, when he has at-bats like he did against Andrew Cashner on Tuesday (fighting off 99-m.p.h., and singling off an 88 m.p.h. changeup) or when he strokes an opposite-field single, he gives me irrational hope. I don't remember a hitter with a higher disconnect between what he can look like and what he actually does. When, say, Burriss isn't hitting, or Jose Vizcaino, or Neifi Perez, you know why they aren't hitting.

That isn't to say that Crawford's secretly good or that he has a great offensive future. Just that I don't get him.

But I'm going to stare at those GIFs again.

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