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Cain is Able! Take That, Pun Police!

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Baseball Prospectus recently had a roundtable discussion on their choices for the top minor-league pitching prospects here. You have to be a subscriber to read it, but, like Baseball America, if you have the clams it's definitely worth it. There is no Baseball Prospectus mansion with young starlets hanging around a lavish pool and sipping drinks garnished with little umbrellas, though. Again, that's just Baseball America.

In the roundtable, there is one mention of Matt Cain. Not only is there only one mention when discussing the top pitching prospects in the game, but that one mention is dismissive:

...(Matt Cain) translates poorly...
Which means?
Tourist:
Please, tell him the antidote to the venom is in the suitcase on the bed! We need the key to the room!

Cain:
Su cabra no se prepuso comer la microficha.
(His goat did not intend to eat the microfiche)

Hotel Worker:
¿Que?

Tourist:
There...isn't...much...time.... Tell him to please hurry!

Cain:
Su tío hizo una nave en una botella. ¿Cómo hacen eso?
(His uncle made a ship in a bottle. How do they do that?)

Hotel Worker:
Cuerdas poca.
(Little ropes.)

Tourist:
Tell my wife I love her....

All goofiness aside, what does "doesn't translate well" mean? This is a pitcher who turned 20 after the season ended. He dominated high-A ball with a mix of power and control. Perhaps his poor translation was due to his less than stellar AA finish, but that still featured a 3.35 ERA and respectable strikeout numbers. At age 19, no less.

Prospectus' top-50 list came out today, and Cain is a respectable #28. Respectable being a relative term, as there are only eight pitchers in front of him. Considering the admitted bias against young pitching at Baseball Prospectus, that is some fairly high praise. However, Brandon McCarthy is above Cain. Cain had a higher strikeout rate, lower homerun rate, put his best numbers up in high-A as opposed to McCarthy's low-A, and was over a year younger. Both Kannapolis and San Jose are pitcher-friendly parks, and at the lower levels the walk rates were almost identical, so there are no inherent advantages there. The main advantages seem to be that McCarthy's ratios held up better in AA, and that McCarthy was also able to put up gaudy numbers in the Carolina League before advancing. However, Cain appears to have somewhat of a statistical edge over McCarthy, as well as being the Scout's Blend.

Wait a sec. Am I on the internet, quibbling about the arbitrary rankings of two minor-league pitchers? As I look into the mirror, I kneel, and dub thee, "King Nerd".

What we can gather with this, so far:

a) Baseball Prospectus might put much less weight on the differences between low-A and high-A.

b) The Baseball Prospectus projection system, PECOTA, doesn't love Cain as much as the scouts love him.

Fair enough, though it would help if we knew exactly how PECOTA does its thing. Or, rather, it would help if someone else knew the proprietary formula who could dumb it down for me. Perhaps with finger puppets or a diorama. The system doesn't look just at stats, also taking into consideration body size and age, and comparing all the factors to players throughout the history of baseball. Exactly which of those factors is pushing the "translate poorly button" for Cain is unknown, but it is my guess that his young age is working against him when trying to predict his career. Younger pitchers who are rushed, and Cain is on a faster track than most, might burn out with more frequency.

I hope that isn't the case, and I hope the system is wrong. Or, if not wrong, that Cain beats the odds. After all of the prospecterica coming out lately, the kid is really starting to excite me.

Poll

Where would you rank Cain among minor-league pitchers?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Top five
    (4 votes)
  • 10%
    Top ten
    (1 vote)
  • 10%
    Top twenty
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Not ranked
    (0 votes)
  • 40%
    hes the best picher in baseball in 2006 and teh giants will finally WIN THAT RING!!!!!
    (4 votes)
10 votes total Vote Now