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Cain't bring myself to do another pun....

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The poll to your right has been interesting to watch. The question asks if it should be assumed Matt Cain has a spot in the 2006 rotation. When the answers started trickling in, it was a landslide; no, he still has something to prove. With each subsequent start, however, the numbers are trending upward. Shooting upward, even. He's like a gubernatorial candidate caught on film chasing down a mugger, and whose rival candidates were all caught in bed with live boys and dead girls. After another impressive start last night, it's safe to assume Cain will open 2006 in the rotation. It's even becoming safe to project him as an above-average part of that rotation.

Some perspective:

Number of quality starts from Kirk Rueter: 6 (out of 18)

Number of quality starts from Matt Cain: 4 (out of 5)

Number of quality starts from Kevin Correia: 3 (out of 11)

Number of quality starts from Brad Hennessey: 10 (out of 18)

Number of quality starts from Brett Tomko: 14 (out of 27)

A quality start is defined as a start of six innings or longer, with three or fewer earned runs allowed. It isn't a perfect stat, but it can give you an idea of who is pitching acceptably while going deep into games. Rueter's total is even a bit deceptive, as in half of those quality starts he was scraping up against the three-run threshhold. Correia has been flaky, erring on the side of awful. Hennessey and Tomko are right where you'd expect them to be, which is giving their team a good chance to win about half the games they start.

Rueter was included for shock value only, as the other three non-Cains are the tentative competition for Cain. It would take some serious work for him to pitch his way below the other guys, even allowing for the idea we would both want Tomko back and he would even consider coming back. The intial trial, even in a paltry five starts, has to be considered a success. Take the batteries out of the sample-size alarms, folks, as that kind of logic only serves to screw up my point. ♪ ♪ La la la la la la la la.... ♪ ♪

The impressive part about Cain's early success is that it's mostly coming without consistent breaking stuff. The scouting report has to be four words: Sit on the fastball. That isn't the kind of scouting report that needs time to develop, as it winds its way through a Brazil-like bureaucratic maze before landing in the manager's hands four months later. They're the first words out of the opposing manager's mouth before Cain makes his next start. Often armed with just a fastball, and one with something less than pinpoint accuracy, he's still not allowing good contact. I'm impressed.

Oh, and sit on it, Livan. Really, truly, sit on it.