Matt Cain and Rxmeister

Today is just another example of how the Giants have shown Matt Cain a horrible lack of run support and some cases such as this game, a lack of bullpen support.  Certainly Matt, who has been the most consistent of the Giants' fine starting rotation this season, pitched well enough to win -- and during the inning in which he was pinch hit for, finally received decent run support and seemed in great position for win #3 on the season, a win which would have brought his record to a perfect 3-0 after just four starts.

I mention Rxmeister because while he is one of the most knowledgeable posters anywhere, on another now-defunct Giants board got sucked up the thinking that Matt Cain can't hold a lead.  Today, of course, he didn't get that chance -- although he certainly kept the Giants in the game with his fine start, to the point where their three-run outburst in the eighth seemed guaranteed to provide him with another win.  But my research into Matt's career showed me two things:

First, Matt hasn't blown very many leads in his numerous losses and in fact has never blown one of more than two runs (although I'm going from memory here).  Most of the relatively few leads he has blown have been early in the game, which in theory should have given the Giants time to come back -- assuming they had any hitting, of course.  (Matt has received the second-worst run support of any starter not just in one season, but in each of the past two.)  Matt has never blown a lead after the sixth inning that resulted in his being charged with the loss.

Second, while Matt hasn't yet become the type of pitcher Giants fans perhaps incorrectly assumed he would be (at least not until this season to date), he has greatly improved the consistency of his pitching, beginning in late July, 2007.  That in theory should give him more opportunity for wins -- but once again that assumes the Giants get him runs.

Last season Tim Lincecum won 18 games; Matt, just seven.  And no question Tim outpitched Matt, fashioning an ERA that was over a run lower than Matt's.  But an even bigger problem for Matt -- who actually pitched well enough to have been expected to finish with a record slightly over .500 -- was that the Giants scored about a run and three-quarters less per nine innings more for Tim than they scored for Matt.

So those who think Matt can't hold a lead aren't very accurate in their perception, and those who don't think he has been consistent are ignoring the considerable improvement he has made in that area of the last year and three quarters (about a season and a half).

Last season Matt finished in the top 10 in the National League in quality starts.  Doesn't that demonstrate more than a modicum of consistency?  I believe that he finished in the top 10 (or perhaps just outside it) in 2007, as well -- although that was based on his phenomenal April and the consistency he developed late in July of that season.

Everyone here knows how much I love Tim Lincecum's pitching.  But in truth, Matt Cain is one of the most underrated starters in the game.  Now that he's finally getting some run support, he's beginning to show it.  If he had received better bullpen support today, he would have shown it even further.

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