If you've read this site for a while, you'll know that I scout about as well as I rap. I might pretend to do it when a game or song is playing, but you can be sure that when someone else might be paying attention, I'm going to shut the heck up.
So I don't know what, if anything, is different about Matt Cain this year. But I have a nagging feeling that his off-speed stuff this year is better than it has been. One of the reasons Cain seems to get the lucky/annoying label from fans of other teams is that he doesn't seem that impressive if you don't watch him a lot. He doesn't throw 95 to 100 MPH, and he doesn't have a slider that can buckle a right-handed hitter. He just pitches, usually well.
It hasn't mattered that Cain is more of a 91/92 MPH kind of guy -- his fastball has been one of the most effective pitches in the league. It's not exactly a blazing strikeout pitch, but whatever he's doing with it, it's working.
And if I'm not a scout, I'm certainly not a stats maven. The new math was hard enough when it was just the Bill James/Baseball Prospectus stuff, and now there's the amazing FanGraphs stuff to sift through. It's an unbelievable resource, and I know how to use it like I do my car -- I can get to the liquor store, but don't expect me to know where the carburetor is. But here's what I can see about Cain this year, according to FanGraphs:
- He's using his changeup a lot more
- He's getting more hitters to chase pitches out of the zone
Mike Krukow noted today that Cain is changing his arm slot for the occasional slider, too. Whatever is going on, Cain looks like a slightly different pitcher right now. He's not radically different, but it seems like he has an adjusted arsenal to complement his sneaky-fast fastball.
Maybe, maybe not. Again, I'm just riffing here. But I have seen enough to come up with some ideas of my own. I've rolled those ideas into my new Matt Cain Theorem, which posits:
Matt Cain is awesome.
There have been similar theorems floating around out there, but I think that consolidates them all nicely. A corollary to the MCT was that he already was awesome, and that if he keeps up his new off-speed mastery, he'll be even more awesome.
Though to paraphrase, Nigel Tufnel, "It's like how much more awesome could he be, and the answer is: none. None more awesome."