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Matt Cain nearly perfect, loses anyway


When evaluating Matt Cain this season, you need to use advanced statistics. Earned run average is a classic stat, but you need something more. That's why I use ERM -- earned run mode.

Today, Cain had an ERM of 0.00. He was fantastic for almost the entire game. The mode of base runners on Saturday morning was zero per inning -- almost a perfect game. It was fun to watch Cain his his spots and mow through the Cardinals' lineup just about every chance he got. In almost every inning -- the vast majority, really -- Cain was at his best. A vintage performance.

If it weren't for the 593 consecutive line drives in the third inning, they might have released a special Blu-Ray edition of this game some day. Matt Cain doing the things Matt Cain does, just humbling the best offense in the National League in 85.7 percent of the innings he pitched, exhibiting perfection once again.

You can choose to focus on the 593 consecutive line drives. But that's pretty glass-half-empty, my friend.

Oof. After Cain allowed seven runs, the CSN Bay Area broadcast replayed a cut of all the hits in quick succession. Duane Kuiper and Dave Flemming discussed the possibility that Matt Cain was tipping his pitches out of the stretch. Then Flemming noted that the pitches were pretty terrible -- fastballs down the heart of the plate. They agreed that could have been the culprit.

Why not both? As in, the Cardinals had a reason to look fastball because there's something Cain's doing to tip his pitches, and the reason he's tipping his pitches is because his mechanics were screwed up, and because his mechanics were screwed up, the fastballs were completely away from the target. It's a vicious cycle. A drunken, vicious cycle, and it's probably just best to close the door until the cycle passes out.

My dream: The Cardinals figured out something about Cain when he's in the stretch, and they were a little too effective at employing their plan. Now the Giants are aware that Cain is doing something weird, and they fix it. In the playoffs, he'll use this fix to humiliate the Cardinals when it actually counts.

Again, just a dream. A beautiful, beautiful dream. I also had a dream last night that I had a pet kangaroo, and that was a beautiful dream, too. Just a friendly li'l kangaroo who didn't even need a leash. Really, I'm describing some beautiful things, here, and if just one of them could happen, I'd consider this day to be a success in retrospect.

However, neither dream is likely to come true. And the Giants in the playoffs? Ha, not until they get two or three good pitchers. Now, Cain should be one of those pitchers, but forgive me if a game like this makes me less than optimistic. Four of the 11 worst outings of his career have come in the last two months.

Cain allowed 10 earned runs last June, in case you were keeping track. And I reckon that during that entire month, he didn't throw as many meatballs down the middle as he did on Saturday morning. Yet before and after that third inning … he was perfect. I guess that's better than him not fooling anyone in any of the innings he pitched. Or is it?

What a strange game. What a strange, discouraging game.