clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ranking the possible Matt Cain replacements

We're not there yet, but it's time to at least think about it. Unless we've been there for years, I can't even tell anymore ...

Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Consider this a postscript to yesterday’s game recap. Because you aren’t done with that game, and that game isn’t done with you. Matt Cain was outstanding for four innings, and then furrrrrrrrrffffpfhffff. It was quite memorable, really. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that he exploded in a very different way than we’re used to, walking or hitting four straight batters to set up the big inning. Usually he just allows a bunch of hits and dingers. Progress?

So while this site has lasted a long, long, long, long time aboard the Matt Cain bandwagon, making every possible excuse that would allow us to hope for a return to form, we should probably acknowledge that the last time he was good, Ryan Theriot was a designated hitter in the World Series. Cain has made 73 starts since the start of the 2013 season, and do you know how many quality starts he’s made in that time? Thirty-three, which is well below the average starting pitcher.

Also, the Giants are 14-19 when Cain throws a quality start since 2013. So.

Can the Giants do better, though? I’m still skeptical that Cain is really an awful starting pitcher instead of a slightly-below-league-average guy. That’s probably the emotional bias, but I’m sticking with it. So let’s rank the contenders to the throne. The glamorous fifth-starter throne. More like "Game of Throwns," right?


7. Chris Heston

Remember this guy? He was awesome!

Now that we’re a little removed from the joy of it all, let me be the first to say hahaha that called strike three for the first out of the ninth. Wooooo.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the best parts of last year. That it wasn’t supremely awesome and historically significant. That the curveball wasn’t working like magic, and that the sinker wasn’t late-moving bliss. It was all of those things. So should we forget about him entirely?

Heck no. But he’s on a rehab assignment in Arizona right now, so he’s the bottom by default. Before the injury, he was throwing pretty well, though.

6. Joan Gregorio

Still like him a lot. He’s a tall drink o’ water who throws a heavy sinker, and I love those guys. He’s still trying to master Triple-A, though (6.31 ERA in his last seven starts, albeit with a sweet K/BB ratio), which means it would probably be unfair to expect him to ease into a major league role.

5. Clayton Blackburn

In 14 of his 22 outings, Blackburn has allowed three runs or fewer. That’s good! It’s the other eight outings that make me cringe. If the Giants’ scouts and/or brass saw something they like, a corner that was turned, I’d be all for it. As is, the disappointing repeat season in Triple-A probably isn’t a sign that he’s ready to help a team in the majors.

4. Albert Suarez

His outing in Sacramento on Wednesday was even worse than Cain’s in San Francisco, somehow. He started his new job in the minors with two starts that were metaphorical middle fingers to anyone who didn’t think he should be in the majors, and I like him as a sixth starter type.

He would be fine. He’s probably the demarcation line for "Preferable to Cain." I’d at least listen to the argument. But he’s down here because I actually like the players ahead of him, imagine that.

3. Ty Blach

The strikeout rate freaks me out. There’s no getting around that. A starting pitcher who can’t strike out more than six batters for every nine innings he throws in the minors probably isn’t going to succeed in the majors. There are exceptions, but they’re ... exceptions. Not the rule.

Blach is on fire, though, with a 1.86 ERA over his last nine starts, with a 46/10 K/BB ratio over his last nine starts. His last outing was a little rough, but he’s a command-monster of a lefty who throws just a little harder than you might think. Starting pitchers have come from weirder places than this.

Better than Cain? Eh, not sure about that yet. But I will say he doesn’t allow a lot of fly balls or home runs, even in a tough Pacific Coast League environment. I wouldn’t be opposed to the Giants trying him out in September.

Also, any of these fantasy moves will have to wait until September. It’s not like the Giants are going to release Cain.

2. Tyler Beede

He’s in Double-A, so he’d have to skip a level, but that’s not a problem. Lots of pitchers have done that. Beede has back to the hard-throwing ways that made him a first-rounder to begin with, and he’s thriving. His strikeout rate is up, and his walk rate is down. One of my secret thrills of the trade deadline is that the Giants got to hang onto him (and Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker), because it’s very easy to concoct a scenario where he’s absolutely vital in the coming seasons.

Now, though? Maybe not. He’s still raw with his command and control, so there would be a lot of frustrating three-, four-, and five-inning outings involved while he found his sea legs. The Giants already have that in the rotation, and they’re paying a lot of money for it.

1. Jake Peavy

Yeah, pretty much.

Statistically, there isn’t much of an argument between him and Jeff Samardzija, even. Peavy was better last year, and according to FIP, he’s been better this year. He’s been better over the last three months, certainly. So if he’s better than the clearly defined #4 pitcher, why wouldn’t he compete well against the #5?

[whispers] pssssssst did you know that Peavy has a 1.50 ERA in seven relief outings with seven strikeouts and one walk, even though his BABIP against is .421 [scurries away]

Fair enough, whispering scurrier! It’s possible that the ludicrously small sample size is meaningful here. Still, I’ll take my chances that Cain is probably still the better reliever. It takes both pitchers a while to warm up, so I don’t think the Giants will lose any flexibility.

And we’re back to square one, arguing about Peavy or Cain in the rotation.

If the Giants had a hotshot prospect toiling in Triple-A, I could see the revolution. Cain hasn’t been good in years, so maybe fresh blood is what the Giants need. As is, though, they don’t have a single starter in the organization that I trust that much more than Cain. Any conceivable move has a better-than-average chance of backfiring.

So the Giants will stick with Cain. And you’ll wonder, "Hey, why are the Giants sticking with Cain?" This. This is why. There are curiosities and raffle tickets, along with some huge potential contributors to future seasons. We’re talking a month-and-a-half of the remaining season, though, which might mean it’s Cain or bust.

If the Giants start hitting, even just a little bit, we probably won’t notice. For now, though, the team’s best option is probably Jake Peavy. The team’s ice is thin. So think. Be careful out there.