Matt Cain is retiring, even though he was just called up and I’m still in college with a head of thick, blonde hair. I’m working on the feelin’ post, but I also thought a quick statistical rundown of where he ranks in San Francisco Giants history would be appropriate. It turns out he was pretty good, everyone.
Note that I’m using San Francisco Giants because the turn-of-the-century stats annoy me. Christy Mathewson threw more than 366 innings in two consecutive seasons without leading his league. He played with a baseball that was made out of rocks and bamboo. I don’t feel comfortable comparing him to a modern player.
Innings pitched, 2,080⅔ (3rd)
Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry are first and second, respectively, and that caveat about old-timey pitchers throwing more innings applies here. It was a different game. When it comes to Giants pitchers in the specialized-relief era, no one threw more innings than Matt Cain, and no one is within 300 innings of him right now.
Games started, 331 (2nd)
He couldn’t get the spare 115 starts (!) to pass Juan Marichal, but you can see where he got the nickname “The Horse.” He was so danged consistent and reliable for years. Eight straight seasons with 30 starts or more was a beautiful thing.
Wins, 104 (t-5th)
I’LL BE HONEST WITH YOU. THIS COULD HAVE BEEN HIGHER.
Matt Cain came up in 2004. Madison Bumgarner came up in 2010. They are currently tied with 104 career wins. That has way more to do with Cain’s run support than Bumgarner’s excellent career.
Quality starts in which his team still lost, 77 (1st)
Strikeouts, 1,690 (3rd)
If he strikes out 15 in his final start, he will pass Tim Lincecum and move to second place.
You know, technically ...
I mean, it could happen ...
WAR, 30 (3rd)
If you don’t care about WAR, well, I get it. At the same time, the only two Giants players ahead of Cain are both in the Hall of Fame, so that’s probably a good sign that this isn’t noise.
(He was 10 times as valuable as Barry Zito, if you can believe it!)
ERA, 3.69 (12th)
This one isn’t going to be as pretty as it could have been because of the last five seasons. When the 2013 season started, he was sitting pretty with a 3.27 career ERA, but time is a callous monster. If you think the last five seasons have been rough for you, imagine what it was like for Cain, who had never failed or been injured at any level of baseball in his 28 years of life, and then suddenly couldn’t succeed or stay healthy.
His ERA rank doesn’t mean a whole bunch to me, in other words. I blame the time monster and entropy, which will claim us all.
World Series rings, 3 (t-1st)
This means a little more than ERA, imo.
Perfect games, 1 (1st)
Ran the numbers on this a few times, but it seems to check out.
The San Francisco Giants have been around for 59 years. Matt Cain has been one of the very best pitchers they have ever employed. He deserves all of the cheers he’ll get on Saturday, and you should probably scream some into an empty box and mail them to him because he deserves even more. The statistics bear this out.
You did not need the statistics to bear this out. But they did. And it’s just one piece that helps us appreciate the tremendous career of Matt Cain.