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The FullCount: House of Cain EditionPosted on June 15, 2012 at 08:18 AM.
Matt Cain became the 22nd pitcher to throw a perfect game. He also became the fifth pitcher this season to toss a no-hitter. 2012 has definitely become the Year of the No-No. While many are searching for reasons why, the truth is that theyíve always been anomalies and that is why they are so special. In June of 1990, there were four no-hitters thrown. Weíve seen three thus far this month. For Cain, it was night when he had dominant stuff. And, it finally allowed for a spotlight to be shone on the Giants most steady ace.
Cain has long been in the shadow of Tim Lincecum, but he has been one of Baseballís elite pitchers, compiling a 126 ERA+, 7.4 H/9, 7.5 K/9, 3.28 ERA, and 3.63 FIP over his eight year career. Just 27 years old, Cain has been one of the most durable pitchers in the game, but one of the least supported as his 77-75 record indicates.
But, Wednesday night, it all came together. His perfect game came with 14 strikeouts, tying the mark set by Sandy Koufax. Cainís perfecto took 125 pitches, the most ever in a perfect game, which surpassed David Wellsí 120 thrown in 1998. Cain threw 65 fastballs, 21 changeups, 23 sliders, and 16 curveballs. 11 of his 14 strikeouts came from his fastball, including 7 looking. Two strikeouts came from his changeup and one came from a curveball. He threw first pitch strikes to 19 of the 27 batters. Most impressively, he never fell to a 2-0 count all night.
The irony of Cainís perfect game is that the Giantsí offense scored 10 runs on 15 hits, the most ever in a perfect game. For a pitcher who typically receives such little support, the Giants picked a fine night to score.
This wasnít Cainís first flirtation this season as he allowed just one hit to the Pirates on April 23rd. Heís just the second pitcher in Major League history to have a nearly perfect game and a perfect game in the same season. Many will try to rank Cainís performance with a game score or dissect his opponent, but those ideas are futile and lose sight of just how special the accomplishment is. The recent run of no-hitters doesnít cheapen the experience. Baseball fans still sit on the edge of their seats, focused on every pitch. 2012 has given us a bunch of these moments. Itís a good time to be a Baseball fan.
Pitch One: Reds Taking Off
Overlooked for much of the season, the Reds are finally setting the pace in the NL Central with a 35-27 record. They now hold a three game lead in the division and are beginning to finally hit. Joey Votto was off to a slow start with power, but he is now batting .362/.485/.657 with 27 doubles, 12 homeruns, and 44 RBI. Heís the early season MVP. While the offense is in middle of the pack in every offensive category except for doubles and homeruns, the pitching staff has been stellar, particularly the bullpen. Reds relievers have an NL high 15 wins, while averaging an NL best 10.51 K/9. Aroldis Chapman has a filthy 56 strikeouts and a 1.13 ERA in 32 innings. Defensive metrics thus far are showing the Reds arenít the same defensive team they were a couple of years ago, but with Johnny Cueto leading the staff and Mat Latos possibly returning to form, the Red are the most complete team in the NL Central. If they can add a top of the order hitter and a back of the rotation starter, they are serious World Series contenders.
Pitch Two: Dodgers Overpay Ethier
Itís great that the Dodgers new ownership is willing to invest. The Dodgers are a big market team and need to capitalize on their early season success. With that rationale, it makes sense to sign Andre Ethier, the team leader in RBI with 55. But, signing him to a five year deal worth $85 million with a sixth year option worth $17.5 million, is a huge risk. Many think of Ethier as a young player, but he is already in his age 30 season. He has an injury history and will be getting paid as an elite outfielder with just one elite season on his resume. Players actually decline now and given that he will be 36 or 37 when this deal expires, it is difficult to see how the Dodgers can get a return on their investment. Hopefully, this doesnít impact the budget at all in the future when the Dodgers are looking to add another star.
Pitch Three: Oswalt Struggles Donít Matter
Roy Oswalt has given up 8 runs on 14 hits in 9.1 innings in the Minor Leagues. Those are completely meaningless statistics. The veteran is working his way back into shape and is likely working on all of his pitches rather than trying to navigate through a game. Andy Pettitte was hit hard in the Minors before getting back up to the Majors this. Heís a different pitcher in the Major Leagues. Oswalt may struggle because he is in the American League, but it wonít have anything to do with what he is doing in the Minors right now.
Pitch Four: RA Dickey
Dickey is now a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate. The last remaining knuckleballer is 10-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 13 starts. In 90 innings, heís allowed just 66 hits, 19 walks, and has struck out 90 batters. His 2.92 FIP demonstrates just how well he is pitching. His one-hitter against the Rays--seriously Mets, drop the appeal--has made it four straight games without giving up an earned run. He is a great story and the fact that he is a knuckleballer makes his season even more remarkable.
Pitch Five: Brandon Belt Finally uncaged?
The Giants lefty slugger has hit three homeruns in his last three games. The 24 year has been a bit of an enigma because his Manager Bruce Bochy hasnít given him consistent playing time despite Belt being the Giants best offensive prospects. Bochy has chosen the likes of Aubrey Huff, Nate Schierholtz, and Cody Ross ahead of the promising Belt whose Minor League batting line is .347/.457/.596. This year, Belt made the team out of Spring Training, but after starting slow, he found himself on the bench again. Bochy has refused to just allow Belt to develop . But, in eight June starts, Belt is batting .269/.375/.654 with 3 homeruns and 10 RBI. Maybe, just maybe, he will get an extended opportunity. Maybe.
Gary Armida is a staff writer for OS and works as a freelance writer for a couple of other places. Talk with him on Twitter @garyarmida
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