Bringing Together the Fantasies: Matt Cain Projections for 2014

Some people might be worried Matt Cain is finally regressing, that his luck has run out. Worried that his stats have fallen back to 2006 levels — the last time he pitched less than 200 innings and had above a 4.00 ERA. Even so, his walk rate was below 8% for the fourth year in a row, BABIP consistently around the .260 area, and his K% above twenty percent, among other numbers that might also tell you there’s not much to worry about. Giants fans will remember though that it was the home run ball early on in the season that was dooming Cain’s stats and probably made him a fantastic buy-low candidate after he’d given up nine home runs going into May. Yes, those nine bombs did match his overall 2011 total of HR given up, but consider that his total HR allowed the past five seasons from 2009 is 22, 22, 9, 21, 23, Cain ended up being in the area where we might have expected him, just with a bloated ERA and HR/FB%.

All this knowledge is pretty well spread out by now, so the only people that will be fooled by Matt Cain’s ERA and are not citing possible physical concerns are the people that don’t read up on fantasy baseball. Everyone is reading he’s a “buy low” and if he falls to you at the average draft position, you’re probably getting a good deal for the spot in the draft.

Other opinions on Matt Cain:

  • “He afforded a home run on 10.8 percent of the fly balls he allowed, an increase of more than 3 percent and a change that can influence a pitcher’s ERA by as much as a half-run… The smart move is to pick Cain assuming a mild rebound, anything more first requiring a sacrifice to Homerperflyeus, the Greek god of keeping fly balls in parks.” —ESPN
  • #2 on Jim Bowden’s “Undervalued guys to target,” including a sub-3 ERA projection from the former GM. Cain has only done that once in his career (2011).
  • 78% of Fantasy Experts connected with FantasyPros would draft Cain sooner than his #88 ADP
  • “You look at Cain’s peripherals, there are no real serious outliers. He just had a terrible start to the season. As for his low win total, blame that on the Giants’ offense… Cain is one of those players Fantasy owners might overlook on Draft Day coming off a down season, but don’t fall into that trap. He’s still a top 20 Fantasy starting pitcher.” —CBS Sports
  • The writers over at SB Nation’s Fake Teams have Matt Cain in their Top 25 SP overall
  • Some projections, including the Fans from Fangraphs thinking good things about Cain like they did about Brandon Belt:

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The fans, and some of the projections seem to agree with the numbers from PECOTA, where it listed Cain as throwing around 207 IP with a 3.10 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Those would be very welcome numbers, and if he can pull that off with who knows who at second base and Michael Morse in left field for two-thirds of the game, that’s going to make life pretty good for fantasy owners of Cainer. The Steamer projections are the lowest on Cain, projecting a 3.75 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Even the worst projections for Cain aren’t too awful, but they’re not the Matt Cain we’ve become spoiled with during his age 24-28 seasons. Yes, Matt Cain is entering his age 29 season, and the Giants can choose to utilize his services through 2018 at $20MM/year, except ’18 would be a $21MM team option. Neat that we get to watch what probably will be Matt Cain’s best years.

What I’m worried about for this year: do the injuries come back? Spring Training game performance reports have been positive thus far. What about the defense? ERA is dependent on a capable defense, and with Pablo Sandoval trimmer, Brandon Crawford healthier, and a commitment to Brandon Belt at 1B, the infield defense should be good. Left field with Morse is my only question mark, and if he gets injured, we know the Giants have plenty of gazelles they can replace him with.

My 2014 Projection: Matt Cain continues to steal our hearts and inspire tweets that only say “MATT CAIN” in them. There will be disturbing pictures of horses. It will be a good year. Twelve wins, 3.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 20 HRA. K% drops a little below 20% while the BB% stays below 8. He’s a good pitcher. I want to be like him.

Will I get to draft him: No. I’ll probably be drafting hitters when Cain gets picked up, so I’ll just watch Matt Cain win categories for my opponent in our head-to-head matchups. It’ll be a mix of great happiness and great sadness. I will regret not picking him up.


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