Is Matt Cain the Giants’ new ace?


As an avid sports fan, it’s somewhat surprising that I’ve never gotten into fantasy sports before now. But a few weeks ago, one of my best friends convinced me to join his fantasy baseball league. Being a complete newbie to the fantasy baseball process, he ended up giving me tons of tips regarding drafting strategy, how to set my team each week, how to manage my DL list, and how to drop and sign new players. But the best advice I received came from my dad, an hard-core baseball fan (and someone who has never participated in fantasy baseball either). The day before my league’s draft, my dad said to me, “Don’t draft Tim Lincecum, draft Matt Cain.”

I’m a huge Giant’s fan, and Tim Lincecum has been my favorite player the past few years. With two Cy Young Awards under his belt, he was easily the Giant’s No. 1 pitcher. The Freak had an ERA of 2.74 in 2011, just 0.46 behind LA Dodger Clayton Kershaw who won the 2011 Cy Young Award. Lincecum’s 2012 Spring Training numbers weren’t great, but it didn’t alarm Giants fans because he had a history of not producing great numbers during Spring Training.

So why did my dad advise against drafting Lincecum? Perhaps it was a hunch, or perhaps it was because the Giant’s had just signed Cain to a $112.5 million deal over five years with $5 million signing bonus and $7.5 million buyout in 2018 (obviously the Giant’s office management and manager Bruce Bochy saw something in him). This deal makes him the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in baseball history.

Thankfully, I listened to my dad (which doesn’t happen as often as it should). Currently, Lincecum has an ERA of 5.74 (after starting the season with an ERA of more than 10), while Cain boasts a 2.37 over four starts (30.1 total innings). In his second and third games, he pitched 18 scoreless innings, including a one-hit shutout against Pittsburgh, and a two-hit nine inning stretch in a game that went into extra innings. My brother’s friend Max dubbed him Matty “No Runs” Cain. (In case you were wondering, I picked Cain as my second starting pitcher, after the Tiger’s ace, Justin Verlander).

Lincecum has been under scrutiny because his velocity has dropped. In 2011, he averaged 92.2 mph, while he averaged 90 mph in his 2012 debut. My dad said his size forced him to have different pitching mechanics to reach the same power and speed as some of the stronger pitchers in the league, and his mechanics were finally catching up with him. According to Tristan H. Cockcroft on ESPN.com, “In his defense, four times since 2009 he averaged a lower number than he did on April 6, and in four of his first eight starts of 2010 he averaged beneath 91 mph.” The season is just beginning, which gives Lincecum time to adjust, settle into the season and bring his ERA down.

For now, the Giant’s No. 1 pitcher is Cain, who is 1-1 with 26 K’s and 0.63 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). In his four starts he’s allowed eight earned runs, 14 hits (including 4 home runs), and five walks.

If Lincecum can improve his pitching, and if manager Bochy can deal with the loss of closer, Brian Wilson, the Giant’s are poised to have a better year than last year, especially now that they have better offensive support In 2011, they were ranked 29th (second to last) in the majors with 570 runs over 162 games (3.5 runs per game), while this year they are ranked 17th with 90 runs in 22 games (4.1 runs per game).

Currently, the Giant’s are 12-10 (.545) and in second place in the National League west, but the season is still young. If the Giant’s can overcome the unexpected events that have happened so far this year, and if second basemen Freddie Sanchez comes back hitting as well as he did the last two seasons, San Francisco will be a Giant force to be reckoned with.

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