Sure, Matt Cain might have reached pinnacle of perfection on the mound in 2012 en route to his second World Series ring in three years, but that’s not changing the righty’s expectations of himself with the San Francisco Giants in 2013.
If you think those expectations might include another World Series, a third consecutive All-Star appearance, or a new career-high in strikeouts – you may want to aim a little lower.
According to Alex Pavlovic of the Silicon Valley Mercury News, Cain has just one goal – he says he wants “to throw as many innings or more than [he] did the year before.”
That sounds a little like the 28-year old is short-changing himself, but in fact, the pitcher’s goal to “make all the starts” might not be as simple as it sounds.
Cain has been a workhorse over his eight-year career thus far, having pitched 200 or more innings in each of his last six years. As Pavlovic points out, a seventh straight year of doing so in 2012 “would be the first Giant with seven straight 200-inning seasons since Juan Marichal‘s streak of 10 straight.”
That kind of longevity that is a rarity these days, and matches that of Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander, which is no small praise for a guy who was under the shadow of Tim Lincecum for some time.
That too, is perhaps why Cain is cautious about his goals going into next season. He’s seen what years of throwing 200-plus innings has done to Timmy’s velocity over the years, and considering that Cain’s fastball velocity averaged 93.2 mph when his streak started, dropping over the years to 91.2 last season, the righty must know that he’s going to have to deal with learning to pitch without it, too.
The Giants ace has been doing so over the last couple of seasons, reducing the amount of fastballs he’s throwing (he only threw it 50.6 percent of the time in 2012 – a career-low) and putting more emphasis on his slider (19.9 percent in 2012, a career-high) to make sure that he’s not relying only on velocity.
Not everyone can be like Verlander, of course, and despite not being able to dial up his heater the same way, Cain has found fantastic success over the last two years by adjusting the way he uses his repertoire.
If he wants to match the 249.1 innings between the regular season and playoffs from 2012, though, Cain will need some help. Namely, he’ll need the Giants to go back to the playoffs in 2013, and deep enough do that he can make enough starts to hit the number – they have to go back to the World Series.
So, perhaps Cain’s expectations aren’t so modest, after all.