Former San Francisco Giants‘ ace Matt Cain ended a streak of 11 consecutive starts without recording a win on Thursday night, defeating the Miami Marlins to improve his record to 1-3. The Giants haven’t had much of an issue winning despite Cain’s struggles. At 27-15, they currently own the best record in the National League. San Francisco ultimately needs Cain to reemerge as his vintage self if they’re going to compete for a third World Series title in five seasons.
In 2012, general manager Brian Sabean inked Cain to a five-year extension, which prevented Cain from becoming free agent eligible at the conclusion of that season. The lifetime of the deal was worth $127.5 million over six years. At the time, it was the biggest contract ever handed down to a right-handed pitcher. Cain was nails for the orange and black in 2012, recording the best season of his career. He posted a 16-5 record with a 2.79 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 219.1 innings of work. He also finished sixth in Cy Young Award voting. The lofty contract had been justified.
Cain hasn’t been the same since, though. On the surface, fatigue seemed like a predominant reason for his struggles in 2013. The 29-year-old veteran pitched six consecutive seasons of at least 200.0 innings until suffering an 8-10 record with a 4.00 ERA in 184.1 innings of work last year. Cain pitched an additional 30 innings in the 2012 postseason, which means he nearly eclipsed the 250-inning marker during the span of seven months in 2012. He was tired and it took a toll on his performance.
Now, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive excuse for the man who pitched one of baseball’s most dominant games of all time, a perfect game with 14 strikeouts on June 13, 2012. It remains early in the 2014 season, but Cain’s performance to date is not what the Giants signed up for. He boasts an inefficient 4.33 ERA over 43.2 innings of work in seven starts. He’s allowed seven home runs and has surrendered multiple four-baggers in three starts, tying him for the league lead. He also owns a 4.77 FIP, the worst figure in that category of his career.
It would be a slippery slope to state the Giants made a mistake when they handed Cain a long-term extension. It’s possible that he wouldn’t have pitched as well in 2012 knowing that he had to perform at a high level to entice potential suitors in free agency. It’s definite the Giants would have faced immense competition over the offseason to retain his services, considering the numbers he posted that season. Even though Sabean made the right decision by extending Cain, the Giants’ former ace is failing to live up to expectations.