Yes, he's a fly-ball pitcher, but that "Scarlet FB" is overblown, especially when you toss in his home of AT&T Park. In fact, eight of Cain's homers allowed have come in the road, at Wrigley Field, Miller Park and Chase Field. And according to this first-hand observation, hitters aren't beating Cain at his best.
His nearly typical BABIP reflects small changes in batted-ball distribution. The 44.3 loft rate isn't much higher than his norms, and he's hovering near the same infield-fly allowances he's put forth throughout his MLB life. That tells me that the homer allowance (19.1 percent HR/FB, compared to 7.1 career) is inflated and a brief bump along his seasonal path. At least his K/9 and K percentage look like they've been carried over from last year, so he's still reaching back or guiding himself when needed.
As for that LOB rate, the fact he's allowed five taters with men on (he yielded six in those situations all year) has inflated his ERA. Correcting his approach will temper that damage in the future.
Fatigue can't be written off, but maybe that only requires "extended spring training," so to speak. His long 2010 campaign didn't hurt; maybe he needs a bit more time to get rejuvenated.
If he were allowing taters at this rate while displaying similar pitch movement to last season or his velocity was significantly down, OK, that'd be a problem. Cain isn't Tim Lincecum v.2012, though. He's a command conqueror, a pitcher based on control and working efficiently. He doesn't strike out via overpowering stuff; it's based on location, and his seems to be fouled up.
Trust seven full seasons' worth of numbers. Don't hide in the shelter after one month of him underachieving relative to his indicators. His stable peripherals point to a positive future. Fixing a combination of mechanics/location and approach, with some rectified homer suppression as a result, should do the job.
Even with all the innings he's logged, I'm not looking to sell unless I'm blown away by an offer. Expect this Dave Righetti resurrection to work out better than last year's. Cain remains plenty able.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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