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Entries in Matt Cain (15)


Matt Cain's Fastball: Less Velocity, More Whiffs

Justin Verlander takes the mound for the AL All-Stars tonight in Kansas City against NL starter Matt Cain. Verlander, averaging 94.4 MPH with his fastball this year and topping out at 101.5 MPH, fits the power pitcher archetype to a T.

Cain really doesn't at this point at his career. His fastball velocity has trended down in recent years, going from an average of 91.6 MPH in 2010 to 91.2 MPH last year and 90.9 MPH in 2012. His top-level velocity has declined from 95.4 MPH to 94.4 MPH. Yet his whiff rate over that period has climbed: 16.7 percent in '10, 18.1 percent last year and a Verlander-esque 21 percent in 2012:

Highest fastball miss percentages among SP, 2012

PitcherMiss Pct.
Matt Moore 24.1%
Max Scherzer 23.0%
Lance Lynn 22.5%
Gio Gonzalez 22.1%
Yu Darvish 21.7%
Matt Cain 21.0%
Justin Verlander 21.0%
Ian Kennedy 20.0%
J. A. Happ 19.8%
Wei-Yin Chen 19.8%
MLB Avg. 14.6%


Cain's slower, yet more whiff-inducing fastball bucks the trend usually seen between fastball velocity and whiff rate. The faster the pitch, the more often the batter swings through it:

Fastball miss rate by velocity for SP in 2012:

Velocity (MPH)Miss Rate
90 13.6
91 14.1
92 15.1
93 14.8
94 16.2
95 18.8


So, where is the zone is Cain getting those extra swings and misses? On pitches thrown on the inner half, especially to fellow right-handers. Check out his contact rate by pitch location with the fastball over the past three years:







Cain's miss rate with the fastball on inner-half pitches has increased somewhat against lefties (from 12.1 percent in 2010 to 13.5 percent this year), but he's getting dramatically more whiffs on inner-half fastballs against right-handed hitters (13.6 percent in 2010, 21.1 percent in 2012). Beware, Jeter, Joey Bats, Beltre and Napoli: Cain's can make you whiff inside, modest velocity be damned.


Cain Catching 'Em Looking

Life is good for Matt Cain. He's fresh off a 14-K perfect game, enjoys the best ERA+ (163) of his career since a big league cameo in 2005, and he'll pull in at least $123 million between now and 2018. The Giants ace has taken his game to new heights this season in part by increasing his K rate to 26.4 percent of batters faced, up from 19.9 percent entering the year. Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke are the only starters to punch out hitters more often.

While Cain is eluding lumber more this season (his miss rate is 24 percent, compared to 21-22 percent in past years), a big reason for the strikeout spike is that he's catching hitters looking far more than in years past. In 2011, Cain got 27 hitters to look at strike three. He has already surpassed that mark this season and ranks in the top 10 among starting pitchers in looking Ks:

Most strikeouts looking among starting pitchers

PitcherLooking Ks
Vance Worley 36
David Price 32
Cliff Lee 32
Joe Blanton 28
Felix Doubront 28
Justin Verlander 28
Matt Cain 28
Jake Arrieta 27
James McDonald 26
Chris Capuano 26


Cain has gotten those looking Ks by stretching the outside corner. Five of his nine looking strikeouts against lefties have come on pitches thrown outside...

Cain's looking Ks vs. left-handed hitters, 2012 ...And 11 of his 19 strikeouts looking against righties have been on outside offerings...

Cain's looking Ks vs. right-handed hitters, 2012

Cain has received some generous calls: 12 of his 28 looking Ks have come on pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. Yet another reason why it's good to be Matt Cain.


Matt Cain: Perfect Game Heatmap


The heatmap above is a visual representation of Matt Cain's pitch locations during his perfect game on June 13, 2012. He threw a total of 125 pitches with a called strike rate of 46%.