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
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...
...And 11 of his 19 strikeouts looking against righties have been on outside offerings...
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.