2013 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

Cold Streak or Bust? – Matt Cain

Matt Cain’s follow-up to his 2012 career year has not gone as planned. The twenty-eight-year-old righty currently sits in third atop the home-runs-allowed leaderboard, having given up 13 bombs on the season.

At first glance, the eye-popping number in Cain’s peripherals is a career high home-run per fly ball of 16.5%. Cain has always had an innate ability to keep home runs down. His career HR/FB of 7.1% reflects that. It’s quite easy in the baseball industry to do the proverbial wave of the hand and call it a fluke in a small sample, but we have to go back to 2009 to find even a one month sample in which Cain was this bad. Qualifier stats for “historical comparison” are a HR/FB greater than 13% and an infield-fly-ball percentage of less than 10%.

[am4show have=’p4;p7;p3;’ guest_error=’Front Office’ ]

Sample HR/FB% IFFB% LD% Fastball K/BB Fastball ISO Fastball HR/(FB+LD)
Aug 2009 14.6% 6.3% 20% 21:5 .214 11.36%
2013 16.5% 7.6% 21.1% 27:19 .233 11.32%


Given the heightened line drive rates in these samples, we can see that if we use Brooksbaseball.net HR/(FB+LD) stat, the HR’s allowed don’t look so “unlucky”.

The stat not included in that table is his fastball velocity. Cain averaged 93.78 mph on his fastball in 2009, and is only averaging 91.45 mph this season. Cain doesn’t throw nearly as hard as he used to, and thus he has to rely on his sinker to generate weak contact. He’s not, as batters are crushing his sinker for an absurd .345 batting average and .909 slugging percentage in 11 at-bats. Before you ask, the BABIP on the pitch is only .250.

Looking deeper into Cain’s pitch mix, it’s quite apparent (as evidenced by the 2013 K:BB fastball ratio) that his fastball command is way off right now. Not typically a reverse splits guy, Cain has seen his fastball get pummeled by right handed batters.

According to this chart from Baseball Prospectus right handers hit .205 (35-171) against Cain’s “hard-stuff” in 2012. So far in 2013, that number is .277. More specifically, it seems as if Cain has reverted back to his 2011 version of himself; the version that struggled mightily at using his hard stuff inside to lefties. Take a look:

Cain in 2011 vs. righties on hard stuff

Cain in 2012 vs. righties on hard stuff

Cain in 2013 vs. righties on hard stuff

If Cain wants to turn things around, he better improve his fastball command. Ironically, Cain’s BABIP sits at an insane .238 on the season. If that number were to rise even in the slightest, and Cain doesn’t fix his home run problem until after it corrects, it’s going to be a lost season for Cain. He’s not returning to 2012 form, but he can still return to 2011 form. Given that, he’s going to be a fantasy bust this year. Personally, I would not buy low.[/am4show]

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