Matt Cain
Matt Cain
35-Year-Old PitcherRP
 Free Agent  
Free Agent
2020 Fantasy Outlook
There was no outlook written for Matt Cain in 2020. Check out the latest news below for more on his current fantasy value.
$Signed a five-year, $112.5 million contract extension with the Giants in April of 2012. Contract includes $21 million club option and $7.5 million buyout for 2018.
Fires five scoreless inning in farewell
PSan Francisco Giants  
September 30, 2017
Cain pitched five scoreless innings with four strikeouts during Saturday's loss to San Diego. He didn't factor into the decision.
Cain announced his retirement earlier this week, and he left Saturday's outing in position to take the win. Unfortunately, the bullpen blew the lead and cost Cain and San Francisco the victory. The 32-year-old veteran was a fantasy stalwart from 2007 through 2012 with a 3.18 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 7.4 K/9 over 1,299.2 innings and 197 starts. While he struggled over the final years of his career, Cain was still a three-time All-Star and won two World Series titles.
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Cain had a fairly poor season on paper in 2016, finishing with a 5.64 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in 89.1 injury-shortened innings. There were some bright spots for the once-great pitcher. He improved his strikeout rate to 7.25 K/9, a mark that surpassed both his 2015 and 2014 totals. Cain also had a nice nine-game stretch in the middle of the season which produced a usable 3.27 ERA. As usual, the long ball was his eventual downfall, as his 1.61 HR/9 compounded with his unlucky .321 BABIP hurt his season totals. It is a bit too early to write the 32-year-old off completely; but he will need to stay healthy, win the fifth starter's job and also produce consistently before anybody will give him another chance at fantasy relevance.
Last season was supposed to be Cain's year of redemption after undergoing two offseason procedures to his elbow and ankle. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as Cain — who looked healthy in spring training — broke down during the season, and when he did manage to take the hill, the results were not pretty (5.79 ERA in 60.2 innings). Declining K-rates and velocity over the past three seasons are a big part of the former ace's decline, and the myriad of injuries have not been helping. The only saving grace for Cain is that he was never an overpowering pitcher, even in his successful years. So there is a chance he could still pitch effectively as a fourth or fifth starter if he ever does get fully healthy, but owners need to wait and see it before restoring faith in the big righty. The Giants are heavily invested in Cain from a monetary standpoint, so he could be in the rotation on Opening Day, but fantasy owners are not required show similar attachment.
The Giants are the latest team to prove that one player alone can’t cripple a team with his absence. If one had predicted the Giants would win a World Series despite getting just 90 innings from Cain, all before the All-Star break, few (if any) would've believed it. Cain had bone chips removed from his right elbow in August and a bone spur removed from his ankle in September. He is expected to be ready for 2015, but that still leaves us with on-the-field concerns. Both his strikeout and walk rates are headed the wrong way, while his innings total is in a four-year decline. For years, his xFIP suggested he was more of a high-3.00s, low-4.00s ERA pitcher, and he skated by on a minuscule HR/FB rate. He has paid the piper the last two seasons with a league average mark (11.0%) in 2013 and a big 13.7% rate last year. Were his single digit HR/FB rates a skill and, if so, can he recapture it? Don’t bet heavily on it at age-30, but the rising ERA and missed time should depress the price enough to a point where there is value for those willing to roll the dice.
Cain had a down year in 2013, as he finished the year with a 4.00 ERA and had career-lows in innings pitched (184.1), strikeouts (158), and home runs allowed (23). Many pointed to Cain historically outperforming his FIP and xFIP numbers as the reason for his down year, but his K/9 (7.7), BB/9 (2.7), and average fastball velocity (91.2 mph) were all in line with his career averages. The big difference last year was an increase in both his HR/9 (1.1) and HR/FB (10.8%) rates, which were both outliers when compared to Cain's previous seasons. Cain is a flyball pitcher, but considering that his peripherals were in line with his career norms, it would be safe to say that last year's increase in longballs was a fluke. Those who believe in a bounce-back campaign from Cain in 2014 could benefit greatly, as his draft stock will be lower than it has been in years.
Cain produced another typical season in 2012, producing a 2.79 ERA and a career-best walk rate of 2.1 BB/9. He improved his swinging-strike rate to a career-best 9.6 percent that helped to improve his strikeout rate to 7.9 K/9. Cain's defense independent pitching stats (DIPS) have never demonstrated his true pitching value since he has demonstrated an efficient skill in limiting his HR/FB ratio (6.8 percent career rate). Cain's average fastball velocity remained steady during the season (91.2 mph), and he should continue to be a strong option thanks to excellent ratios and an ability to shoulder a heavy workload.
Cain has now turned in essentially the same strong season three years in a row, though the one outlier in 2011 was a huge drop in home runs allowed (nine). He’s always been tough to homer against, but his 3.7 percent HR/FB was a career low, and while that’s unsustainable, note his career mark is 6.5 percent. Cain’s career BABIP is also .265, so barring a change in scenery, it’s safe to ignore the fact his xFIP is always much higher than his ERA. Cain dealt with some arm trouble last year in spring training, and there’s some long-term concern about him having “loose bodies” in his elbow, but there’s little concern about his short-term durability, as he’s averaged 220.0 innings over the past four years. Cain has yet to win 15 games in a season in his career, but if he remains a horse while pitching like he has recently, he’ll approach 20 victories one of these years.
Cain has been a remarkably similar pitcher over the past four seasons, though his 2.46 BB/9IP ratio last season was a personal-best. He's finished with a HR/FB ratio less than 8.5 percent during all six seasons he's been in the big leagues, and his career BABIP is just .274, so those who keep calling for his regression continue to be disappointed. He's now up to nearly 1,100 innings pitched in his career, so maybe Cain is an outlier in this respect. Despite not possessing overwhelming velocity (averaging 91.6 mph in 2010), Cain's fastball has been one of the best pitches in baseball over the past two years, thanks to a lot of movement and a deceptive delivery. Still just 26, Cain showed marked improvement after July ended last season, posting a 1.35 BB/9IPIP and an 8.00 K/9IPIP, and he also didn’t allow a single earned run over 21.1 innings in the postseason, so a true breakout may yet be in store if that improved control carries over. He enters 2011 as the Giants' No. 2 starter, and after averaging 210.0 innings over the past five seasons since becoming a full-time starter, Cain is about as safe a fantasy pick as they come.
Cain finished with a career-high 14 wins last season as well as a career-best 2.89 ERA and 1.181 WHIP. The results occurred with a poor, albeit improved, walk rate (3.02 BB/9IP) and a declining strikeout rate (7.07 K/9IP), so Cain is a tough pitcher to project moving forward. His ERA has been much better than his peripherals suggest it should be during all four of his seasons in the majors, so some big correction isn’t necessarily in store, but it’s worth noting he held batters to just a .161 BAA with runners in scoring position in 2009, including a .101 BAA with RISP and two outs, which simply isn’t sustainable. He also finished last year with a .268 BABIP, but his career mark is .278, so that’s becoming more of a trend than a mirage. Ultimately, Cain is a good pitcher, both durable and capable of becoming truly great if he ever improves his control. After all, he’s still just 25 years old. However, the declining strikeout rate is a concern, and it might be best not to overpay for last season’s sparkling ERA based on his shaky underlying component stats.
Cain's 2008 season was disappointing, as he finished 8-14 with a 3.76 ERA. The ERA wasn't bad, and the poor record obviously wasn't his fault, but Cain's 3.76 BB/9IP mark was the fifth worst in all of baseball, leaving him with a subpar 1.36 WHIP. His improved strikeout rate (7.69 K/9IP) was highly encouraging, but at this stage of his career, it's disappointing he's still having command problems. Cain really wore down after the All-Star break, which could be a result of him being among the league-leaders in pitches thrown. The velocity of his fastball has dipped a bit, and his secondary pitches haven’t quite developed as hoped. It's possible a true breakout campaign is still in his future, but Cain is no longer San Francisco's ace.
It's easy to forget Cain is only 23 years old as last year's 3.65 ERA and 1.260 WHIP can hardly be viewed as disappointing. He still battles control problems from time to time, and of some concern is that his strikeout rate dropped in 2007. Still, he fanned 67 batters in 70 innings over the season's final two months last year, finishing strong with a 2.96 ERA and 1.000 WHIP. Thanks to terrible run support, Cain was left with a 7-16 record, which could help him come at a discount in fantasy leagues. He has terrific stuff with the mechanics and body type to be a workhorse, and pitching in AT&T Park certainly helps as well. Run support figures to remain a problem, but Cain has big time upside, making him someone to target.
Cain's rookie season was an inconsistent one, as his command often fluctuated from start to start. Still, he was baseball's best pitcher for a six-start stretch during August and September, allowing just one run over 42 innings (0.21 ERA), while fanning 43 batters, showing his enormous potential. Command is likely to remain an issue, given his 4.12 walks per nine innings, but Cain enters this year with the upside of a top-20 starter. Throwing in the pitcher-friendly NL West, Cain is definitely someone to target.
One of the top ten prospects in the game, Cain's high-90s heat and power curve make him unhittable at times. Control problems have been a concern, and certainly were in his MLB debut. Get him, but know that his '06 line may not be that special, as he continues to work on the strike zone.
Cain was promoted to Double-A Norwich in June after a great campaign at Single-A with the San Jose Giants, but he will likely require a few more seasons before he's ready for the big leagues.
Elbow problems cut his season short, but the Giants' 2002 #1 pick got it together in instructional league and is set to jump to the Cal League to start 2004. High-school pitchers often take a while to reach the majors, usually because of injury or adjustments. Cain should be no different, so his name should only be called in leagues with extremely deep farm systems.
Cain was drafted in the first round out of high school by the Giants (25th overall) in 2002. In his first taste of pro ball, he posted a 3.72 ERA in 19 innings in the Rookie league (20 K's, 11 walks, only one homer allowed, 1.24 WHIP). The Giants are high on him, but he's got a long way to go; he'll pitch somewhere in Single-A in 2003.
More Fantasy News
Will retire following Saturday's start
PSan Francisco Giants  
September 27, 2017
Cain announced that he will retire following his last start of the 2017 season, which will come against the Padres on Saturday, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
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Will start Saturday
PSan Francisco Giants  
September 26, 2017
Cain has been named the starting pitcher for Saturday's game against the Padres, Andrew Baggarly of The San Jose Mercury News reports.
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Rejoins team Monday
PSan Francisco Giants  
September 26, 2017
Cain (personal) has rejoined the Giants and completed a bullpen session Monday, the Associated Press reports.
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Away from team with family issue
PSan Francisco Giants  
September 4, 2017
Manager Bruce Bochy said Cain will miss the upcoming series against the Rockies while attending to a family matter, Andrew Baggarly of The San Jose Mercury News reports.
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Takes loss in spot start
PSan Francisco Giants  
September 1, 2017
Cain (3-11) tossed five innings of two-run ball Thursday, giving up seven hits and striking out two in a losing effort against the Cardinals.
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