Matt Cain Another Cautionary Tale of Overworking Young Pitchers

With Matt Cain back on the disabled list and looking to be done for the 2015 season, he is starting to look an awful lot like another cautionary tale about the consequences of overworking your young pitchers.  He’ll be 31 next season, and it’s hard to imagine him ever again becoming the pitcher he was at any point between 2006 and 2012.

As a young pitcher, Cain was kind of the poster boy for what you wanted in terms of his big body size and his pitching mechanics.  He was routinely described as a “horse” who could throw more innings than most young pitchers, and he was, but only through his age 27 season.  Cain never looked like it strained him to throw hard, sort of like Madison Bumgarner now, so it was easy to believe could keep pitching well well into his 30’s.

In fact, Cain never really threw that many innings in any one season, topping out at 223.1 and 221.2 in 2010 and 2011.  However, what he did do was through a lot of pitches before his age 25 season.  In his seven years as a stud, Cain finished 14th, 11th, 2nd, 8th, 6th, 4th and 6th in the National League in pitches thrown.  That’s a lot of work through his age 27 season.

Working a young pitcher with Cain’s body-type as hard as the Giants did is a workable strategy if you are willing to let your young stud walk when he becomes a free agent.  Of course, most teams do not.  In Cain’s case, the Giants signed Cain to a long-term deal for which the team still owes him $49.5 million from the end of this season through 2017.  The only things positive about this deal going forward is that the Giants signed Cain to what now looks like a home-town discount, and the Giants can well afford the remaining contract after three World Series Championships in five seasons and likely sold out home games through at least the next two seasons.

I guess the question for Giants fans is whether I’ll be writing the same kind of post about MadBum in 2020. He’s also been worked awfully hard the last few years and he’s still only in his age 25 season.

Explore posts in the same categories: San Francisco Giants

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