Jake Peavy, Matt Cain and the Giant Problem

Jake Peavy and Matt Cain are struggling. They have been bad enough in the first month of the season, that fans want them removed from the starting rotation. Trying to find two worthy replacements in May is hard enough, but trying to figure out what is wrong is even more difficult.

Peavy and Cain have combined for an 8.10 ERA and a 5.15 FIP, which are brutal numbers for two veteran pitchers.

With numbers like that, it is no wonder fans have been calling into the the local sports shows and demanding something be done. Peavy and Cain both struggled with injuries last season, but came into 2016 healthy. Peavy, when healthy, was good last year and there was optimism that his numbers could be strong this season. Cain, who has been injured for parts of the last three seasons, had a setback during Spring Training and didn’t return to the mound until right before the start of the season.

The Giants added free agent starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija in the offseason, so there was less concern about Peavy and Cain. Because they wouldn’t be asked to be at the front end of the rotation, there would be pitchers to back them up if they struggled. Unfortunately for Peavy, Cain, and the Giants, the struggles have been bad enough that the Giants are 1-9 in the last 10 starts between the two.

Surprisingly, the Giants are still in first place because of how well Madison Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija have pitched and because the rest of the National League West is also struggling. This is also another reason for concern because most of the games so far this season have been against the NL West. The road the rest of the way will be tougher.

To make matters more intriguing, Tim Lincecum pitched in front of scouts yesterday. Lincecum, the former two-time Cy Young award winner for the Giants, would be a savior if he can be productive once again for the orange and black.

So who is already in the system that might help? According to Connor Penfold of Giant Potential, there are a few possible options in the minor league system. Former first round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, Ricky Romero, is currently pitching in Triple-A along with Chris Heston and Clayton Blackburn. All three have struggled so far in Sacramento this season, so there is no clear-cut answer.

Brian Murphy, co-host of the Murph & Mac show on KNBR, brought up a good comparison to the Peavy and Cain problem from a decade earlier. In 2004, Kirk Rueter was 9-12 with a 4.73 ERA and 4.95 FIP. Rueter was not only a fan favorite since his arrival from the Montreal Expos in 1996, but he also was productive.

Rueter ended his Giants career with the most wins by a left handed pitcher in team history. He never had ace stuff, but he always seemed to keep the Giants in games, field his position, and find ways to win. However, in 2004, the winning slowed. By 2005, Rueter stopped being effective. He went 2-7 with a 5.95 ERA and a 5.35 FIP. After eight straight seasons of at least 27 starts and seven of the those with at least 32 starts, he ended 2005 with only 18.

Rueter had been such an important part of those previous eight seasons, that seeing his production fall so dramatically was tough. The team wanted to give him the chance to turn things around. Mike Krukow, a former Giants ace himself and current team broadcaster always points out that there are only so many innings in a pitcher’s arm. It is likely that 2005 was the final season for Rueter as a Giant, because his arm ran out of innings.

You’ll recall, that 2005 wasn’t a great year for the San Francisco Giants either. One of the reasons that Rueter still started 18 times despite poor numbers might have been because of the entire team’s lack of success.

In Peavy and Cain’s case, the team is still in first place and can’t afford to fall out of the race. With so much talent on the roster, the Giants will either need Peavy and Cain to turn things around themselves or find replacements before it’s too late. The question for Bruce Bochy, Bobby Evans, Brian Sabean and the rest of the Giants decision makers will be how many more starts for Peavy and Cain in 2016.

Of course, looking at things another way, Murphy did point out that winning three out of five is a great way to make the post season.

One Response

  1. Joe Jeffery

    The problem with that kindergarten math is the top 3 won’t win every outing. They may win 80% of their outings, (very optimistic). Which is 62 out of their next 77 starts. Coupled with our current wins that’s 79 wins for the season. That doesn’t make the playoffs. We need a 4th and 5th guy who can win 40% of their outings. That shouldn’t be that hard to find with the line up we have. Guaranteed losers, (cain & peavey) will waste our season.


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