Giants

What's wrong with Matt Cain?

837443.jpg

What's wrong with Matt Cain?

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS Thirteen. That was Matt Cains unlucky numberMonday night.

There are plenty more numerals of note you could citeafter Cain couldnt escape the sixth inning in an 8-2 loss to the St. LouisCardinals at Busch Stadium.

The Giants have lost six of his last nine starts since the perfect game. He has a 4.40 ERA over that span. He gave up his 17th home run of 2012 after surrendering just nine all of last season.

Cain would appear to be in a genuine funk. He certainly appeareddispleased while managing clipped answers to reporters after the game.

But when you examine his start pitch by pitch, 13 of themstand out the ones the Cardinals fouled off with two strikes.

The Cards fouled off a whopping 37 of 114 pitches in all, and 13of those prolonged at-bats. Matt Holliday spoiled a pair of two-strike pitchesbefore doubling on a curveball to start the fateful, three-run sixth inning.Rafael Furcal, who had a 10-pitch at-bat in the second inning, fouled off a 3-2pitch with runners going before drawing a walk.

And Matt Carpenter fouled off a 1-2 changeup before reachingout to turn a fastball on the black into a two-run single.

So its no surprise, when asked what he could improve from his past few losses, Cain responded: Putting away guys better.

Easier said than done especially against the Cardinals.

The only way you can go about it, maybe is just try toexpand a little more, catcher Buster Posey said. But you can get where theyre eitherspoiling them or taking them. Its a good lineup and I thought Matt threw theball well. Even the two-out single was a pretty quality pitch, I thought.

So did manager Bruce Bochy, who had to know the second-guessquestion was coming: Why did he leave Cain (with 110 pitches, including 26 inthe sixth) out on the mound to face Carpenter with the bases loaded in thesixth, especially since the left-handed pinch hitter was 3 for 3 against him inhis career?

You wouldnt want to come out, would you? Bochy said.

Cain has earned plenty of capital and trust over the years.Nobody would deny that. Bochy decided to spend some of it.

Hes a strike away from a pretty good start, Bochy said.

Instead, he was charged with five earned runs in 5 23 innings. Now the questions will come, and they will be obvious: Cainhas a 4.40 ERA since he threw his perfect game, with history riding on each ofthose 125 stressful pitches. He had a 2.18 ERA through that start, and the Giants had been 10-3 in his assignments. Now they've lost six of nine.

Is there a correlation?

Im going out there to do a job, said Cain, stayingultra-laconic. Thats the only way I look at it.

Is he feeling healthy and strong?

Yep.

Cain is always an interesting subject to evaluate. Those who use advanced metrics have been forever fascinatedby his suppressed home runfly ball ratio, sometimes calling it unexplainableor unsustainable but certainly calling it an outlier.

Last year, just 2.9 percent of Cains fly balls were homeruns; the NL average was 7.9 percent. It was the most extreme example in whatsbeen a career trend: The league ratio has never been lower than 7.1 percent since Cain broke into the majors.Cains ratio had never been higher than 6.7 percent.

This season, perhaps hes deviating to the norm. His home runflyball ratio is 7.7 percent, nestled right up against the NL average of 7.9percent.

But for all the hmmmmmms those numbers might generate, the gopherball isnt what dug Cain's Monday night.The one home run he allowed came on a first-pitch curveball down that CarlosBeltran -- a pretty good hitter, we should point out -- golfed over the fence.

Actually, Cain managed to rebound well after a 31-pitchsecond inning, which included Furcals 10-pitch battle. He retired 10 of 11hitters and entered the sixth in a tie game.

You look at him inning by inning, you watch if his mechanicsare off, Bochy said. The last start (against the Mets at AT&T Park), hewas out of sync and hell tell you that. But I thought tonight he was muchbetter. He had good stuff tonight.

But the Cardinals hitters had a good approach tomatch.

Its not a new occurrence. Thats how you hit and scoreruns, said Ryan Theriot, who counted most of these Cardinals among his WorldSeries teammates last season. You spoil the good pitches, the pitcherspitches, and work the count. (Jon) Jay, Furcal thats how you create ralliesand get pitchers out of the game. Its a good night when you can foul balls offlike that.

And on the flipside? What did the Giants manage against Jake Westbrook?

Sinker, cutter, curveball he stayed out of the middle ofthe plate, Theriot said. Thats what were talking about. If you dont fightthose pitches off, its going to make for a long night. I wasnt able to dothat, and Jake was making good pitches.

The Giants will have to do a better job spoiling thosepitches, and making some loud contact, the rest of the series. The Cardinals lineup is not going to let upagainst Barry Zito, who has house-of-horrors numbers in three career starts atBusch Stadium. And with the Dodgers simultaneously playing the radioactiveRockies, losing three of four here in the shadow of the Gateway Arch or worse could make quite an unfortunate fender bender in the NL West standings.

Cains next start will come Saturday against said Rockies. They dont want to put him in positionto close a gushing wound.

Were confident every time he steps on the mound, or thenext guy, Posey said. That doesnt change. I think we feel good withwhoevers out there.

They should be. They've been spoiled for a long time.

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

gillaspie-moncrief-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

righetti-dugout-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a 98-loss season, general manager Bobby Evans met with members of the coaching staff to discuss new roles. The shakeup of the staff ended up being a stunning one. 

Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of three coaches to be reassigned Saturday morning. After 18 seasons as pitching coach, Righetti will now serve as special assistant to the general manager. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner was given a “special assignment role to assist in pitching evaluations.” Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will be a special assistant for baseball operations. 

The moves cap a 13-month run in which the coaching staff has taken much of the blame for a $200 million roster that was poorly constructed in places and played embarrassing baseball for long stretches of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Third base coach Roberto Kelly was let go after the 2016 season and first base coach Billy Hayes was reassigned. More changes appear on the way. 

“It does raise the level of attention to change when you struggle as much as we have, but you’re always contemplating making changes to try to help keep pushing your guys and make sure you continue to have different perspectives and new voices and reflections on how to get the most out of them,” Evans said on a conference call. 

Throughout September, multiple coaches expressed concern about their future roles, but the Giants held off several weeks before announcing changes. At least two members of the staff were involved in managerial searches elsewhere, and third base coach Phil Nevin is reportedly still a candidate for the open job in Philadelphia. 

Evans confirmed that he has interviewed outside candidates for a hitting coach role, but he would not go so far as to say Hensley Meulens will be reassigned as well. He also would not speak to the future of Ron Wotus, although the longtime bench coach is expected to be mixed up in future changes as well. Evans indicated he would announce further moves after all the open managerial vacancies are filled.

For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach. 

Righetti's replacement will have massive shoes to fill. His run was the longest for a pitching coach in franchise history. The Giants, usually so reliant on pitching, finished 16th in the Majors with a 4.50 ERA, but it’s hard to see how Righetti takes the blame for that. Madison Bumgarner missed a chunk of the season after a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto had a brutal injury-plagued year, Matt Moore battled himself and had the worst ERA in the National League, and the bullpen struggled, with closer Mark Melancon pitching through an injury that required season-ending surgery. 

Righetti was credited with helping to develop a rotation and bullpen that won three titles, and the bond he shared with pitchers was on display during the final weekend of the year, when Matt Cain talked repeatedly about their close relationship and went straight for Righetti after he came off the field for the final time. While it’s often hard to figure out where to give credit, even in a down year for the staff, Righetti played a role in Sam Dyson’s resurgence, and he helped Ty Blach and Chris Stratton break in as big league regulars. 

“Ultimately a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity just to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights that we aspire as an organization and a club,” Evans said. “Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and I think that was really the priority here.”

Righetti will help Evans in a front office role. Evans admitted that Righetti’s “heartbeat is in uniform as a coach,” but said he was willing to take on a new role for an organization he loves. 

Gardner, a former Giants pitcher, had been on staff since 2003. He will now help to evaluate pitchers inside and outside the organization, and Evans said Gardner could serve an important role in evaluating trade options. Decker joined the big league staff in 2015 after a long run working in the minor leagues. The 2017 season was his 23rd with the organization. He will have a “blank canvas,” Evans said, working in different roles inside the organization. Decker will also help with draft preparation.