Injuries took a toll late in his career, but at his peak, San Francisco Giants right-hander Matt Cain was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.
By the start of the 2005 season, he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the farm system and the No. 13 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America.
He made his MLB debut on Aug. 29, 2005, tossing five shutout innings against the San Diego Padres. The 20-year-old went on to make seven starts down the stretch that year, posting a 2.33 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 46.1 innings.
Since he fell short of the 50-inning rookie eligibility cut-off, he maintained his prospect status heading into 2006 and again ranked as the club’s No. 1 prospect while climbing to the No. 10 spot on the leaguewide top 100.
He was a full-time member of the team’s starting rotation from the jump in 2006, going 13-12 with a 4.15 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 179 strikeouts in 190.2 innings to finish fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
From there, he steadily emerged as one of baseball’s best starters, going 70-65 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.17 WHIP while averaging 178 strikeouts and 217 innings during the six-year span from 2007 to 2012.
His performance during the 2010 postseason was one of the most dominant runs in MLB playoff history. In three starts, he allowed just 13 hits and one unearned run over 21.1 innings of work. He tossed 7.2 scoreless innings in Game 2 of the World Series.
While he was not quite as dominant during the 2012 postseason, he still did his part with a 3.60 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in five starts, including seven strong innings in a no-decision in Game 4 of the World Series.
He also threw a perfect game during the 2012 season, blanking the Houston Astros at AT&T Park on June 13. He racked up 14 strikeouts in what was the 22nd perfect game in MLB history.
He was given a six-year, $127.5 million extension at the start of the 2012 season, which was the largest contract ever for a right-handed pitcher at the time.
His ERA spiked from 2.79 to 4.00 in 2013 and he averaged just 16 starts per year over the final four seasons of the contract, but his peak was more than good enough to etch his place in San Francisco Giants history.
All told, he won 104 games with a 3.68 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 1,694 strikeouts in 2,085.2 innings during his 13 seasons with the team. That was good for 29.4 WAR, as he was named to three All-Star teams and twice finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting.
It’s his postseason track record that really pushes him over the top, with a 2.10 ERA in eight career playoff starts.
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