Dysnasty-starting SF Giants pitcher on Hall of Fame ballot

Matt Cain
Matt Cain / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

With the end of the year approaching, the time for Baseball Hall of Fame voting for the induction class of 2023 is beginning. Even though Barry Bonds fell off the ballot after last year (though he gets a fresh chance from a new electorate this year), exhausting the allotted 10 years of eligibility, the SF Giants will still be represented well this cycle.

In addition to power-hitting second baseman Jeff Kent and slick-fielding shortstop Omar Vizquel remaining on the ballot as holdovers who were named on at least 5% of the ballots submitted by 10-plus year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, two more former Giants are debuting on the list after having been retired for at least five years: outfielder Carlos Beltran, who wore the Orange and Black for a couple months in 2011, and one of the team's top starting pitchers in decades, career-Giant Matt Cain.

Cain pitched for the Giants from 2005 to 2017. He was drafted by the team and never left the organization until his retirement.

The right-hander from Germantown, Tennessee, burst onto the Major League scene at 20 years old in 2005. His big-league debut set the tone for his career: in late-August at home against the Colorado Rockies, Cain went five innings and allowed three hits and just two runs - but the Giants lost the game, 2-1.

The last batter he faced in that outing was slugging first-baseman Todd Helton, who is a returner on the Hall of Fame ballot. In the top of the fifth, with a runner on first base and two outs, Helton stepped in and battled Cain for 14 pitches before the young hurler prevailed by inducing a flyout.

Cain pitched a full season in 2006 and finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting after that season, and he earned All-Star nods in 2009, 2011 and 2012, starting the Midsummer Classic in that final year.

Late in the first half in 2012, Cain also turned in a performance for the ages. In a June start against the Houston Astros, the righty set down each of the 27 batters the Astros sent to the plate (with help from Gregor Blanco) to secure the first perfect game in Giants franchise history.

Cain was a rotation mainstay for the Giants for eight years; he made at least 30 starts each season from 2006 through 2013, helping earn the nickname "The Horse". Injuries and ineffectiveness hampered the final four seasons of his career, but he finished with a 104-118 record and 3.68 ERA, compiling 29.1 bWAR.

Drafting Cain set up the SF Giants dynasty

It can be argued that Cain joining the system set in motion the process that would eventually lead to World Series championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

He was the 25th-overall pick in the 2002 draft out of high school and set the tone for draft success for a franchise that didn't pick a first-rounder who accumulated more than 10 bWAR from 1987 (Royce Clayton) until Cain (though Noah Lowry, a first-round selection in 2001, earned exactly 10.0 bWAR). Just a few years later, the team began hitting on a string of top picks who all contributed to the title run: Tim Lincecum in 2006, Madison Bumgarner in 2007 and Buster Posey in 2008.

Cain's career was above-average, but with barely over 100 wins and a mid-3s ERA, he won't earn many Hall of Fame votes except possibly a few of the honorary sort from voters who want to fill out their ballots.

Beltran has a chance

After a 20-year career in which he played for seven teams (the Giants being the fewest times he wore a jersey, at 44 games played), Beltran was seen as a good chance for quick induction when he retired after 2017 with a .279 average, 435 home runs and 312 stolen bases. However, his swan song in Houston - where he won his only World Series championship but was later outed as one of the "driving forces" (subscription required) in the team's cheating scandal - could damage his credibility in the eyes of voters.

In his short time with the Giants, who traded prospect right-hander Zack Wheeler to the New York Mets for his services as the team attempted to get back to the playoffs following their 2010 title, Beltran batted .323 with nine doubles, four triples and seven home runs in 179 plate appearances. He did miss 13 crucial games in mid-August in which San Francisco went 5-8, and they ended the season eight games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the NL West title and four behind the St. Louis Cardinals - the eventual World Series champions - for the Wild Card.