Matt Cain, Brandon Beachy headed to disabled list after arm troubles
Rough 2013 seasons for Matt Cain and Brandon Beachy just got a bit worse, as both are headed to the disabled list with arm injuries. For Cain, the Giants' right-hander will head to the disabled list due to a bruised arm suffered in Thursday's game against Pittsburgh. Cain took a liner off the right forearm courtesy Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez and was immediately lifted from his start. You can watch the play here. Though post-game X-rays were negative, the contusion is apparently severe enough to earn Cain at least two weeks off from playing. It marks the first DL stay of Cain's career, after 261 starts and 1,693 innings.
As for Beachy, his disabled-list trip is far more worrisome, as Atlanta's young right-hander felt some elbow discomfort in his last start and was given an MRI on Wednesday. He's also headed to see Dr. James Andrews, a phrase that's as comforting to a pitcher as, "Now at the plate with the bases loaded and no one out, a super-mutant hybrid of Barry Bonds and Miguel Cabrera." Beachy, who had just come back from Tommy John surgery, made all of five starts this season, allowing 15 earned runs in 30 innings, along with 23 strikeouts, four walks and five home runs.
For Cain, 2013 has been easily the worst season of his nine-year career. Through Monday's start, Cain is 8-8 with a 4.43 ERA and ERA+ of 75, both career-worst marks, in 156 1/3 innings. The 28-year-old right-hander has given up six or more earned runs in a start five times this season, something he had done only twice in the three seasons prior to this one. On top of that, he's allowed 21 home runs this year, just one off his career-worst mark set in 2009 and 2010, and by Baseball-Reference's metrics, has been worth 0.0 WAR in 2013, making it the least valuable season of his career.
What makes that all so odd is that, superficially, Cain has pitched as well this season as he has his whole career. His strikeout-per-nine ratio sits at 8.1, his highest figure since 2006 and right in line with last season's 7.9 mark. His walk rate is at 2.7, a smidgen better than his career walk rate of 3.0. And though his home-run rate is a career-worst 1.2, that's not that far off from his career rate of 0.8.
The biggest issue seems to be Cain's fastball, both the four-seamer and sinker varieties, which are getting hammered in 2013. So far this season, hitters are tagging Cain's fastball to the tune of a .469 slugging percentage and 11 home runs. That's a jump of almost 100 points from 2012. He's been particularly troubled by left-handers, who are hitting .283 with a .475 slugging percentage on his fastball. Equally dispiriting for Cain and the Giants is that AT&T Park, where he's produced a 3.16 ERA in 896 innings, has been a decidedly unfriendly place this year; in 82 1/3 innings at home, Cain's produced a 5.03 ERA this season and nine home runs allowed. Compare that to 2012, when Cain registered a sparkling 2.03 ERA in 110 2/3 innings in San Francisco.
The bruise and DL stint are especially unlucky for Cain, as it looked like he'd started turning things around. Since the All-Star break, he'd put together 44 1/3 innings and a 2.86 ERA in the second half, though the long ball continued to trouble him. Now, he'll have to hope that the injury won't keep him out until season's end, and that he'll have another couple of shots to make his end-of-the-year numbers look more like his career marks. The Giants have to hope he's figured out his issues, too; they're still on the hook for five years and $100 million after signing Cain to a massive $120 million deal in April 2012.
But there's at least one person in all this who can't be too unhappy about Cain's bad luck: Barry Zito. After all, the former Cy Young and free-agent-to-be couldn't be feeling too good about his rotation spot following last Saturday's abysmal start against Boston. But with Cain's injury, the Giants will need a starter for at least the next two weeks, and so Zito gets a reprieve, and owes Cain at least a nice steak dinner. As for Beachy, his injury leaves the Braves scrambling in the rotation. Already down Tim Hudson after the veteran broke his ankle covering first base back on July 25, the Braves' starting five is now Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Paul Maholm, Kris Medlen and rookie Alex Wood. It's hairy enough a situation that Atlanta went out and picked up 15-year veteran Freddy Garcia, last seen putting up a 5.77 ERA for the Orioles in 53 innings this season, to try and fortify the rotation. With a 15-game division lead in the National League East, the Braves will be fine for the regular season without Beachy. But Atlanta can ill-afford more injuries to starters, unless they like the idea of "postseason starter Freddy Garcia."