Matt Cain has been one of the Giants' premiere pitching prospects to come up in the new millennium and has been dubbed a future ace after being taken with the teams first pick in the 2002 draft. And before I get started, I just wanted to reassure that I am not down on Matt Cain, and I still do believe he has a bright future. Heck he hasn't even had his 24th birthday yet. However, Matt Cain has been as unpredictable of pitcher as any this season, and he hasn't shown much progress over the last 2 years. Last years' 16-loss season was due mainly to the fact that he was getting less than 2 runs per game as support, but this year, that hasn't necessary been the case. Cain is getting hit hard, when he used to be one of the tougher pitchers in the league to hit, and he's walking a lot of guys as well. It also has some people concerned that his fastball has dropped down to the low 90's rather than the 94-96 mph heater he was bringing over the last 2 1/2 seasons. Also, not saying that Cain is on the level that Tim Lincecum is, but Lincecum is 16-3 pitching for the same squad that Cain is 8-12 for. I still think he has a future as a #2 starter in this league, but he's just not making the progress that he should be. There have been times when Cain has looked like a future ace and a guy who could eat 220 innings a year easily and successfully. However, as we close in on the end of his 3rd full big league season, a benchmark year for pitchers, Cain hasn't established himself as a top end starter in this league. He's actually kind of becoming somewhat of an enigma. Every time you think he's going to start putting it all together, he seems to take a few steps back. Normally teams look for young pitchers to take that next step in their third full season, but year number 3 has been the worst of the young right-handers career. It's tough to get too concerned about a guy who hasn't even hit his 24thLincecum is, but Timmy is in the hunt for a Cy Young award while pitching for the same squad that Cain is 8-12 for, so you can't blame everything on the 8 guys behind him. The Giants need Cain to be a 15+ game winner and if he doesn't start showing that in 2009, he may be the guy dealt for that power bat the Giants so desperately seek.
Speaking of power hitters, getting one will likely be at the very top of the Giants wish list heading into the off-season. The only question right now is where are they going to put someone? The emergence of Travis Ishikawa and Pablo Sandoval may keep the Giants from looking at first basemen this winter, but second and third base will still be a glaring holes. The team also looks committed making Emmanuel Burriss their everyday shortstop next season (even with his recent injury), so between him and Ivan Ochoa, they look content at short. The free agent market will once again be thin with difference makers this winter so finding a trade partner seems like the best bet in order to add offense. The only potential free agent third basemen that have power are Joe Crede and Hank Blalock. I don't think I would really consider either of those guys a difference maker, so I would hate to see the Giants throw 50-60 million at another injury-prone veteran. This is going to be an interesting winter for Brian Sabean as he will have some money to spend and trading chips to work with.
Note: Fred Lewis, one of the Giants most consistent offensive performers, had season ending surgery on his foot. He had a problem with a bunion that had been bothering him for over a month and really affected his play. Still, Lewis established himself this year as an everyday player and will be starting in left field and likely hitting at the top of the order in 2009.
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