For the first time since 2006, Matt Cain's lifetime record as a pitcher is above .500, thanks to an 8-3 victory over the Padres on Thursday afternoon.
This is impressive and amazing, since Matt Cain is arguably the unluckiest pitcher in the history of baseball. His 7-2 record in 2012, which brings him to a 76-75 lifetime as a pitcher, is indicative of the fact that a) he's pitching out of his mind and b) the Giants are actually providing him some run support.
Of course, the Giants didn't do everything they could to help Cain on Thursday, committing a slew of errors that allowed in three runs -- none earned -- and looked like it might cost the right-hander another shot at a victory.
It didn't, Cain won and it warrants talking about the job he's doing as a pitcher this season. Yes, it's early, but remember Cain got a big-time extension this season and was headed to free agency if the Giants hadn't signed him. If he hadn't signed, Giants fans would look like lemmings on hyper-drive, headed for the cliff at the thought of Cain heading somewhere as terrifying as the Dodgers.
Instead, Giants fans are watching an already excellent pitcher make a serious step forward. Cain's started 12 games now (a little more than a third of his average normal season) and thus far, he's got the best ERA (2.41) and best WHIP (0.942, which leads the league) of any full season of his career.
More importantly, though, are the peripherals: his .253 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and his strand rate (76.8%) both might indicate luck, but they're not entirely out of line with his career averages.
His home-run-to-fly-ball ratio is 0.71, which is quite low, but in line with seasons he's had before, and, like BABIP and the strand rate, higher than last season.
So, this isn't all about a pitcher who's just getting lucky. The biggest difference for Cain has been the eliminating ... no, eradicating walks. He's giving up an unholy-low 1.67 walks per nine innings, by far the lowest of his career.
And he's coupling that with a 8.58 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate, which would be the highest of his career, but also not out of line.
He's going to regress to the mean a little bit as the season wears on (we think ...) but he's pitching about as well as anyone in the majors right now and he looks like, just months after signing a new extension, that he might've turned the corner and somehow become an even better pitcher than he was before.
That the Giants are actually producing behind him -- he won a pair of games in which he gave up four earned runs, in back-to-back starts no less -- is gravy. Yes, he's still getting hosed sometimes, like when he lost to the Marlins in a 2-1 game.
But he's fanning batters right now, not giving anyone free passes and generally pitching like a Cy Young candidate. And for the first time in a while, he can actually feel like a winner.