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How the Giants ruined Cain (and Lincecum)
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Do us a favor, Matt Cain. The next time you're making a sandwich, let someone else cut it for you.

Or maybe try plastic utensils instead of the machete Gerard Butler used in the movie 300. Or better yet, just eat out. According to Google, there's at least ten Subway locations within San Francisco city limits.

If you're a Quiznos guy they have that too. And the best part is, they cut the sandwiches for you! Only in America.

I'm confident that if we get the word out, lunch safety awareness will spread and we can prevent future catastrophes like the one that landed Cain on the disabled list last month. What I'm not as confident about is Cain returning to ace status.

Once a perennial All-Star, the Giants right-hander has merely been average over his last two seasons. Since the start of 2013, Cain is 8-13 with an ERA north of four (4.05 if you're not into the whole brevity thing). In the six seasons prior to that, Cain was 70-65 with a 3.18 ERA in a little under 1,300 innings pitched.

It's easy to put the blame on Cain but I place a lot more of it on the organization he plays for. Cain is already nearing 2,000 innings and he's only 29. That's an insane workload.

It's a miracle Cain's arm didn't fall off while he was logging 216 innings per season between 2007 and 2012. Over that span, Cain threw an exhausting 104.9 pitches per start. With that kind of mileage it's no wonder Cain's strikeout rate this season (7.26 K's per nine innings) is the lowest it's been since 2010.

Cain should have a pillow with him at all times. The man is finished, spent, beat. He's running on fumes and he has been for the last two seasons. Everyone has their limit and Cain has reached his.

So has teammate Tim Lincecum. See while the Giants were pitching Cain into an early retirement, they were doing the same thing to his long-haired partner in crime.

Cain and Lincecum ranked in the top-20 in pitches thrown each season from 2008 to 2011. Both peaked in 2008 when Lincecum was second in the league in that category with Cain close behind him at No. 4. During that four-year stretch, Lincecum averaged an absurd 107.3 pitches per outing.

Lincecum, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound toothpick of a human being, burned out even quicker than Cain did. His decline began in 2012 and two years later, there doesn't appear to be an end in sight (22-31, 4.83 ERA in his last 419 1/3 innings). That's why it raised eyebrows when the team inked him to a two-year, $35 million deal this past winter. Even more surprising was that Lincecum, who turns 30 on June 15, was willing to put up with two more years of punishment.

If you ask the Giants, they'll tell you they got exactly what they wanted from Cain and Lincecum. Both pitchers were dominant during the team's championship seasons in 2010 and 2012. But now both pitchers, and maybe the Giants organization as a whole after last season's disappointing third-place finish, are paying a heavy price.

To demonstrate just how inhumane the Giants have been to their starting pitchers, let's look at some of their stats from the period when they were at their most dominant between 2010 and 2012. San Francisco starting pitchers averaged 100.1 pitches per start in 2012, the same number in 2011 and just a tick under 100 during the 2010 campaign (99.9).

Compare that to a more conservative team like the Braves (95.5 pitches per start in 2013), who recently took out Aaron Harang seven innings into a no- hitter because he had reached his pitch limit. That makes the Giants seem straight-up reckless.

Giants starters are averaging only 94.9 pitches per start this season, so perhaps they've learned their lesson. But I think the more likely scenario is that Lincecum and Cain have just run out of gas.

Pitch count has been one of the most hotly debated topics in baseball. When is enough enough? And should the threshold be different for a 5-foot-11 player like Lincecum compared to someone of Cain's size and build (6-foot-3, 230 pounds)?

Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija made headlines recently by throwing 126 pitches in a start against the White Sox. Samardzija wasn't sure what the big deal was. Maybe when he's 33 and he can only throw 85 mph, he'll understand.

At least for Samardzija, who has only thrown 608 innings in the major leagues, it's not too late. Cain doesn't have that luxury.

Maybe a $5 foot-long will cheer him up.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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