The San Francisco Giants are blessed with two former Cy Young award winners on their pitching staff.
Tim Lincecum won the award in 2008 and 2009, while Barry Zito won the award several years ago with the Oakland A's.
So strong is the Giants' pitching staff that Zito is now the fifth starter, even though he throws out of the fourth spot in the rotation.
Proof of this lies in the fact that Zito was left off the postseason roster for the Giants last year.
Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain provide the Giants with two ace pitchers. There are several reasons that Matt Cain is a dark horse for candidacy for the 2011 Cy Young award.
Firstly, he is entering his seventh season with the Giants and he's only 26-years old. Although he doesn't possess dominant stuff, his ability to throw any pitch for quality strikes at any time is how he gets people out.
Cain has good command of all of his pitches—a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball that acts like a sinker, a good breaking ball and a much improved changeup. While he's more of a fly-ball pitcher, Cain also benefits from pitching half of his games at AT&T Park, a good pitchers park.
The Giants should also be much improved on offense. Over the past few years, the run support that Cain received was among the lowest in the league.
However, the improved offense should result in more run support and more wins for Matt Cain.
In 2010, he was the Giants' most reliable pitcher. He was 13-11 with an ERA of 3.14. His WHIP ratio (walks plus hits per innings pitched), was an outstanding 1.084. He threw 223 1/3 regular season innings last year and struck out 177.
When the spotlight was on in the postseason, Matt Cain was at his best.
He threw 21 1/3 innings and did not give up an earned run. His WHIP ratio was 0.938, which means he allowed less than one base runner per inning.
Do I think Matt Cain will win the Cy Young Award in 2011? In all honesty—no.
There are too many truly dominant pitchers that are in the league. Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Ubaldo Jimenez, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Carpenter and Josh Johnson will all provide stiff competition.
Nevertheless, Matt Cain has earned his place among the elite pitchers in the National League and I expect a big year from him in 2011.