It’s probably the right decision, as Cain is now but a shadow of what he once was, having posted a 5.66 ERA and the lowest strikeout rate and highest WHIP of his career in 2017.
Cain made his Major League Baseball debut at the age of 20 on August 29, 2005, against the Colorado Rockies. Between 2007 and 2012 he went 70-65 with a 3.18 ERA (126 ERA+) and a K/BB ratio of 1,069/418 in 1,299.2 innings. He made his first All Star team in 2009 when he finished the year with a 14-8 record and a 2.89 ERA. On June 13, 2012 Cain threw the 22nd flawless game in baseball history, striking out 14 Houston Astros batters in the process, tying Sandy Koufax’s record for the most Ks in a perfecto. At 32 years old, he’s a three-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion.
But no matter how his career has ended, he was a critical part of the Giants mid-2000s rebuild and the mini-dynasty that won three World Series between 2010 and 2014. This is the first season he’s pitched over 100 innings in the past four seasons. After seven years of starting 30 or more games a season, he only did it once in 2013 and has averaged only 16 starts per year since 2014. Cain’s contract was set to expire after the season, with a $21 million team option that was going to be declined, and rather than take to free agency as an over-30 pitcher with a history of arm troubles and a fastball that can’t break 90 miles per hour any more, he apparently elected to hang up his spikes instead. Cain will celebrate his 33rd birthday this coming Sunday, and while that age isn’t usually considered to be the end of the line for a Major League pitcher, the warning signs have been growing in evidence that his days in the Giants rotation were numbered. Cain was never a hard thrower, averaging just 92-93 miles per hour on his fastball, but he was a master of precision and location, limiting home runs and walks and getting tons of soft contact.
It’s never fun to see an athlete fade away, but Cain at least gets to walk out on his own terms and give the home fans one last chance to salute him before he moves on.