The San Francisco Giants just took a gut-punch on Monday as they announced that ace Matt Cain will have surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. The 29-year-old will miss the rest of the season and his recovery will likely be at least three months.
After winning on Monday afternoon, the Giants are currently two games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the National League West. They are also in command of the first wild card spot with a 61-51 record. With an offense struggling mightily to score runs, the Giants need as much pitching as they can get. Losing Cain is a huge blow.
While Cain hasn’t been as good as he is capable of this season, a lot of that can be attributed to his elbow issues. In 15 starts he posted a 2-7 record with a 4.18 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. That’s not great but he’s a guy who has won two World Series in San Francisco and is used to coming up big in the postseason.
With Tim Lincecum struggling again this year (9-7, 4.21 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 0.3 WAR) having Cain around was a must for the postseason. Tim Hudson has filled the role of a true ace this season for the Giants, turning back the clock with an All-Star campaign. He’s only 8-8 on the year, but he has a 2.74 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and a WAR of 2.7 in 144.1 innings.
In addition to Hudson, Madison Bumgarner has stepped up and pitched very well. He is 13-8 with a 3.21 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 24 starts. He also has 153 strikeouts in 154 innings and seems to be getting better as the season goes along.
With Cain out the third starter role is up in the air for the Giants. They could opt for Ryan Vogelsong, who is 6-8 with a 3.74 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP, or Lincecum. Neither is a very attractive option at this point. Jake Peavy could take that spot, but he struggled all season with the Red Sox, and is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA since joining the Giants.
I wouldn’t expect San Francisco to stand pat as the postseason approaches. If any solid starters are available on the waiver wire this month, the Giants would be the top contender to make a major move to acquire one.