Is Matt Cain's Contract A Reflection Of MLB's Surging Revenues?

I got a kick out of this:

Excellent! A preemptive strike!

Hey, I used to be one of those people who thought Matt Cain was just exceptionally lucky, since his ERAs didn't match his "peripheral" statistics. Of course, at the same time he's been exceptionally unlucky, as his W-L didn't match his ERAs.*

* Matt Cain has a losing career record! He's a loser!

Maybe you used to be one of those people, too. And maybe you've concluded, as I have, that Matt Cain might have been a little better than we thought.

Still, he was lucky last season. After consistently giving up 20 home runs per season throughout his career, last season Cain gave up nine home runs. And there's simply no reason to think he's become the sort of pitcher who will give up very few home runs in every season, for the simple reason that he's not a ground-ball pitcher. Not remotely. Cain's ground-ball rate last year was 42 percent, which placed him well into the bottom half of National League pitchers.

He's a fly-ball pitcher who has, as we've noted many times, actually done a pretty good job of keeping the great majority of those fly balls in the field of play. But last season was simply beyond the pale and won't happen again.

Which is why five years and $112.5 million seems like an awful lot of money. History suggests that Cain is a $15-million pitcher rather than a $22-million pitcher.

Ah, but things might look quite a bit different in the coming seasons. Matt Cain's not likely to become a better pitcher, but baseball's economics might take a real turn for the better. As lucrative new TV deals are struck by the individual clubs, the market value for players should jump faster than we're used to.

Generally speaking, big contracts in recent seasons have matched up pretty well with the players' projected performance (absent injuries, of course, but nobody likes to think about those). We're now seeing contracts that seem out of line with projections, which leads to thoughts of front-office stupidity.

I don't think it's that, though. I think the front offices just know more about future revenues than we know. They can see what the market for players is going to look like in the coming years, and (I think) they're seeing a lot more money for everybody. Thus, the rush to lock up their players before they get even more expensive.

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