clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lorenzo Cain is having one of the best seasons in Royals history

New, comments

The Cain Train has been on fire lately.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

I don't know if you've noticed, but Lorenzo Cain is having a remarkable season. One of the best ever in Royals history. Neil Weinberg has an excellent article at Fangraphs on Lorenzo's offensive emergence which you should read, but it basically comes down to Lorenzo hitting for more power.

In thinking about power, there are really two ways to get better. You can either hit the ball more squarely on average, or you can hit the average ball with more force. Cain seems like an easy study because you generally don’t see a lot of players getting physically stronger between 28 and 29. We’re usually thinking about players in their early twenties when talking about guys who start hitting the ball harder. It seems like Cain is among those players making better contact rather than harder contact. There’s obviously no way to be sure, but it’s a defensible hypothesis in context. Cain is striking out less and he’s hitting for extra bases more often. It seems like he’s barreling up the ball more effectively.

He notes Cain has closed a hole in his swing, which has caused him to terrorize American League pitchers this year to the tune of .315/.371/.502 this year with 10 HR 45 RBI and 18 steals. How does this compare historically in Royals history?

Here are the top ten seasons in Royals history by a position player, by rWAR:

Year WAR PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG
George Brett 1980 9.4 515 87 24 118 .390 .454 .664
George Brett 1979 8.6 701 119 23 107 .329 .376 .563
Willie Wilson 1980 8.4 745 133 3 49 .326 .357 .421
George Brett 1985 8.3 665 108 30 112 .335 .436 .585
Darrell Porter 1979 7.6 679 101 20 112 .291 .421 .484
George Brett 1977 7.6 627 105 22 88 .312 .373 .532
George Brett 1976 7.5 705 94 7 67 .333 .377 .462
Amos Otis 1978 7.4 567 74 22 96 .298 .380 .525
Alex Gordon 2011 7.2 690 101 23 87 .303 .376 .502
John Mayberry 1975 7.2 683 95 34 106 .291 .416 .547

Lorenzo has 5.1 rWAR so far this year, having played in 82 of the Royals 92 games. If he keeps up this pace, he'll join George Brett as the only other position player in franchise history to post a 9 WAR season. Since the 1994 work stoppage, there have only been 22 nine WAR seasons from a position player in all of baseball - nine of them from players named "Barry Bonds" or "Alex Rodriguez."

Its not just defense that makes him great either. Lorenzo is on pace for a 6.7 Offensive WAR season, which would be the fifth-best in franchise history, tied with Darrell Porter's 1979 season for the best ever by a player not named "George Brett." His Offensive WAR is sixth in the league, and Lorenzo could be the first Royals hitter to finish in the top ten in Offensive WAR in the American League since Danny Tartabull in 1991.

Here are the Royals single-season rWAR leaders if you extrapolated their numbers over 162 games.

Player Year WAR G WAR/162
George Brett 1980 9.4 117 13.0
Lorenzo Cain 2015 5.1 82 10.1
George Brett 1979 8.6 154 9.0
George Brett 1977 7.6 139 8.9
George Brett 1985 8.3 155 8.7





George Brett was good at baseballing, huh?

Lorenzo hasn't been a one-year wonder either. He's been a very good player for some time. Here are the top position players in all of baseball since the beginning of the 2014 season.

Player WAR BA OBP SLG
Mike Trout 14.0 .294 .385 .580
Josh Donaldson 12.2 .268 .346 .485
Giancarlo Stanton 10.3 .280 .379 .572
Paul Goldschmidt 10.2 .319 .423 .569
Lorenzo Cain 10.1 .307 .352 .448
Buster Posey 9.6 .313 .371 .491
Jason Heyward 9.5 .276 .348 .403
Andrew McCutchen 9.5 .305 .403 .522
Anthony Rizzo 9.2 .287 .393 .523
Alex Gordon 9.1 .270 .365 .440

Oh, hello Alex Gordon. We haven't forgotten about you.

Of course, Lorenzo's real bread and butter is his defense. He will likely go down as one of the greatest defenders in Royals history. Here are the top ten defensive season in Royals history, by dWAR:

Year dWAR
Freddie Patek 1972 3.2
Lorenzo Cain 2013 2.8
Rey Sanchez 2000 2.8
Lorenzo Cain 2014 2.7
Rey Sanchez 1999 2.7
Alex Gordon 2014 2.6
Tony Pena 2007 2.6
Frank White 1976 2.5
Rey Sanchez 2001 2.4
Frank White 1984 2.3

Lorenzo has 1.5 dWAR so far this year, putting him on pace for 2.6 for the season, the third straight season he has put together a 2.6 or better dWAR season. Only three defenders have more dWAR than Lorenzo since the beginning of the 2013 season - Andrelton Simmons, Juan Lagares, and Nolan Arenado.

If he keeps this up, Lorenzo Cain will likely be the first Royals player to finish top five in MVP voting since George Brett (unfairly) finished second in 1985. What it all adds up to is Lorenzo Cain is a bonafide star.