Lorenzo Cain: What His Regression Will Look Like


Lorenzo Cain put together a fantastic 2014 season that went unnoticed until he burst onto the postseason scene. For a few nights in October, the Kansas City Royals outfield became the talk of the sports world, headlined by Cain and a never ending barrage of highlight reel material.

In the ALCS, Cain hit a scorching .539, as well as continuing his lockdown of centerfield, en route to a series MVP. Just like that, Lorenzo Cain was on the map.

However, most people still have overlooked his brilliant 2014 regular season, in which he hit a career high .301, stole a career high 28 bases, and saved 24 runs in center and right field. The 24 DRS was good for fourth in the league, right behind teammate Alex Gordon at 27. Add in the fact that he did that in more than 200 fewer innings than both Gordon and leader Jason Heyward, and Cain’s value in 2014 makes more and more sense. However, Cain’s regression in 2015 is inevitable.

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Now, don’t just push this to the side. I know. Cain holds a special place in all of our hearts because of his role in the Royals salvation. When I say regression, I don’t mean a 2014 Chris Davis, fall-off-the-map regression. Cain will regress, but will still be valuable. Here’s why.

First, lets start with why Cain is due to regress. The easiest way to find regression candidates is to go straight for the Batting Average on Balls In Play column. Cain’s ridiculously high BABIP of .380 is a pretty easy indicator that regression will happen.

Cain is always a candidate to have a high BABIP due to his consistently high line drive percentage (22% career) and elite speed (6.2 career speed score, 6 being “great”). His career .345 BABIP proves that. However, .380 is just outrageous.

Cain’s xBABIP, which is a projection of what a player’s BABIP should be, was slated at .305 in 2014, which is much closer to the .319 and .309 numbers he posted in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Cain had some luck as a hitter last season. Denying that would be naive. But dismissing Cain’s 2014 season as a fluke is also not the way to go.

There is a lot to be excited about when it comes to Cain in 2015, starting with his defense. Cain is already having his value questioned by some, but all of that is based on the idea of his offensive regression. However, despite his huge leap in offensive production, his defense was what made him nearly a 5 win player in 2014.

His Defense rating on FanGraphs was 16.8, which was the fourth highest among outfielders with at least 1,000 innings, and it easily edged out his bloated Offense rating of 11.4.

On a team whose success is so predicated on defense, his ability to be an elite defender at a premium position is of the utmost value in Kansas City. For fantasy owners, his value may be a little overstated. But for the Royals, his offensive output in 2014 was just icing on the cake. So lets not look too much into his inevitable offensive regression, because that’s not really why he’s here.