KC Royals: Lorenzo Cain Season Among Greatest In Franchise History

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KC Royals centerfielder Lorenzo Cain isn’t just having a great season, he’s having one of the best years in franchise history.

On Tuesday, Cain mashed the Detroit Tigers for a four for four night, that included two singles, a double, and his 12th home run of the season. The performance lifted his triple slash to .316/.371/.512 with 20 doubles, four triples, 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Then there is his defense.

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Lorenzo Cain ranks ninth among major-league outfielders with an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 8.2 this season. However, fielding stats do not normalize until you have two years of data before you can consider them invulnerable to short sample size “noise”. If we look at outfield UZR since 2013 (to make sure we have more than two full seasons of data), Cain ranks third in all of baseball.

That’s elite.

Ok, Lorenzo Cain’s all-around game this season has established him as one of baseball’s legitimate superstars. But, it’s even more impressive when you compare it to the best seasons in Kansas City Royals history.

According to Baseball Reference, Cain has already earned 6.2 Wins Above Replacement through 112 games this season. Prorate that over a full year, and Lorenzo Cain is on pace to put up an 9.0 bWAR season (if we round up 8.98) for the KC Royals in 2015. That would be the second best season of any Kansas City Royals position player going back to 1969:

[table id=27 /]

[data for table courtesy of Baseball Reference.com]

By the way, for those of you curious how Lorenzo Cain measures up to the best pitchers in KC Royals history, I’ll mention that his season projects to lag behind Zack Greinke‘s 10.4 bWAR season in 2009 (Greinke won the Cy Young award) and Kevin Appier‘s 9.2 bWAR year in 1993.

That would put Lorenzo Cain within striking distance of one of the top five season’s in franchise history (and second best for any position player behind George Brett‘s legendary run at .400 in 1980). 

Note that Fangraphs.com doesn’t rate Lorenzo Cain as highly. Cain only has 5.1 fWAR, which projects to 7.3 fWAR. According to Fangraphs, that would tie Cain with John Mayberry (1975) for the fifth best season for a Kansas Cty Royals position player.

Even if you buy into Fangraphs.com’s more modest evaluation, Lorenzo Cain is still dominating for the KC Royals in 2015.

Lorenzo Cain is unlikely to win the American League MVP award given Mike Trout‘s phenomenal .301/.395/.605 triple slash with 33 home runs, which translates to 7.0 fWAR. But, he’s neck and neck with Toronto’s Josh Donaldson for second place, and is a strong contender for the 2015 Gold Glove in center.

Not bad for a guy that most pundits believed would “regress” in 2015.

The bottom line is that Lorenzo Cain is going a long ways toward establishing the KC Royals as a legitimately strong team, and himself as as one of baseball’s best players.

Next: Royals Getting Huge Boost From Kris Medlen

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