KC Royals Lorenzo Cain: a Gold Glover before new rule

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Feb 23, 2016; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) catches the ball during a workout at Surprise Stadium Practice Fields. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2016; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain (6) catches the ball during a workout at Surprise Stadium Practice Fields. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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Somehow, KC Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain has not yet won a Gold Glove award. Have changes to the rules hurt his chances?

Some things leave you scratching your head. It’s not that KC Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain has never won a Gold Glove – it will always be a gamble to pick one player above the field. It’s that he was not even been a finalist the past two seasons. That’s just wrong.

Kansas City has been reeling in the gold of late. Three Royals will be wearing the gold after a terrific 2015 campaign. In all, nine Gold Gloves have been handed out in Kansas City over the past three seasons. Cain, arguably the best defender on the team, made the finals only once in 2013.

Cain may be the victim of a modified rule. From 1957 to 1960, Gold Gloves were handed to each outfield position. For the next 50 seasons, the award was presented to three outfielders deemed to be the best in the outfield. In other words, three center fielders may have earned all three awards in either league. Since 2011, Gold Gloves have again been handed out specifically to a left, right, and center fielder in each league.

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  • There are so many ways to measure a fielder in 2016: runs saved defensively and defensive Wins Above Replacement to name two. These metrics, and others, account for approximately 25 percent of the Gold Glove vote each year. Managers and players account for the other 75 percent of the vote, and managers are not allowed to vote for their own players.

    Cain has passed the eye test and he passes many of the other metrics of great fielding. In 2014, teammate Alex Gordon finished second on the team with defensive WAR to Cain. Gordon not only won the gold in left field that year but was also awarded the Platinum Glove as the best fielder in the American League.

    Gordon definitely passes the eye test. He won four-straight Gold Gloves prior to going down with an injury last year. Baltimore’s Adam Jones won three-straight Gold Gloves from 2012-2014, all in center, and former teammate Nick Markakis won the gold in 2011 and 2014, prior to moving to Atlanta.

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    The 2015 winners, then, were a little shocking. Except for Tampa Bay phenon Kiermaier, who came from out of nowhere to lead all of baseball across most metrics. Anaheim’s Kole Calhoun was a surprise pick in right field, and Yeonis Cespedes, who played just 102 games in Detroit before moving to the Mets, was the biggest shock. Everyone saw his poor fielding ability on display in the World Series. In 2014, Cain was likely penalized for splitting time, not in different leagues, but in different outfield spots. Cespedes likely benefitted from a completely different standard.

    Prior to 2011, Cain may have been a shoo-in as a Gold Glove outfielder. In the least, he’s a perennial finalist. No one who watches baseball can deny he’s one of the top fielders in all of the game.

    Narrowing the field to the top center fielder makes the argument more difficult. Jones won in 2014 against Boston’s Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Chicago’s Adam Eaton. It’s hard to take down a three-time winner. Even KC Royals fans would have a hard time denying Kiermaier, by the numbers, was not more deserving of the award in 2015.

    That does not mean Cain was not one of the three best outfielders in the league last year, but even Toronto’s Kevin Pillar, another center field finalist last season, had a higher defensive WAR than Cain. Mike Trout, the other finalist last year, was some 25 spots behind Cain in that particular ranking.

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    Cain did have the last laugh. Minus Cespedes, the five other outfield Gold Glove winners all watched the World Series from the couch. And we know what happened to Cespedes in October. Still, on a team with so many defensive stars, Cain not winning the gold does not feel right. That’s just one more reason for the humble Cain to show off that World Series bling.

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