Lorenzo Cain’s Hot Streak And What It Means For The Royals


April 20, 2013; Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

I decided yesterday that I was going to write about how Lorenzo Cain has performed thus far and determine if we should be worried about his lack of power. Of course, Cain went 4-4 with a home run and two doubles today to bring his triple slash line to a sizzling .392/.429/.529 and essentially throw a cog in those plans. Fortunately, this opens up an even better topic to work with. Cain is pretty well known as a streaky hitter. When he’s on, he’s on. When he’s not, he’ll do nothing but strike out. Right now we’re in the midst of one of Cain’s hot streaks so it will be interesting to see what we can expect going forward.  Even with a small sample size of data, we can see how Cain’s season thus far has been hot/cold.  From April 6th-10th Cain hit .400/.421/.533.  In the last four games Cain has hit .688/.688/1.000.  These two streaks constitute nine out of the fourteen games the Royals have played thus far.  Cain’s other 5 games?  .150/.143/.150 while striking out 6 times in 21 PA.  But wait, how is Cain’s OBP lower than his batting average?  The answer is that sacrifices don’t count as at bats.  Batting average is evaluated as Hits/At Bats while On Base Percentage is evaluated as times on base (hits, walks, HBP, etc.) so while it is rare to see an OBP lower than a batting average, it’s not mathematically impossible.  With that tangent taken care of, let’s look at Cain’s overall performance.

Much of Cain’s batting average is drawn from an unsustainable BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .475.  This will inevitably go down, so the thing to keep an eye on is his power. One of the best methods for measuring power is ISO.  A player’s ISO is his Slugging%-Batting Average.  The league average ISO tends to be around .140.  Last year, Cain had a .153 ISO in 61 games.  After today’s game, Cain’s ISO rests at .137.  Due to his inability to walk and high strikeout totals, much of Cain’s offensive game is centered around his power.  This is because high strikeouts usually inhibit batting average and low walk rates lead to a low OBP.

Due to Cain’s streaky nature, his rate stats will probably bounce around throughout the year before ended up somewhere similar to where they were last year.  It’s certainly possible that Cain will improve on these stats.  The Steamer projection system has Cain batting  .275/.331/.408 for the rest of the season which is better than last year.  Of course, these projections took place before today and are likely to be affected by Cain’s monster game today.  Overall, this is a middle of the road batting line for a center fielder, but it’s also what has been expected of Cain since coming over from Milwaukee.  Cain is a batter who strikes out a lot, doesn’t walk much, and has decent power and speed.  Fortunately for the Royals, Cain provides excellent defense in center field.  The way Cain is swinging the bat right now won’t continue but we should still see decent production out of him.  Overall, he’s an above average player for this Royals team.  It’s exciting to have a guy like Cain who’s an above average player yet is the fifth or sixth best batter on our team.