Lorenzo Cain

Lorenzo Cain: Most Valuable Royal

You’re going to see a lot of columns in the near future about who should be the Most Valuable Player. Most of those will be talking about league awards, but here and there, you’ll see things about team awards. This is one of those articles about the team award, but I wanted to take a slightly different approach and look at some different factors to see if my gut is correct. You see, my gut says that Lorenzo Cain is the team MVP. It’s clear that they’re a different team with him in the lineup.

They win when he plays and they often don’t when he doesn’t. That’s kind of interesting because they had actually fared just fine without him prior to this season. Of course, in the previous years he’s missed games, he wasn’t the force that he’s become. Even in a season not on par with last year, Cain has been good, with a combination of solid work in the batter’s box and his typical great defense.

But is it as simple as that? Is Lorenzo Cain the team MVP? Let’s take a look at some other candidates.

Eric Hosmer

The first baseman hasn’t had a great year. He’s barely above average offensively by OPS, and compared to other first basemen, he’s below average. His defense has never rated well, and at times this year, he’s looked like an average to above average defender and not the defensive savant he’s supposed to be. Even still, he’s a team leader and he’s in the middle of that lineup every day. He’s got a career high in home runs and he seems to be on the road to 100 RBIs. No matter what you believe about that stat, it at least has positive connotations, and it seems pretty impressive given the carousel of hitters in front of him this season who have struggled.

The stats:

With a H With a HR With an RBI With a R In GS
56-45 12-8 40-15 37-25 72-66

It’s no surprise that when a middle of the order bat hits, the team should perform well. The stat with the RBIs is pretty eye opening. I guess a lot of that comes with so many go-ahead RIBs this year. In another season, Hosmer probably would get zero consideration for this, but, well, the options aren’t great.

Kendrys Morales

He leads the team in home runs and has a moderate shot at being the first Royals player with 30 since Jermaine Dye hit 33 in 2000. Yikes. That’s a long time. Morales was brutal for the first couple months of the season, hitting .187/.247/.313 with just five home runs in his first 45 games. Then he sat for a sore finger and has been Big Ken again since, hitting .296/.366/.544 with 21 homers and 56 RBIs. A lot of that has been built on two hot streaks. The first came from May 31 to July 4 when he hit .387/.440/.736 with 10 homers and 28 RBIs, and the second is happening now. In between that one and this one, he hit .208/.289/.338 in 45 games from July 5 to August 27 with five homers. Now, though, he’s hitting .405/.447/.857 with six home runs in his last 10 games. Good Kendrys is good.

The stats:

With a H With a HR With an RBI With a R In GS
47-33 16-7 31-11 28-15 66-60

Since we’re looking at the team record during stretches, it’s worth noting that the Royals were 24-21 in his first 45 games where he struggled so much. They were just 16-15 during his first crazy hot stretch and are just 5-5 during the second one. And they were 23-22 during his middle of the season ice cold spell. He’s hit a good amount of homers, but the Royals don’t seem to live and die with him being hot or cold, though the offense itself is much better when he’s hitting, so I suppose you can’t blame him for the pitching going cold.

Salvador Perez

When you’re a catcher, you’re going to have more value placed on you than many other positions. His defense has seemed to be better this year than in the past when I did believe he was overrated. The thing is that he’s always had that excellent arm, and that’s what’s easy to fall in love with when watching a game, but I felt he got lazy blocking pitches and that he doesn’t call a great game. I still don’t believe he calls a great game and he’s not so good at the framing, but he has done a great job blocking pitches and his arm has been as good as ever this season. Offensively, this is what he is now. He’s not going to give you a great average and he’s going to struggle to get on base 30 percent of the time, but he has some pop. He has 20+ homers for the second consecutive year, and there’s value in having that power in the middle of the lineup.

The stats:

With a H With a HR With an RBI With a R In GS
46-32 12-7 24-13 25-15 62-57

Personally, if you’re going to give credit for the importance of catching, I would think he has to be dinged for the uneven performance of the pitching staff this season. Still, here’s another example of a middle of the order bat who the Royals need to perform if they expect to do well.

Paulo Orlando

Just the fact that Orlando is on this list says that there aren’t many good choices for the Royals. He’s been surprising this year with an average at or above .300 for most of the season, and there was a time when he was just a certain number of plate appearances away from qualifying for the batting title and being second in the race. Times have changed, but you can’t take away what he’s done to this point. Defensively, he leaves so much to be desired in right field, but I think he looks solid in center.

The stats:

With a H With a HR With an RBI With a R In GS
38-34 2-2 16-7 21-14 50-46

Orlando has spent most of his time batting in the bottom of the order this year, so it makes sense that he isn’t the straw that stirs the Royals drink. Of note, he’s hit .402/.424/.524 in the seventh, eighth or ninth spots in the batting order this season. There’s value in having a guy in the bottom of the order who can help turn the lineup over.

Cheslor Cuthbert

Cuthbert’s value goes beyond any numbers he provides because the Royals lost one of their leaders for the season early enough that it could have made a huge difference. When Mike Moustakas went down, there was a lot of uncertainty around third base. Cuthbert hadn’t looked especially good in his short auditions, so you just didn’t know, but all he’s done is play some really solid baseball. No, he isn’t Moustakas defensively and he doesn’t have the kind of impact bat that Moustakas showed last season, but he’s been consistent and solid. He’s in a bit of a cold stretch, but he’s impressed this season and looks like a very solid piece for the future.

The stats:

With a H With a HR With an RBI With a R In GS
43-36 3-6 19-15 26-12 54-50

I’m a little surprised the Royals don’t respond to his offense, given the kind of energy he brings to the field. That’s interesting. Again, just the fact that the Royals didn’t go from an All Star to a black hole gives Cuthbert a little extra value.

I’m going to give you two more, and the next one is a guy who shouldn’t get any consideration, but I wanted to see how he stacked up given his poor season.

Alex Gordon

It’s been a bad year for Alex. He got off to a slow start and then he injured his wrist. When he came back, he looked even worse than before. He was hitting .199/.309/.338 as recently as July 26. Then he got three hits against the Angels. Since then, he’s been the Alex we’ve grown to love, hitting .272/.357/.463 over his last 38 games. He’s hit seven homers, scored 26 runs and done a nice job of working walks and getting on base in addition to hitting the ball hard. Still, it’s been a bad, bad year for him.

The stats:

With a H With a HR With an RBI With a R In GS
37-28 6-7 12-11 31-16 54-50

Maybe this guy should hit leadoff. Just a thought.

And finally, here’s the information for the pre-assumed MVP of the Royals.

Lorenzo Cain

After a terrible month of April, Cain rebounded and has put up some strong numbers, hitting .306/.347/.438 since the start of that Seattle series in late April. Since re-bottoming out at .271/.314/.381 after the game on August 13th, Cain has hit .379/.449/.534 and the Royals have gone 13-3 in those games. This is not a coincidence.

The stats:

With a H With a HR With an RBI With a R In GS
48-27 6-1 32-8 36-7 57-43

Those numbers are staggering. Amazingly, the one loss when Cain has a home run this year came in the game he hit three of them. So that’s an odd stat.

It looks like my suspicions were confirmed. You can argue that Hosmer’s been better offensively for the Royals or that Morales has provided more because of all the home runs he’s hit or that Salvy and his work behind the plate gets the job done better than anyone, but the win-loss column doesn’t lie. When Cain plays, the Royals are a better team. That 57-43 record is a 92-70 pace. Their 15-23 record when he doesn’t play is a 64-98 pace. That doesn’t mean Cain is an 18-win player or anything, but he’s extremely valuable to this team.

Now, before you go and tell me that Danny Duffy didn’t get the love he deserved in this piece, when it comes to team awards, I think the MVP is an offensive player and an offensive player only. Otherwise, yes, Duffy would easily be the team MVP without even thinking twice. But, since he’s not, it simply has to be Lorenzo Cain. They’re a different team when he plays and an even better team when he plays and plays well. He’s a difference maker. Hopefully he gets well soon for the stretch drive because they need their MVP.

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