Lorenzo Cain's Amazing Catch Last Night Robbed a Sure Home Run
The biggest news from yesterday's matchup between the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles was the brawl that ensued when Manny Machado charged the mound after being hit by a pitch from Yordano Ventura.
However, before that melee took place, there was an actual baseball play that is worthy of some attention.
Check out the ridiculous (in the best way possible) play.
This catch from Lorenzo Cain was absolutely incredible! #Royals pic.twitter.com/fgMOdeznSw
— Chris Lilly (@wibwChrisLilly) June 7, 2016
Lorenzo Cain's impressive catch against Pedro Alvarez came on just the 13th pitch of the game for Ventura, despite Alvarez hitting seventh in the lineup, which shows how aggressive the O's were in their approach. And it worked, since the score was already 4-0 when Alvarez stepped to the plate, and should have been 6-0 if not for Cain's miraculous grab.
Cain was able to rob Alvarez of a tater by taking an incredibly efficient path to the ball. According to Statcast via MLB.com, Cain's first step took 0.47 seconds, he reached a maximum speed of 18.3 mph, and covered 71.3 feet. This led to a route efficiency of 98.1 percent. Considering how well Alvarez hit the ball, Cain needed to be as economical as he was with his steps.
106 MPH, 18 degree launch angle... similar batted balls have a .689 batting avg https://t.co/EXCpKdQntn
— Daren Willman (@darenw) June 7, 2016
Alvarez crushed Ventura's offering and batted balls with similar profiles have a chance of at least being a hit -- if not a home run -- at almost 70 percent of the time. Unfortunately for Alvarez, he happened to hit it in the direction of one of baseball's best center fielders.
Cain first saw regular playing time during the 2013 season and since then through Tuesday's game, he leads all center fielders in several defensive categories.
His Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 41.8, his UZR/150 of 16.8, his 47.2 Defensive Runs Above Average (Def), and his 54 Defensive Runs Saved are all tops among center fielders.
He's keeping pace so far this season, as his 4.6 UZR and his 5.4 Def are both second best among qualified center fielders. His catch on Tuesday was also not the first time he's bailed out Ventura.
This catch also came against the Baltimore Orioles and was in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series in 2014 with the game tied at four in the sixth inning. The Royals went on to win 6-4, making Cain's catch all the more important.
Cain was tied for the eight-best Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) last season among hitters at 6.6. He was again outstanding on defense, but also had a career best .360 Weighted on Base Average (wOBA).
Cain's wOBA in 2016 is .338 -- a drop-off from last season's impressive total -- and he currently has a fWAR of 1.7. This puts him on pace to post a 5.0 fWAR over the course of a full season, so while his bat hasn't been as great as it was in 2015, his glove is helping him remain one of baseball's most valuable players.
Only 20 hitters posted a fWAR of 5.0 or better last season, so if Cain's bat starts to heat up, he could get back into the 6.0 win category, something only 11 hitters did in 2015. Our projections don't expect that to happen, as we forecast him to record his current wOBA -- .338 -- over the remaining course of the season.