Lorenzo Cain had a fantastic 2018 season, followed by a disappointing 2019 season offensively. Can his bat rebound for the Brewers in 2020?
The defense hasn’t gone anywhere for Brewers CF Lorenzo Cain. Just last year, he finally won his first Gold Glove award, something that was at least five years overdue. He fell just short of that award in 2018, when he also finished in the Top 10 in NL MVP voting.
His high finish that year was due to a combination of his great defense and spectacular offense at the top of the order. After signing with the Brewers in January 2018, Cain hit a robust .308/.395/.417 with 25 doubles, 10 homers, and 30 stolen bases. Cain set the table perfectly for Christian Yelich after him time and time again. They made a deadly 1-2 punch atop the Brewers order.
While the Brewers were looking for more of the same in 2019, Cain wasn’t quite able to keep up the offensive production. Last year, he hit just .260/.325/.372 with 30 doubles, 11 homers, and 18 stolen bases. Even though Cain had more extra base hits, his batting average dropped 48 points and his OBP dropped 70(!) points from year-to-year.
A large part of that drop is because Cain drew less walks in 2019 since he was still hitting in front of Yelich and the last thing any pitcher wants to do is walk the guy in front of Yelich and put a runner on base for him. Yelich wasn’t the feared hitter in the early parts of 2018 that he is now.
Now in his age-34 season, can Cain provide an offensive rebound in 2020?
A Lorenzo Cain Rebound
The good news is, statistically, Cain’s offensive downturn in 2019 appears to be more a fluke down year than the beginning of a trend that will continue for the rest of his career.
Over his 10 year career, Cain has a .339 BABIP, or batting average on balls in play. In 2019, his BABIP dropped to just .301, 38 points below his career average and the worst season BABIP he’s ever had. An unusually low BABIP is normally an indication of poor luck and hitting the ball right at defenders instead of finding holes.
But maybe he wasn’t hitting the ball as hard and just couldn’t make good contact, could that explain it?
Yes, it could explain the drop in BABIP, but not in Cain’s case.
In 2019, Cain had his lowest soft-hit percentage since 2013 at just 16.3%, down from 18.1% in 2018. Cain’s medium-hit percentage was at 47.2%, up from 43.6% the year before and his hard-hit rate was 36.5% compared to 38.3% in 2018.
So Cain’s hard contact rate didn’t suffer a huge drop-off, and his soft contact rate went down a little. He’s still hitting the ball hard, but he had more line drives that ended up staying in the air long enough to get caught. His line drive percentage had averaged 22.2% for his career, but last year it went up to 25.7%.
Back in spring training, Cain reported to camp down about 12 pounds with an effort to help his lower half stay healthy. At the end of 2019, Cain was trying to carry the Brewers with everything he had, battling leg injuries down the stretch. Playing in 2020 in better shape and with some hopefully better luck, Cain appears primed for a rebound season in 2020.
The Brewers are going to need Cain to rebound and play well this year. His defense in center should continue to be superb, but the bat is key for this lineup to be dominant.