One of the keys to a successful 2020 Brewers campaign is a bounceback season from center fielder Lorenzo Cain. So far, early returns look promising.
The Brewers season is only five days old and the team has already gone through a few offensive dry spells. Those droughts got exacerbated by the fact that some of the bigger names on the team – Christian Yelich notable among them – are taking a while to get going.
To the delight of Brewers fans, one name absent from that list is veteran outfielder Lorenzo Cain. After a 2019 that saw him struggle due to nagging injuries and poor performance, Cain appears much better behind the plate so far to start 2020.
Cain had an outstanding first season with the Brewers in 2018 after being acquired by the team with Yelich the previous winter. He slashed .308/.395/.417 and swiped 30 bags as the team’s primary leadoff hitter on the way to his second career All-Star appearance.
2019, unfortunately, brought regression. His slash line dropped to .260/.325/.372, he only managed to steal 18 bases, and his OPS+ of 81 was the second lowest of any qualified Brewers player, topping only the offensively challenged Orlando Arica. He did, at least, manage to collect his first career Gold Glove, which was a small consolation for a rough year.
Injuries were largely to blame for his performance last year, as he suffered a nerve issue in his right thumb early and knee issues late. Cain has had an entire offseason plus the layoff to recover, though, and it seems like that might have been exactly what he needed.
Cain a bright spot for Brewers offense
It’s hard to judge exactly whether a player is “back” in such of a small sample size of five games played by a team. But Cain has the look of a player who is more comfortable behind the plate and it’s being reflected in his stats.
Playing in four of the team’s five games so far, Cain is slashing .333/.429/.389 on the year. His batting average is second best behind Arcia while his on base percentage is tied for second with behind Eric Sogard, with whom he has shared leadoff duties.
Cain also has had some moments of very solid contact this year. While his average exit velocity of 89 mph this season is right about in line with his career average, he has three balls hit at a velocity of 102.9 mph or more, which is tied for second most on the team behind Keston Hiura’s four. Cain also has the second-hardest hit ball of the season, a double in Saturday’s win over the Cubs that registered at 108.8 mph.
Cain’s performance thus far is especially important considering the previously mentioned slow starts within the rest of the offense. Until those players start settling in and start contributing, it will take players like Cain to keep the team afloat and avoid an early swoon, something teams can’t afford during this shortened season.
The next week or two will give an even better idea if Cain’s resurgence is legitimate. If it is, hopefully some of that offense can rub off on his teammates.