By MARK SIMON
We’ll admit it: It’s tough to look forward in baseball with so much uncertainty around the start of the 2020 season.
But we’re here to try. Since defense is our specialty, we’ll devote some articles to looking at the things we’re most looking forward to related to that part of the game whether it’s in 2020 or further down the road.
Let’s start with something that everyone likes watching (except hitters) — home run robberies.
Theft in bulk
There have been an average of 65 home run robberies a season since 2017, which would convert to 24 in a 60-game season. Lorenzo Cain (8) and Josh Reddick (7) have the most in that span with (by this writer’s opinion) Cain’s having a higher degree of difficulty than Reddick’s.
Those two aren’t likely to come close to the five they snagged in 2019 (though Adam Engel did have three in a one-week span the year before). But we’d be happy to see something like this from Cain even once.
Kevin Kiermaier is soooo good
So long as he’s on the field and not hurt, Kevin Kiermaier is a phenomenal center fielder. Over the last five seasons, the Runs Saved leaderboard in center field reads Kiermaier 111, Cain 69. Kiermaier does everything well. He has great closing speed, which allows him to make lots of improbable plays. Watch this catch and then check out his description of it on our podcast.
“It was the hardest play of my career, degree of difficulty, by far. That was one play where I truly surprised myself catching that ball. I had a long way to run and had to go into a full-out leap, somewhat horizontal which I don’t like doing because you’re going to hit the wall with pretty good momentum. I already knew I ran far enough to make this catch and I was fortunate enough to come down with it. I rocked my head on that wall … If I had to do it again, I would. I dream of making those type of plays. I’m just always trying to give people reason to give me the defensive reputation that I have.”
The HR robbery is only the beginning
Athletics outfielder Ramon Laureano has an all-world arm that wowed us multiple times last season. We ranked it the best in the game in an article in The Athletic. Laureano ranked second to Victor Robles in Outfield Arm Runs Saved last season, though if you put their throws side-by-side, we’re pretty sure Laureano’s arm strength would rate more impressive.
Even Laureano’s bad throws make for great viewing. Especially when you combine them with a highly impressive home run-robbery!