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Royals honored in tie as best AL defensive club

Royals honored in tie as best AL defensive club

Royals honored in tie as best AL defensive club

KANSAS CITY -- Best defensive team in the American League? If you guessed the Royals, you were right -- or at least half-right.

The Royals were co-winners of the Wilson AL Defensive Team of the Year with the Orioles, it was announced during Thursday night's awards show on MLB Network.

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Additionally, center fielder Lorenzo Cain was named the Royals' Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight time by Wilson.

Cain, though, seemed more elated by the team honor.

"Hey, that's awesome," Cain said. "It just shows that we've been working hard and do rank in the top defensively. That's big-time."

Three Royals won Gold Glove Awards for defensive excellence this year from a rival glove company, Rawlings, but Cain was not among that group -- Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez.

However, Wilson cited Cain for his range in center field where he played 92 games and specialized in long rnnning catches. He made only one error in 255 chances with seven assists in center.

Cain also played 32 games in right field, where his other two errors occurred. Among AL outfielders, he ranked third in zone rating (.923).

"It just shows the hard work you put in and dedicating yourself to trying to perfect your craft each and every day," Cain said. "To win this award is definitely another step in the right direction and I'm very excited. I've just got to go out and keep proving what I can do on the defensive side of the ball."

As a team, the Orioles led the AL in fielding percentage and made the fewest errors with 54. The Royals ranked eighth and committed 85 errors, but pulled even with the Orioles because of what Wilson called "advanced metrics." It involves a formula that balances scouting information, sabermetrics analysis and basic fielding statistics.

The Royals' fielding percentage of .986 was their best in team history based on just 85 errors in 5,950 total chances. Their outfielders combined for 40 assists, second in the AL to Minnesota's 44.

The Royals and the Orioles each had three players earn Gold Glove Awards.

"As a team, we've just got to continue to do what we've been doing and keep helping our pitchers, because they definitely were outstanding last season," Cain said.

The Wilson defensive awards were introduced last year and Cain also was the Royals' winner, despite playing in only 61 games. He was hindered by leg injuries, the most serious of which came as he banged into the center-field wall while making a catch in the season's fifth game at Oakland. This year, Cain played in 115 games, missing 24 due to a pulled oblique in his side.

For the 2013 awards, a player had to log at least 80 games to qualify. A detailed statistical analysis also determined the winner on each of the 30 teams.

As the Royals' winner, Cain was eligible to be the AL Defensive Player of the Year, but that award went to Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

In the competition for the Gold Gloves, Cain also was one of three finalists in center field, but lost to Baltimore's Adam Jones.

Strangely enough, Cain's personal favorite among his fielding plays this year involved taking a hit away from Jones on July 22 when the Orioles were in Kansas City.

"Robbing a home run is probably my best catch, but my favorite is robbing Adam Jones of extra bases," Cain said. "That was with the bases loaded and he hit it in the gap and I laid out for it."

That ended a scoreless second inning, but the Royals wound up losing, 9-2.

There is more defensive recognition to come.

The GIBBY trophy for Defensive Player of the Year will be awarded as part of the 2013 Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards, which are based on voting by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni and the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as fan balloting on MLB.com.

Through Sunday, Dec. 1, fans will be able to cast their ballots at MLB.com for the year's top defensive star, with no individual league affiliation.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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