Mike Cameron: Stealth Star of the ’90s and Aughts

The end appears close for Mike Cameron. The 38-year-old, hobbled by injuries over the past two seasons, was designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Thursday. Cameron could well end up on another club’s bench if he is released and only costs the pro-rated portion of the major league minimum, but his immediate future isn’t the purpose of this post. Rather, I want to celebrate the career of one of the least-appreciated stars of the late 1990s and the new millennium.

Take a look at the Wins Above Replacement Leaderboard for position players since 1997, the year when Cameron became an everyday player for the White Sox:

With 51.6 WAR, Cameron ranks 19th among all position players since he became a big league regular. Yet, Cameron hasn’t received anywhere near the same level recognition as the other stars close to him in total value.

With All-Star rosters set to be unveiled this Sunday, let’s take a look at how players close to Cameron in WAR have been judged by the fans, players and managers. The 10 players directly above Cameron in position player WAR made an average of slightly more than six All-Star teams from ’97 to the present. The 10 players right below Cameron in WAR (Kent, Jason Giambi, Jeff Bagwell, Chase Utley, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Delgado, Johnny Damon, Miguel Tejada, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza) made an average of about five All-Star teams. Cameron, meanwhile, made his only Midsummer Classic squad back in 2001.

When you examine Cameron’s career closely, the All-Star snubs start to make more sense. It’s not that he wasn’t deserving. But his skill-set, and the parks that he played in, gave him the kind of covert credentials that are frequently overlooked.

A career .249/.338/.444 hitter, Cameron’s offensive talent was often muted by the pitcher’s parks in which he played. U.S. Cellular Field is known as a hitter’s haven now, but back when the venue was still called Comiskey II and before the fences down the foul lines were moved in, it favored pitchers. Cameron spent four seasons toiling in Safeco Field, and two more hitting in PETCO, whose dimensions are slightly smaller than Yellowstone Park. His ability to work the count and hit for power made Cameron a quality batter, low batting average aside: his career park-and league-adjusted line is nine percent above average (109 wRC+).

Cameron never really posted gaudy stolen base totals, but he has been a high-percentage thief whose career stolen base success rate is 78 percent. Cameron added value in other facets of the running game as well, ranking in the top 20 among major leaguers in Ultimate Base Runs dating back to 2002 (the first year for which there’s UBR data). Cameron rarely posted type of SB numbers that make fantasy baseball players giddy, and going from first to third or second to home on a single isn’t the sort of play that leads SportsCenter, but he has been a definite asset on the bases.

And then, of course, there’s Cameron’s sublime defense. UZR has Cameron saving nearly 110 runs more than an average fly catcher during the course of his career. Some might view that total skeptically. But whether you gauge Cameron’s D by UZR, Total Zone (which has him saving +96 runs) or the naked eye, the man could cover serious ground. With apologies to Franklin Gutierrez, Cameron was the original Death To Flying Things while patrolling center in Seattle, and he remained one of the best defenders in the game into his mid-thirties.

By taking his cuts in cavernous parks and accumulating much of his value in the field and on the bases, Cameron rarely had the flashy raw numbers of his contemporaries on the WAR Leaderboard. Cameron became known as a .250ish hitter with a good glove — the sort of player you’d like to have, but not the sort that should be showcased in a prime-time gathering of the game’s best. He didn’t “feel” like an All-Star to most, though he topped the four-win threshold on nine occasions and had five-win seasons four different times. While Cameron made just one Midsummer Classic, he’d have a starting spot on the Rodney Dangerfield All-Stars.



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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.


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Steve
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Steve
5 years 25 days ago

That Brian Giles sits between Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran is just as suprising if not more so.

Don G
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Don G
5 years 25 days ago

I was gonna say the same thing. I don’t remember anything about him except that time he fell through the OF wall. :)

Steve
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Steve
5 years 25 days ago

Well, that and the time he beat his girlfriend in public. Great guy.

mike savino
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mike savino
5 years 25 days ago

And that they were both Padres. :/

kick me in the GO NATS
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kick me in the GO NATS
5 years 25 days ago

Giles had a few years were he was a superstar of the highest order, but they were with the Pirates. The Pirates would lose badly despite him. He then became a Padre and put up pretty good all round years, but they were seriously muted by PETCO.

If you park adjust his career numbers, they matched up well to anybody for a decade.

Justin
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Justin
5 years 24 days ago

You must not have seen him with the Pirates then. He was an unbelievable player for 4-5 years.

Hurtlocker
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Hurtlocker
5 years 25 days ago

A good player but superb defense does not make up for a lifetime .249 average. Ichiro hit in Safeco too and hit about 100 points higher.

Larry
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Larry
5 years 25 days ago

Ichiro is an all-time great player. Not to mention that his game is contact and speed whereas Cameron’s is patience and power. Outfield dimensions have no bearing on infield singles…

Luke M
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Luke M
5 years 25 days ago

Durrr batting average is the be all end all

Will T.
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Will T.
5 years 25 days ago

Ichiro is a left handed hitter, Cameron is a right handed hitter. While Safeco, in general, is a pitcher’s park (because the majority of hitters are right handed), it’s actually quite friendly to left handed hitters while absolutely destroying right handed pull power hitters. That’s why Beltre’s batting stats in Seattle look, without context, to not be all that good. Do your homework before you spout your beliefs, please.

Jon
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Jon
5 years 25 days ago

once again proving that WAR overvalues defense a little bit

TK
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TK
5 years 25 days ago

how so?

Sylvan
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Sylvan
5 years 25 days ago

What does this mean? Do you think that defense has little bearing on the game? That preventing hits and runs with good fielding doesn’t help teams win games? Or just that UZR/DRS/TZ sucks and we should ignore defense because it’s hard to measure?

Mike Cameron has made 4861 putouts in his 1910-game career. That’s a lot of outs recorded over 17 years. Is it outlandish to think that he may have, through his skill as an outfielder, gotten to 2 or 3% more of those batted balls than a typical player?

Jon
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Jon
5 years 25 days ago

this is the best example i have give you

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/brett-gardner-elite-player/

brett gardner is not an elite player clearly his WAR is inflated because defense is over valued

Hone
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Hone
5 years 25 days ago

And your proof that WAR overvalues defense is… what, exactly?

The Ancient Mariner
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The Ancient Mariner
5 years 25 days ago

So, Jon, your argument is that WAR overvalues defense because it says that Brett Gardner is an elite player and you say he isn’t? Am I getting this straight? The only possible missing premise I can think of in your logic is that your opinions have to be correct — and if you’ll excuse me, that sounds just a wee bit dubious.

williams .482
Member
Member
williams .482
5 years 25 days ago

Allow me to restate that: player X is really, really good at skill Y. Statistic Z which counts skill Y says that player X is a superstar. My entirely subjective gut feeling say that player X is not a superstar. Therefore, statistic Z overrates skill Y.

Jon
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Jon
5 years 25 days ago

so everyone here would rather have gardner playing left field on thier team than ryan braun

Im not saying that defense is worthless im just saying it might be a little to highly valued in the WAR calculation

UmYeah
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UmYeah
5 years 25 days ago

I’d rather have Gardner playing center and Braun playing first or dh.

dustin
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dustin
5 years 25 days ago

Braun has Gardner by over a win this year, and he’s got a much longer track record. I think most people here would take Braun, but if they had an iffy center fielder, they’d have to think about it.

Sean
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Sean
5 years 25 days ago

“Once again proving that Jon is skeptical of defensive metrics.”

MikeM
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MikeM
5 years 25 days ago

Here’s how I look at it: Defense may be “overvalued” when looked at at the extremes of super-stardom and the human population.

How many people, out of the world’s 6 billion population, have the hand/eye coordination and strength combination required to hit a baseball the Todd Helton did? I’m talking flying spaghetti monster-given ability from birth. Whatever number you came up with, now compare that with the number of people in this world who you think have the speed and internal tracking mechanism to play the outfield like Mike Cameron did.

Which group is larger? It has to be the Cameron group, in my opinion. I think there are just more people out there that (if plucked from their current station and trained in baseball) could replecate Mike Cameron’s defense than could Todd Helton’s swing. Most of these guys won’t ever qualify as a “replacement level” MLBer though because unlike a great hitter who butchers with the glove (Big Papi?) they will never even make it past high school tryouts.

Great hitters seem to be harder to find than great fielders.

Deelron
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Deelron
5 years 25 days ago

After watching plenty of great field, no hit players I’d have have to say that the ability to field supurbly (for a long period of time) and create runs at a league avergage rate (not an easy feat) is probably more rare then a guy who can hit hard and stand on first base.

MikeM
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MikeM
5 years 25 days ago

That’s fine. I just disagree. I think you could pluck a good numberof surburb-fileding outfileders from the ranks of NFL cornerbacks or NBA point guards. I really doubt that any of them could OPS 1.000.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
5 years 25 days ago

@MileM: the number of people that are the 100 best baseball fielders and 100 best baseball fielders is exactly the same. UZR is a comparative statistic.

Al Dimond
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5 years 25 days ago

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s harder to find great hitters than great fielders. In fact, this way of thinking may confuse the matter. When we look at “defensive stars” like Cameron and Gardner, it may actually be the case that it’s harder to find people that out-hit them than out-field them.

What matters is that they, to the best ability we have to measure, save their teams a lot of runs compared to the average fielder. And they also hit quite well against major-league pitching, no small feat. A run is a run, so the theory goes, and it’s probably close enough to true when measuring individual production.

Salo
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Salo
5 years 24 days ago

@MikeM

You are saying that all the CBs in the NFL have the ability to hit .250 in the majors? You think anyone can hit .250 if trained in baseball?

I was trained in baseball, I´m fast and I´m here discussing with you from my office Job in Mexico City. What the hell I´ll resign today and try to make it to the majors. It will be easy since I’m fast an trained in baseball.

Cameron is a professional hitter, average for in the majors is still 1/1 000 000.

MikeM
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MikeM
5 years 24 days ago

I think I have either been misunderstood, or people are just having fun putting words in my mouth.

David – I understand that 100 = 100. If you read my post you will find that I never mention the “100 best baseball fielders”. Instead, I used Mike Cameron’s defensive level as the baseline and wondered how many people in the whole world can field like him.

Salo – No, I am not saying all NFL CB’s could hit .250. If you read my post you will find I never typed that at all. For the Cameron side I was looking at purely defense. This means a guy who could go toe-to-toe with Cameron in the outfield, period. Don’t care what he hits. This theoretical player can hit .000 for all I care. That wasn’t the point of my thought experiment. I stand by my opinion that there are more people in the world like you who can field at a high level but not hit, then there are stick wizards.

Bill@TPA
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5 years 23 days ago

But Mike, I think everyone completely understands your little thought experiment, but their point is that without considering Cameron’s and Gardner’s offensive abilities as well, it’s utterly meaningless. If you’d taken Usain Bolt and trained him in the minors for about a year right after he broke all those records, it’s entirely possible that he could’ve become the best defensive center fielder the world has ever seen. I’d also expect him to hit about .000/.010/.000 in the major leagues (maybe he gets hit by a pitch once or twice). The ability to play excellent defense itself may not be all that special, but the ability to provide that defense and league-average or better offense is exceptionally rare, and can absolutely be just as rare and valuable as that 1.000 OPS guy.

Yirmiyahu
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Yirmiyahu
5 years 25 days ago

In UZR and other defensive stats, because it’s based on runs above- or below-average, all the numbers add up to 0. Leaguewide, defense is worth nothing. Therefore, there can be no systematic overvaluing of defense.

Now, if you’re saying that, on some players, WAR overvalues defense, that is true. But it’s made up for in undervaluing defense for other players. The problem there is simply sample size. The error margins are simply larger than for batting stats.

Now, with the Mike Cameron example, we’re talking about a 17 year sample. It’s large enough that any sampling issues should have no bearing on this discussion. Maybe he’s been worth 49 wins. Maybe he’s been worth 54 wins. Whatever, he’s been an unrecognized star.

JoeElPaso
Member
JoeElPaso
5 years 24 days ago

I’m commenting not to criticize Mike Cameron. I agree he is an underrated player. Nor can I say that WAR overvalues defense. It is that unlike its purely offensive data, which can be related together by linear weights, there are problems knowing how to weight the defensive data with the rest, and even more the positional weighting. Yes, defensive data has problems but we should at least consider it, but I do wonder if it needs to be weighted more for how many touches the average player actually gets at a given position (is this part of it)? More importantly, the absolute valuations of various positions seem arbitrary (where is the data from which they are derived) and have a big, big impact on WAR (vs. the variance in the statistics). Yes, the relative valuations make sense, but the absolute (numerical) valuations which have a big impact seem poorly justified (and that is relevant to Cameron’s WAR as a CF). Plus, I wonder (not sure on this) if there is a double counting or at least autocorrelation effect of counting both defensive stats as such and highly valuing positions where good defensive players are directed. I wonder if that spreads the variance of WAR on the top end inappropriately (an autocorrelation problem). Finally, and I’ve said this before, there is no value given to positional value of having a high value hitter occupying one single slot in the 9 hitter lineup (a scarcity akin to positional scarcity) as opposed to making up offensive statistics by two or three players (eat up lineup spots). In the end, it just feels like WAR overvalues players at certain defensive positions; I may be wrong, but Cameron feels like a case of this.

Mike B.
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Mike B.
5 years 25 days ago

Cameron and Ichiro! were two of the top reasons to visit the Safe in the early 2000s. Ichiro! for his all-around game; Cameron mostly for his amazing glovework. Cammy could be frustrating as hell to watch at the plate as he hacked away, but he had decent pop and had his share of XBH. And there was no play more exciting than watching him track down and smother a line drive or pop-fly to center that would’ve been a hit had almost any other OFer been in his place.

Random Guy
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Random Guy
5 years 25 days ago

Cameron wasn’t what I’d call a hacker. He did strike out a lot but also drew a respectable number of walks, 70-80 per year, and had OBPs in the .350 range. In his better seasons, he provided aproximately Justin Smoak’s 2011 bat, Franklin Gutierrez’s 2011 glove and Ichiro Suzuki’s 2011 baserunning. The team would kill to have someone like that right now.

John
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John
5 years 25 days ago

Kind of funny that Cameron ended up out producing Griffey.

Kenny
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Kenny
5 years 25 days ago

Cameron produced 51.6 WAR in 17 seasons, Griffey produced 51.5 WAR in his first 8 seasons (89-96) and finished with 83.9 WAR, so unless your talking about Griffey Sr or the injury riddled seasons at the end of Griffeys career Cameron didnt come close to out producing Griffey

Baltimore Chop
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Baltimore Chop
5 years 25 days ago

If you recall, Cameron was trade for Griffey. So, it should go without saying that he means Cameron out produced Griffey from the time when they were trade for each other.

Old Hoss
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Old Hoss
5 years 24 days ago

Griffey went from first-ballot Hall of Famer to average major leaguer in a nano second. One of the most puzzling production drop off in the history of pro sports.

bookbook
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bookbook
5 years 25 days ago

I absolutely agree with the gist of this article. Cameron could make an all-time underrated team. He was not only underappreciated but (relatively) underpaid over the course of his career.

However, in fairness to the All-Star team determiners, several of the names, both above and below, had impressive years prior to 1997 (I-Rod, Kent, Piazza, Sheffield, etc.). All-star selections have more than a small element of career recognition to them.

A few others started their careers later, so concentrated more all-star worthiness into the years where they were selected (Utley, Ichiro, etc.)

Based on this info, I don’t know that Cameron was actually deprived of deserved all-star appearances.

Gabriel
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Gabriel
5 years 25 days ago

I agree. This article essentially cherry picks the years he played. Guys whose careers started and ended five or more years earlier or later essentially won’t show up on this list. Basically, this article is doing the exact thing we criticize mainstream sports media of doing.

However, the point about Cameron being very good is true. A better article would look at his rank each year in terms of position player WAR, perhaps also looking at his rank in outfielder WAR. That would effectively tell us how high he was within those two groups (I’d say that any year he was in the top 35 position players and the top 12 outfielders, he’d be pretty clearly deserve to be an all-star, plus or minus a few spots in the rankings — though of course that is ignoring what his pace was at mid-season).

If he consistently deserved to be an all-star by that accounting, it would show that he had a pretty fabulous career. I suspect that he did…

Deelron
Member
Deelron
5 years 25 days ago

You can go back as far as you like and he still falls right next to Beltre, Ichiro and guys like Jason Giambi.

If you go back to 1990 as the lower date and restrict to OFs 51.6 is 16th, right between Ichiro and Bernie Williams, followed by Johnny Damon.

steex
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steex
5 years 22 days ago

The problem is you shouldn’t be going back FURTHER to compare Cameron to Ichiro. The point being made is that Cameron has played 4 more seasons than Ichiro, so comparing Cameron’s total WAR to Ichiro’s total WAR over just the length of Cameron’s career puts their relative value in the wrong context as it is. Going back further will pretty much show the exact same problem.

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
5 years 25 days ago

Yeah, these lists are the most worthless type of lazy analysis.

VN
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VN
5 years 25 days ago

Comparing the total WAR of one complete career with that of a bunch of partial careers is like picking a cherry.

BDF
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BDF
5 years 25 days ago

Post-Griffey trade, Cameron accumulated 19 WAR in four seasons in Seattle; Griffey accumulated 11 WAR in nine seasons in Cincinnati.

Nate
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Nate
5 years 25 days ago

He’s been an undervalued player in his career. Maybe WAR overstates his defense, but there’s he played a significant role on quite a few small market teams that had impressive seasons: San Diego, Seattle, Cincinnati and Milwaukee.

Random Guy
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Random Guy
5 years 25 days ago

Speaking of underrated Mariners, how about Adrian Beltre on that list? Can people please stop saying he was a free agent bust now?

BDF
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BDF
5 years 25 days ago

Might be time to start wondering/arguing about whether Beltre will/ought to receive HOF consideration once he’s done.

kick me in the GO NATS
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kick me in the GO NATS
5 years 25 days ago

I think he is a maybe. The argument is there.

Facts are that weak minded people who barely understand math do not truly get the park effects in their souls. Those people will forever see Beltre as a big year before a contract player. When in reality if you really park effect his numbers for the true effect of Seattle on his numbers, then you see him as having been as good during most of his years in Seattle as he was last season with the Red Sox. At least, I see it that way.

Random Guy
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Random Guy
5 years 25 days ago

Beltre may well have a good HOF argument when all is said and done. Problem is, there are so many third basemen in the “maybe; the argument is there” category that it will be tough for him as a practical matter, unless he has extraordinary longevity. That is, he’s probably going to wind up waiting his turn behind Sando, Boyer, Bando, Nettles, Cey, Hack, Matt Williams, Fryman, Ventura, and whomever else I’m forgetting. (The way things are going, David Wright, who I once thought was well on his way to being a lock, is probably winding up in that category as well.)

Random Guy
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Random Guy
5 years 25 days ago

“Sando”? I meant Santo. Or maybe Santo and Bando had some mutant child.

Jgov05
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Jgov05
5 years 24 days ago

Beltre wasn’t nearly as good for Seattle as he was in 2004 or 2010, even after accounting for park factors. His OPS+ in his big years was 163 and 142, respectively. His OPS+ in Seattle was 100 over his 5 years there, with 112 being his high.

While he was a useful starter in Seattle, he was never the 6-8 WAR player he would have been if he had kept up similar production to his contract years.

joshcohen
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joshcohen
5 years 24 days ago

scott rolen is going to have a hard enough time convincing voters that he’s HOF worthy…let’s save our angst for him.

pft
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pft
5 years 24 days ago

His 303 OBP and 753 OPS look remarkably like his Seattle numbers. He has more RBI’s since he plays on a better offensive team and has more opportunities.

pft
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pft
5 years 24 days ago

Also, with regard to the argument that Beltre played just as well with Seattle as he did in 2010 with the Red Sox, and that the only difference is he benfitted from Fenway vs SAFECO, you just need to look at Beltres road numbers in 2010 and compare them to his road numbers while he was with Seattle.

Road OPS

2010-953
2009-718
2008-862
2007-858
2006-805
2005-736

Clearly he had a contract year that was not due to a change of parks

BTW, his road numbers in his previous contract year with the Dodgers was 1049 OPS. This year he has a 669 road OPS and is clearly benefittingf from the stadium in Arlington (852 OPS at home).

I would be a bit concerned about Beltres contract if I was a Rangers fan.

delv
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delv
5 years 25 days ago

Looks like Abreu is the real stealth star.

jesse
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jesse
5 years 25 days ago

Is this article secretly about selection bias ??

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
5 years 25 days ago

No but it should.

Sam
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Sam
5 years 25 days ago

No Soriano?

JRoth
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JRoth
5 years 25 days ago

I always liked Cameron, but he pissed me off by staying so valuable so long into his career. Maybe I just pegged him (wrongly) as a speedy CF type who’d age early, or maybe he signed a deal with Satan, but he had literally 5 productive years after I mentally wrote him off, all for teams I root against. In particular, I thought the Mets* were smart to drop him when they did, when in fact he could very well have turned them into a WS team in ’06 and a playoff team in ’07 and ’08.

Dammit.

* Shea was another pitchers’ stadium he played in

J6takish
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J6takish
5 years 25 days ago

A bit off topic, but that WAR list really had some surprising names on it. Derek Jeter has been called a “first ballot” hall of famer for as long as I can remember. However, Scott Rolen has a higher career WAR and will likely pass Jeter even further, as Rolen probably has a few more 2-4 win seasons left in him. I know Scott Rolens HoF candidacy has been discussed in depth before, and he likely won’t get in. However, most of the bullshit intagibles that HoF voters vote on, these players match up on. Neither of them were the absolute “stand out” star on their teams, they both helped their teams to pennants (Scott Rolen had a 9win season in 2004). I guess my question is, these players have remarkably similar careers, but Jeter is a no questions asked first balloter, while Rolen probably won’t ever get in? What is it about these two players to where they are viewed so differently by the mainstream baseball community?

Sitting Curveball
Member
5 years 24 days ago

“What is it about these two players to where they are viewed so differently by the mainstream baseball community?”

One of these players was on the Yankees in the late 1990s and early 2000s and one of the these players wasn’t. Unfortunately, like 90% of the baseball community get all hot and bothered just seeing anyone from those teams.

Jon
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Jon
5 years 24 days ago

Well, baseball-reference.com has Jeter ahead of Rolen 70.0-66.1. The much more reliable offensive side of WAR has Jeter well ahead on both sites (83.8-51.9 on that other site). Jeter was a top-6 position player in his league 6 times, Rolen in the top-8 in his 3 times. And then Rolen has 142 post-season PA’s and 1 championship versus Jeter’s 679 and 5, which if nothing else is a lot fewer opportunities to make an impression on a national audience.

Rolen’s a terrific third baseman who’s had a long career, but I don’t know if he feels like a HOF’er to me, and some of the reasons are legitimate. Aside from changing teams, not winning a ton, and never really being the face of a franchise, he also misses a lot of games and hasn’t had many big seasons.

joshcohen
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joshcohen
5 years 24 days ago

rolen is this generation’s best test case for a player with great defense (by both scouts and UZR) and fairly good offense at a position that traditionally values offense. (for the record, i can see the claims andruw jones and jim edmonds might also have to this mantle although rolen seems to be the best of the three IMO)

rolen has some of those “soft” factors that allow his candidacy to be narratorized by the mainstream press too–a ROY, a ring, a handful of AS selections, 8 GGs–but it still won’t be enough. even though it’s a couple of decades (and a sabr revolution) after donny baseball was dismissed by HOF voters, rolen will be lucky to garner any more votes than mattingly did.

shthar
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shthar
5 years 25 days ago

He always destroyed LH pitching and was good enough vs RH to keep his glove in the lineup.

Al Dimond
Guest
5 years 25 days ago

I understand the impetus behind lists like this, comparing a player to his contemporaries, but it obviously shortchanges everyone whose career doesn’t overlap nearly perfectly. A player with the same WAR 1997-current as Cameron may indeed have had more All Star-worthy seasons, by playing fewer of those seasons but at a higher level. So I’d suggest instead, if you want to look at career value, a list of career WAR for all players whose peak WAR came 2000 or later.

Clearly, no matter how you cut the list, Cameron has been underrated in terms of overall value by lots of people. But it’s very possible that he wasn’t often an All-Star snub because he didn’t really have amazing peak seasons. To determine that you could look at specific seasons. Or you could use something like “Wins Above Excellence”, which gives players per-season credit for WAR over some threshold while zeroing out everything below it… I’m not sure that measures anything useful for value purposes, but might approximate aggregate ASG-worthiness over a career.

Craig
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Craig
5 years 24 days ago

As a Brewers fan, it was a pleasure to watch Cameron play for the team for a couple of years. With his bat he was a poor man’s Adam Dunn with better base running, but in the field he was no Adam Dunn. With the Brewers it was obvious that he had lost a step, but his instincts were perfect. His first step and the perfect routes to the ball were a thing of beauty. I remember one occasion where he was casually jogging to catch a fly ball that I assumed it was going to be an easy catch, but it ended up being an over the wall home run saving catch that he was timing perfectly. He made the play look so easy when in reality he just knew exactly where the ball was going to land and when he would needed to jump so he just didn’t rush and didn’t worry. Give Cameron the speed he had in his younger days, and it does not shock me to see his WAR value so high up on the list because of his outstanding defense and slightly above average bat.

AdamM
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AdamM
5 years 23 days ago

If Cameron’s bat is a poor man’s Adam Dunn, that’s a very poor man.

Bob Ferguson
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Bob Ferguson
5 years 24 days ago

Did you forget about me?

Bookbook
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Bookbook
5 years 24 days ago

The M’s would have certainly been a better team had they held onto him.

Tucker
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Tucker
5 years 24 days ago

It seems like a big part of his problem was probably also that over his career he never actually made that leap to being the best player at his position in terms of any single metric and was never regarded as the best player on his team. He was compared unfavorably to Andruw Jones in terms of defense and power, and was overshadowed completely by other personalities while he moved around as the 3rd to 5th best player on teams that were at least pretty good. Also he never won a world series which would probably have turned him into a guy that the media always talked about as being a winner with various absurd intangible qualities.

Robbie G.
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Robbie G.
5 years 24 days ago

Mike Cameron has a lot of things working against him:

1) Failure by fans/media to compare players to others who play the same position rather than to all players, period;

2) Bias against guys with mediocre batting averages;

3) Failure by fans/media to appreciate the importance of OBP;

4) He bounced around a lot;

5) Difficulty involved in quantifying defensive performance;

6) Often played for teams that did not get a huge amount of national media attention (e.g., San Diego, Cincinnati, White Sox, Seattle);

7) Often overshadowed by much bigger names on his own teams;

8) Played most of his career in the PED era, so his numbers just did not seem all that great in comparison to his peers.

Hell, if Jim Edmonds, who had a significantly better career than Cameron, can’t get the props he deserves, then of course we shouldn’t expect Cameron to. Edmonds should be a first ballot HOFer but I’m not sure if he’ll ever get in.

Guess who has about the same career WAR total as Cameron? J.D. Drew. I think if this post had been made about Drew then we’d be getting much less sympathetic responses.

Robbie G.
Guest
Robbie G.
5 years 24 days ago

http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?playerid2=1070&playerid3=857&playerid4=1010557&playerid5=1009772

Comparison between Mike Cameron, Bernie Williams, Kirby Puckett, and Tony Oliva.

joshcohen
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joshcohen
5 years 24 days ago

tossing aside puckett and oliva (it’s tough to compare between generations, especially when tz/uzr plays into it as much as it does with cameron), cameron does stack up quite well with bernie, which i must admit surprised me. not that either are getting in, but i wonder if baseball would underrate cameron less if he had half the playoff ABs that bernie did.

pft
Guest
pft
5 years 24 days ago

Guy had a career OPS+ of 105 and routinely struck out over 150 times per year.

His road OPS was 806 w/152 HR in 883 GS. Not outstanding when you consider his low BA and high K rate and the run environment he played in during his prime. Career OBP on the road only 344 which was about slightly above league average over his career.

A good hitter for sure, not great, especially against RHP’ers.

Never saw him play much defensively until he joined Boston, so I will have to take the others word for his D, or the numbers.

Nice career for Mike, wish him the best in landing a job with another team. Maybe he can get his swing back with regular playing time, but defensively he probably would be better off in LF.

WAR is a counting stat and Mike had a relatively long career. Better off converting WAR to a rate basis to look at comparative talent levels (say for all player who played a minimum of 10 years, or 5 year peak )

BG
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BG
5 years 24 days ago

Cameron definately had a quality major league career.

I’ll always remember him for coming back from that gruesome injury in 2005 to play again at a very high level.

I hope he can catch on somewhere. He could probably help the Rays in LF if they’re still not going to call up Jennings.

guy
Guest
guy
5 years 24 days ago

Bob Ferguson was actually the original “Death to Flying Things”

Grebe
Guest
Grebe
5 years 23 days ago

It should also be mentioned that Cameron was the 13th player in history to hit four homers in a game… 2002 as a Mariner.

Brian Williamson
Guest
Brian Williamson
5 years 22 days ago

And I believe he missed a fifth homerun that day by inches…

Scott
Guest
Scott
5 years 20 days ago

I’ll always hold a grudge against Cameron for running into Beltran and ruining Carlos’ Mets career

Scott
Guest
Scott
5 years 20 days ago

Baseball-reference.com has him as #200 all-time in WAR, right between JD Drew and Brett Butler. A nice career, but I think Cameron has been as overrated in sabr-circles as he was under-rated in traditional ones.

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