Tuesday, August 09, 2005

They Call Him Cam' Ron
By Ben Valentine

Okay so maybe just I do.

I’m usually criticized as being too pessimistic in life. It’s true to a large degree; when something good happens I get to be pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately I’ve only been really pleasantly surprised a few times in my sports fandom, hence the continual pessimisms. But a few days after talking about all that’s wrong with Carlos Beltran, I’ve decided talk about another Met in a more positive light, one who seems to need a lot of defending from time to time. That Met is, as the title suggests, Mike Cameron.

The last week of July, the Mets laid complete stinkers at the hitter’s paradises of Coors Field and Minute Maid Park. Nobody looked worse at the plate than Cameron, who in one game against the Rockies, struck out four times, three times looking. He did so at inopportune times, such as with the bases loaded and with the tying run on second base in the ninth inning. Things didn’t get any better in Houston, where Cameron “dropped” a routine fly ball in a Mets 3-2 loss. The drop wasn’t really a drop since he did so on transfer from ball to hand (it was a bad call) and it didn’t cost the Mets a run. But it was just another embarrassment in a really bad week for the Mets rightfielder.

Ultimately, Cameron unfairly became the poster boy for the Mets offensive woes on that trip. People were ripping him for his strikeouts, a favorite critique of the outfielder. He sees a lot of pitches and works a lot of deep counts, which accounts for the high K totals (and for his usually good walk rate). Because of that approach, he can look tentative at the plate when those pitches are being called “strike three”. I too became frustrated by him at times. But then I realized something. Something that most Met fans seem to be forgetting.

Mike Cameron is in fact outplaying Mike Cameron.

And it’s not even close. Last year, he posted a .231 average, a .319 on base and a .479 slugging percentage. He jacked 30 hrs and stole 22 bases. All and all, those numbers aren’t stellar, but they are pretty good for a center fielder that plays great defense. Those numbers are better than what Carlos Beltran is putting up this year mind you.

This year, Cameron’s average is up at .271. His walks are down, but with the higher average, his on base stands at .344. He’s slugging .490 with 12 homers and 12 stolen bases. Remember he missed time due to injury. Thus Cameron’s power and speed numbers have remained the same, while all of his other numbers have increased. His defense has also improved this year from last, playing right field of course. Still I feel pretty confident in saying Cameron would be better in center than Beltran is.

However, this Cameron is not a complete anomaly. In 2002 and 2003 in Seattle, he put up similar years, though they weren’t quite as good. In 2002 he posted a .239/.340/.442 clip with 25 homers and 31 swipes. In 2003, it was .253/.344/.431 with 18 homers and 17 steals. In those years Cameron relied on walks a bit more to increase his on base percentage. This year he’s been doing it with hits. It looks like he’s being more aggressive at the plate. That probably accounts for the higher slugging percentage.

Basically, Cameron has in fact done what most Met fans complained about last season. He’s not settling for a walk as much and has hit for a higher average. I guarantee most Met fans that rip Cameron don’t care about on-base. If they did they would not have ripped him in the first place since that has usually been respectable. This year he’s done everything they’ve asked and more. But he gets the flak and dropped in the batting order, rather than the more deserving candidates of Beltran (.269/.319/.438) or especially Miguel Cairo who is also putting up lower on base and slugging totals. (.272/.321/.373)

Lately, Cameron’s started hitting again. Perhaps he’s got a clearer head now that the trade deadline is passed. Whatever it is, Met fans, especially the ones who booed him after striking out when the Mets were up 5-0 against the Cubs Sunday night, should wake up and realize the Mets aren’t suffering because of Mike Cameron. He makes them better.

So call him whatever you want. Just remember to add the adjectives “good player” too.

1 Comments:

Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

I've had plenty of experience with Mike Cameron. Few Mariners have frustrated me more. He had all the athletic ability in the world, as evidenced by his tremendous defense in center field. But he could never learn how to hit consistantly. While he posts a respectable OBP, something Sabrmatricians love, he didn't put the ball in play enough to be a true impact player in the league. He was an enigma. Remember, he hit 4 home runs in a game a couple of years ago, and even had an All-Star year with the M's. Still, he struck out with runners in scoring position seemingly every at bat. I think the Mets would be better served to move him back to center, where he's clearly more comfortable (and better defensively then Beltran), and where his production is above, not below, the NL average.

1:14 PM  

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