Monday, November 03, 2008

Brewers Exercise Option on CF Cameron

GM Doug Melvin and crew finally exercised the 10M club option on Mike Cameron. The Brewers CF, in limited action due to a 25-game stimulant-related suspension (120 G, 508 PA), Cameron put up a .243/.331/.477 slash line, along with 25 HRs and 70 RBIs. These numbers (especially the .243 avg) may lead many casual fans to wonder why a small market team like the Brewers would be willing to spend 10 million dollars on a hitter of this caliber.

First off, Cameron's numbers where quite good among CFs this year. Cameron's .809 OPS ranked 30th among qualifying OFs, and when the sample is reduced to CFs, it ranks 7th among OF (and 3rd among NL CFs), only 1 point behind Torii Hunter's .810 OPS. However, Cameron's OPS is slightly misleading, because of his low OBP, he's not quite worth as much offensively as his OPS would suggest. For a better look, Cameron's WPA/LI this year was 1.42, meaning that Cameron, in reduced time, was still worth 1.42 wins above the average ML hitter.

However, anybody who watched the Brewers play over the course of the season knows that Cameron is also a fine defensive player, and we cannot ignore this contribution of the player. This is a major concern for the Brewers, who are losing 1 if not 2 aces this year in Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia. This means that the Brewers will have to rely on solid gloves (even moreso than last season, where they lead the NL in +/-) and not ace pitching in order to keep a solid run prevention.

Let's take a look at Justin's TotalValue Stats, a set of stats that uses Linear Weights for offense and Zone Ratings on defense to determine the total number of runs above (or below) replacement a player was over the 2008 season. Justin has Cameron at 26 runs above replacement (+23 runs offensively, +3 runs defensively), which, using a crude 10 runs = 1 win scale, puts Cameron at 2.6 wins above replacement. The current free agent market has a +1 win player going for somewhere in the range of 4.5 to 5 million dollars/year.

Even if we assume some sort of decline for Cameron (who will be 36 next year), the fact that he will likely accrue 100 more plate appearances and 20 more games in CF will be of enough value to the Brewers that it is fair to expect a similar performance next year. Cameron's BABIP was slightly lower than his career average (.300 vs .307), so no major regression either way should be expected there. Cameron's HR/FB rate was way up this year, 18.9% compared to 13.8%. While Cameron's career HR/FB is lowered by spending much of his career in pitcher's parks like Petco Park and Safeco Field, Miller Park also had a low HR park factor this year as well, so regression can be expected for his HR/FB rate.

Basically, the Brewers can expect to have a decent, +1.5 to +2.5 win hitter combined with a +.5 to +1.5 win outfielder, which is a great bargain at 10 million dollars for only one year. Also, if Cameron performs similarly to last year, he may reach the Type A free agent tier, netting the Brewers more draft picks on top of the picks they'll get if/when Sabathia, Sheets (both type A), Shouse, Gagne, and Torres (all type B) leave this year. Melvin made a genius deal last year, and I'm surprised it took the Brewers this long to realize that it will bring nothing but good things to the club once again.

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