Player Profile: Mike Cameron

3 03 2008

The Milwaukee Brewers made a splash in the free agent market this off-season by signing Mike Cameron to a one-year deal. He will unfortunately miss the first 25 games of the season because he tested positive for amphetamines. Once returning, however, Cameron looks to be a veteran presence in the clubhouse and on the field that can help Milwaukee return to the post-season after a long hiatus.

Strengths:

Doug Melvin signed Mike Cameron to come in and be a defensive difference-maker for the Brewers. He brings Gold Glove-caliber defense to Milwaukee (three Gold Gloves, in fact), and he allows Ryan Braun to transition to left field and Bill Hall to third base, where both youngsters feel much more comfortable than their previous positions. Mike’s speed allows him to cover a lot of ground in center field, but his veteran presence will also allow him to be a tutor of sorts to Milwaukee’s young outfielding corps, mainly Ryan Braun and Corey Hart. Ned Yost has already mentioned that Mike is beginning to take the two under his wing and teach them the ropes out there without making to too complicated. He’s teaching them to trust their instincts and to use their athleticism to make plays. Mike Cameron’s defensive presence should help alleviate some of the defensive woes that plagued Milwaukee down the stretch last season.

Mike also brings a nice amount of plate discipline to the batting order. Yost has mentioned that Mike will probably bat second in the order because the combination of Rickie Weeks and Mike at the top of the lineup will make the opposing pitcher throw a lot of pitches. Cameron sees, on average, more than four pitches per at bat. Over the course of the year, that makes opposing pitchers throw a lot more pitches than they would otherwise. It may seem like a trivial fact, but compare Mike to Johnny Estrada from last year. Estrada would routinely swing at the first pitch he saw and pop a weak little fly to the second baseman or shortstop and waste an at bat. Plug Cameron into the lineup and pitchers automatically have to work more.

Following that same logic, Mike Cameron also brings a relatively high on-base percentage to the Milwaukee team. He does not hit for a high average, but he routinely gets on base. As stated numerous times on this site, his OBP was 86 points higher than was his average (.328 to .242, respectively). Mike has averaged 72 walks per year throughout his entire career. It is not incredibly high, but that will definitely benefit the Brewers. Braun and Fielder need someone who walks frequently in front of them. Cameron’s walk rate will probably decrease with Milwaukee because pitchers will do almost anything in their power not to walk the hitter in front of Milwaukee’s three and four hitters, but Mike still brings that to the table.

Finally, Mike Cameron brings a legit 20-20 offensive threat to the lineup. Corey Hart became only the fifth player in Milwaukee’s history to accomplish that feat last season, but Cameron will probably threaten that mark this year as well. Last season, Mike had 21 home runs and 18 stolen bases in a very difficult hitting park, PETCO. His power stroke should be much better served at Miller Park and in the NL Central, but his speed should also be utilized more, as Yost looks to get Mike in scoring position for Braun and Fielder batting behind him. The power and speed aspect of Cameron’s game is so attractive that I was surprised that Milwaukee could obtain him for only a one-year deal.

Finally, Mike should bring a veteran, scrappy attitude to the clubhouse. As stated above, he’s already begun to take the younger players under his wing and is trying to teach them the ways to win in the major leagues. The young Brewers are no longer inexperienced players, but Mike brings a fresh outlook to the team that may prove invaluable. It is a much overlooked aspect of a player and completely immeasurable, but important nonetheless.

Weaknesses:

This is a common theme amongst Brewers players, but Mike Cameron also strikes out in bunches. He struck out 160 times last season, and I do not expect that to change this year. He will still be a free swinger in the batting order, but his strike outs have been described as “more productive.” This is because he takes pitches before he strikes out. This may seem counter-intuitive, but one can be productive in a sense even if he strikes out. If you make the pitcher throw a lot of pitches, you have succeeded in a sense. Still, the Brewers did not need another high-strikeout batter this off-season, but that is what they got in Mike Cameron. Let’s hope that some of the other Brewers players make up for it by improving their strikeout totals.

Mike also does not hit for a high batting average. The ideal off-season pick up this for the Milwaukee Brewers was going to be a left-handed, high contact hitter that hits for average, and not necessarily power. Melvin must not have been able to find the right fit, so Mike Cameron became the best option for the team’s needs. His low batting average is tempered a bit by his home run power and his ability to get on base a decent amount, but it is still an issue that needs to be addressed. Perhaps Jim Skaalen can work with him to reign in his swing a bit. This is unlikely, however, because Mike is a veteran and most of his tendencies at the plate are pretty well ingrained.

Finally, Mike Cameron will be out for the first 25 games of the regular season. This is tough to take, but Tony Gwynn Jr. and Gabe Gross will have to man center field until Mike can get back into the fray in May. If the Brewers can hold it together for the first month, Mike will be a nice addition to the team when May comes along. Still, it is going to be frustrating as a Brewers fan to know Mike Cameron will not be available for the first month of the season. At least the Brewers do not have to pay him for those games that he will miss.

Projections:

ZiPS – .254/.341/.447
The Hardball Times – .254/.337/.445

Well, aren’t these projections almost identical?  It would be hard to argue against these predictions, as they are almost exactly in line with his career averages.  They are higher than his numbers from last year, which will most likely happen because of the changes in parks, yet they still hover around his career averages.  If Mike puts up numbers like these, it will be difficult to argue with the signing because he will be giving the Brewers exactly what Melvin thought they would be getting when he signed Mike.

I still expect Mike’s stolen base count to go up a little bit, as well as his number of walks to go down.  The power and lack of average I expect to stay very consistent, but Brewers fans will be treated to a player that plays above-average defense and will bring a charismatic and infectious attitude to the clubhouse.  Cameron should not be too much of a mystery for Brewers fans to figure out.  He will put forth his greatest effort daily, though.  Those are the type of players that Milwaukee likes to sign.

Projected Offensive Line: .254/.343/.449
Projected Season Rating (out of 10): 8.0

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4 responses

3 03 2008
AKittell

So if I’ve looked at your overall ratings correctly, you’re projecting that every single starter on this team will be above average. Sorry bud, not buying it.

4 03 2008
Scott

The most important point about Mike Cameron – one which nobody talks about – is that he is sitting on two banned substance tests. One more, and he faces an 80-game suspension which would virtually wipe out his season and leave a gapping hole in a critical position. The most important thing Mike Cameron can do for the Brewers is keep himself clean.

4 03 2008
brewersnation

That’s a very good point.

8 08 2008
Right Field Bleachers » Blog Archive » In the News

[…] – BrewersNation profiles Mike Cameron. […]

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