A lot of recent discussion in Marinerland has focused on the possibilities of bringing back Mike Cameron to roam center field at Safeco. Adding his glove-work would re-establish the Seattle Mariners as the premier defensive ball club in the Majors. Many people would add a big old “but” right here… “His Strikeouts,” they scream. “He is an offensive rally killer.”
The question that keeps coming up: 'Is he really?'
We all know that Cameron strikes out quite a bit - 152 times on average over the past three seasons. How does that affect the runs scoring for his team, though? Every hit, out, error, walk has a run equivalency, and for that many K’s it reduces runs by 17 in a season. Winn, on the other hand, struck out 105 times a season over the same time period, and that value is 12. That is a five run difference over a season even though there is a 30 percent difference in their strikeout number. That is about half a win over a season. Not a huge difference at all.
|Three-Year Splits w/RISP ('02-'04)|
|PLAYER|| PA's ||AVG||SLG.|| K's |
The other main difference for these two players comes from their defensive abilities. How many runs does each player save defensively over the average player at their position: Cameron in CF, Winn in LF?
There have been numerous attempts to quantify defense in the amount of runs that a player can save. These all have differing values for any player’s defense, but Mike Cameron rates anywhere from as low as 17 runs saved in a season to as many as 43. A number in the mid 20s seems quite logical considering where that puts Cameron in relation to the rest of the league, and our own ability to judge his defense.
Winn is a much more difficult defensive commodity to judge in a defensive runs environment. Baseball Prospectus has him in the low single digits over the last couple of years, but others have him as one of the best defensive center fielder’s last year. The low single digits seem closer to what Mariners’ fans would judge him; basically adequate, but not great.
The difference between the two defensively is difficult to quantify, as defensive statistical measures are still in their early stages. But the closest that the two would be on the defensive spectrum is four runs and the furthest is 40. Using the low 20s value from the earlier math would put Cameron at 20 runs/two wins, better than Winn on the defensive spectrum. Winn’s reduced strikeout rate doesn’t come remotely close to making up for that difference, as far as win totals are concerned.
What we learned from all of this is two-fold; Mike Cameron’s strikeouts aren’t enough of a rally killer to statistically derail his value advantage over Randy Winn, and Winn is absolutely sensational with runners in scoring position.
Hitting .325/.380/491 over the past three seasons with runners in scoring position is nothing short of phenominal. While we may not have come to a decisive conclusion as to which of the two fine players would be better for the 2005 Seattle Mariners, at least we’ve learned a little bit more about the underappreciation for each. Cameron is far and away the best defensive center field in the game, and Randy Winn might be the most underrated player in the American League.
Trade for Mike Cameron or hang on to Randy Winn?
Seems the M’s can’t lose.
Dave Clark is a former producer at SportsRadio 950 KJR-AM in Seattle and a longtime poster at Fanhome’s Mariners forum. Dave can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org