Boston Sports Journo Tries Hand at Logic, Irony Ensues
Cameron, while not as big a star as Lackey, is a top-tier defensive outfielder who has some power and can steal a base. General manager Theo Epstein did overdo it with the superlatives, saying, “He’ll get his 20 to 25 home runs every year, play outstanding defense, sees a lot of pitches at the plate. We just think he’s an underrated offensive player.”
Well . . . no. He is not an underrated player. He is a guy who does hit 20-25 home runs a year, and who has a career .250 batting average and .340 on-base percentage. Offensively, he’s rated right where he should be: Average.
-Steve Buckley in the December 17 Boston Herald
You could force Steve Buckley to stare at that second paragraph for hours on end, just have him read it over and over, and the irony would not hit him. Yes, Mike Cameron has a career .250 batting average and yes he has a career .340 on-base percentage. If you choose not to take the time to understand more about his specific skill-set or you decide to ignore context, then sure, Cameron will look as though he's been an average offensive player to you. What's great about Buckley presenting those stats as his evidence that Cameron is average and not underrated is that it's precisely BECAUSE of those (and other) numbers that Cameron IS underrated.
Cameron's career OPS+ is 107, comfortably above average. 7 center fielders eclipsed the mark in 2009, 10 in 2008, 7 in 2007. wRC+ paints an even better picture, as it takes into account stolen bases and appropriately weights on-base versus slugging. His career 114 mark is better than Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon or Joe Carter. Think Buckley would refer to any of those three as "average"?
Like his new teammate JD Drew, Cameron does not put the ball in play as often as most big league hitters. Since 1999, only Jim Thome has struck out more times. Over that same time period, however, Cameron ranks 21st in bases on balls, ahead of Damon, Carlos Beltran, Derrek Lee and Derek Jeter. Not bad at all, but also not the skill set that will grab the attention of the Steve Buckleys of the world.
Finally, Cameron has toiled for much of his career in Safeco and Petco and Shea, tough hitters parks all. Mike Cameron may turn out to be merely average in 2010. He is 37 now, after all. But with Buckley making the case simply by highlighting Cameron's career batting average and on base, I thought some additional context and reasoning were in order.