The Poor Man’s Analyst

Mike Cameron

with one comment

In deciding what to write about for the first post on this site, I knew only one thing for sure: I did not want to write a long-winded post about what I’d eventually be writing here. If you want to read that (minus the long-windedness), go to the “About” page once I get around to writing that. By the time anyone discovers this blog, it should be good to go.

I decided to start this site as I was writing a comment on River Ave. Blues about a potential Mike Cameron to the Yankees trade. Seems kinda weird now, but I realized at the time that nobody cares about comments posted by some random dude. Now, there will probably be very few people who care what I write here, but at least it’ll all be in one place. Even though the Cameron-Yankee rumors have died down, I’d still like to use Cameron as an example of how to value MLB players.


In 2008, Mike Cameron hit .243/.331/.477 (AVG/OBP/SLG), good for a .355 wOBA. Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) is a measure of total offensive output, scaled to mimic On-Base Percentage. In 508 plate appearances, Cameron was worth 9 batting runs above average. That number is calculated by comparing individual wOBA to the league average, and scaling that to the number of plate appearances accrued. Cameron had only 508 PAs because of the drug suspension he served in the beginning of the year. Had he played a full season, he would have likely had over 600. If we assume 600 PAs for the future, then his batting runs above average becomes 10.6 runs.


Mike Cameron has always been considered a spectacular defender, and has usually fared well in statistical evaluations of his defense. Since looking at one data source for fielding can sometimes create problems, I will use Chone Smith’s defensive projections, which are a combination of several defensive metrics, all regressed to the Fans Scouting Report. Because the numbers are projections, they are a better estimate of true talent than the data from this past season. Smith projects Cameron as +3 runs versus the average center fielder, despite his aging legs.

Position and Replacement Level Adjustments:

Because of the demands of playing positions such as catcher, short stop, and center field, players at those positions are more valuable than first basemen, designated hitters, and the like. This necessitates a “positional adjustment,” where we add or subtract a certain amount of runs from the player’s value, depending on the position he plays. As you can see in the comment, we generally add half a win, or about 5 runs, for center fielders.

Replacement level has been argued about at length, but a general rule of thumb is around 20 runs (two wins) below average over a full season. So when we’re done with all of Mike Cameron’s values versus the average player, we just tack on another 20 runs. Players are valued against replacement level because should the player get hurt, his replacement would come from the minor league ranks. Essentially, a replacement player is the minimum level of performance that major league players are judged against. These replacement players are generally considered minor league veterans who can be had at any point in time for the minimum salary of $400K.

But why not value players versus a bench player?

You can, but it doesn’t matter much as long as you’re consistent. The problem with that is that bench players aren’t always paid the minimum, and can’t be acquired as easily as a MiLB veteran. Just look at the Yankees bench to start the 2008 season. Jose Molina was a starter for a lot of 2007, Morgan Ensberg was a former all-star, and Wilson Betemit is a young infielder with power and patience. That trio couldn’t be had for peanuts.

Back to Mike Cameron

The equation to figure out Cameron’s total value looks something like this:

Offense + Defense + Pos. Adjustment + Replacement level

Subbing in the values we found above, it comes out to: 10.6 + 3 + 5 + 20 = 38.6. Generally, for players either passing through their primes or completely past it, you must adjust down slightly to account for the effects of aging. This adjustment is usually around 5 runs. In addition to that, we must take into account that the AL is more difficult to play in than the NL (for both hitters and pitchers), which means we take off another 2.5 runs. I can’t find the justification for those last two things right now, but if I do then I’ll update the post.

That all brings Cameron’s value to 31.1 runs above replacement. For the sake of convenience, let’s just round to 30 runs above replacement, which is equivalent to 3 wins above replacement (WAR). The going rate for one WAR in 2006-07 was $4million per WAR. That rate increased to $4.4million last off-season, and usually increases by around 10% each year. If we assume the same for this off-season, that rate would be $4.84million per win. Multiply that rate by Mike Cameron’s 3 wins above replacement, and you get $14.52million.

Replacement players are cheap, but they’re not free. Cameron’s value has been calculated above replacement level, so we need to include the replacement level dollars ($400K) if we want to get his dollar value. Adding that amount to the values above, we get Cameron’s value to equal $14.92 million.

You might notice that Cameron is only being paid about $10million this season, well below his true value. That difference is called surplus value, but that’s a topic for another day. I will refer to this post in the future when evaluating players, so I hope this can serve as a worthy guide.

Update: I might have done the positional adjustment slightly wrong. The difference only equals 2.5 runs, so the CF positional adjustment would be 2.5 runs instead of 5. The framework for this analysis is still valid.


Written by dcn29

November 25, 2008 at 3:33 AM

Posted in Player Value

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. […] three wins. It’s a complete coincidence that I found Pettitte to have the same exact value as Mike Cameron, by the way. So multiply Pettitte’s three wins by the $4.84million per win that is predicted […]

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