Friday, January 28, 2005



Friend Ed Schramm forwarded this argument to me relating to the value of putting the ball in play vs. striking out for hitters. I am currently forwarding it to various baseball pals for their opinion as well.

The bulk of the argument is based on many suppositions, but ultimately the author concludes that Mike Cameron (a high-strikeout hitter currently with the New York Mets and rumored to be available in a trade to the Seattle Mariners) only costs his team three runs per season by striking out.

I think I have to look at it differently than he does. Cameron strikes out 24% of the time; the average hitter strikes out 17% of the time. (See the article for the basis of these observations.) So, over 624 at bats, Cameron will fail to move a runner (or become one) 44 times more than the average hitter, or once every four games. Here I was going to make an assumption that it takes three at bats to make a run. But in looking at the American League's 2004 statistics, 11,358 runs were scored in 86,217 plate appearances (roughly, because I'm looking at incomplete statistics; I have walks, but don't have hit-by-pitch, sacrifices, catcher's interference, that sort of thing, but nor do I think they would greatly affect the numbers). That means one run scored every 7.59 plate appearances. That means Cameron probably cost his team six runs due to his extra strikeouts.

The average team scored 811 runs, or 5 runs per game. If that's the league average, then we can assume the average margin of victory is one run. To me, that means Cameron's strikeouts probably cost his team six victories. Even if we use the author's math, I contend it means Cameron's strikeouts will cost his team three victories.

That said, we can now determine whether his spectacular defense overcomes three to six victories per year. His career range factor is 2.74, vs. 2.36. That means he will make .38 more plays per game than the average center fielder. That's 61 more outs, versus 44 fewer advances he creates as a batter.

And the other, trickier question is, at this point in his career, will Cameron's offense match his career averages, or is he on the decline? That's the key, because if Cameron strikes out 17 times more than his career average, he becomes no better than an average center fielder, and therefore not worth the salary he commands.

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