2010 Red Sox Preview: Mike Cameron to Be the Center of Attention in 2010

Jeffrey BrownAnalyst IMarch 11, 2010

The Red Sox were faced with a difficult choice this winter: Sign LF Jason Bay for four years and BIG bucks or bring in someone new to fill one of the outfield slots until Josh Reddick and/or Ryan Kalish might be ready for a full-time gig in 2011 or 2012.

The front office had clearly made a decision to move towards a team built on pitching and defense, and while Bay had become popular in Boston, his defense (a -11 UZR/150) just didn’t fit with the new course the team had charted. And then there was the issue of his knees...

So the team signed CF Mike Cameron and moved Jacoby Ellsbury (who is judged to be a below-average center fielder) to left field.

While many observers weren’t very excited over the decision to relocate Ellsbury to left field, he is judged to be a much better defensive performer in left field (+6) than in center field (-9). When you take Cameron’s statistics into consideration (+4), the moves combine to give the team a +30 difference in UZR/150 at those two positions.

So, with Cameron entrenched in center field for the next couple of years, what can we expect out of him?

The 37-year-old brings a powerful bat and speed to the equation...and while he has been criticized for his all-or-nothing approach at home plate, he is really not much different from Bay in that regard.

Due to his age and the presence of a powerful, left-handed-hitting outfielder on the bench (Jeremy Hermida), it seems likely the club will give Cameron some extra days off when facing tough right-handers. This may help to keep the new center fielder fresher throughout the season.

As with anyone, his production will largely depend on where he hits in the lineup. It seems very likely he will be slotted in the eight-hole, behind Adrian Beltre and ahead of Marco Scutaro; thus, his RBI will almost certainly decline.

With Scutaro and Ellsbury hitting behind him, Cameron (a good fastball hitter) will assuredly see more heaters, thus having a beneficial effect on his batting average, helping to offset some of the forces that otherwise would suggest his BA will head south (i.e., his age, moving from the NL Central into the AL East, etc.).

Additionally, because of his excellent walk rate (12 percent last year, well above the league average rate of nine percent), his ability to steal a few bases, and the hitters behind him, it seems a foregone conclusion that his runs scored will experience a modest spike.

So, what kind of numbers will he put up in 2010? As I’ve mentioned previously in this series, I am not a devotee of the most widely-used projection systems: CHONE, Bill James, and PECOTA. They all have problems.

CHONE projections tend to be strong for hitters but weak for pitchers. The PECOTA system has the opposite problem—it is strong for pitchers but weak for hitters. And while Bill James is well known and an employee of the Red Sox, his annual projections are consistently overly optimistic.

I prefer the work done by Ron Shandler (who is the godfather of "fanalytics") and Mike Podhorzer (the new kid on the block).

Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster is must-reading for any baseball fan, especially if he/she is a fantasy baseball aficionado. Shandler and his minions do great work. They can be found at BaseballHeadquarters.com .

Podhorzer’s predictions at fantasypros911.com went 42-0 when compared head-to-head with other projection systems last year. Seriously, folks, if you don’t know about fantasypros911.com , it’s time that you take a look. Great stuff!

So what do these two systems project for Cameron for the upcoming season?

Shandler: .249, 23 HR, 69 RBI, 75 R, 5 SB
Podhorzer: .248, 21 HR, 75 RBI, 80 R, 10 SB

I expect his average to decrease just slightly from the .250 mark he put up last year. He won’t have the same number of ABs he had last season (544) and thus should hit fewer HR than he did in 2009 (23) in Miller Park (which has a 10 percent better home run effect than Fenway Park).

SOX1FAN projection: .248, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 85 R, 14 SB