Nov 5, 2012, 11:26 PM EDT
Center field is the one strong position in free agency this winter, and many teams appear to see view Michael Bourn as the head of a class that also includes B.J. Upton, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino.
I do no share that view.
Bourn turns 30 next month. He was one of the NL’s better players last season, but a large part of that was his defense. He hit .274/.348/.391 for the year. It’s the fourth straight year in which he’s finished with with an OBP close to .350. He’s slugged right around .390 in three of those years, though he came in at .346 in 2010.
The big problem with Bourn is that he strikes out a great deal for the hitter he is. In fact, he’s struck out in 20.2 percent of his plate appearances through his seven seasons, all while hitting just 22 homers.
Bourn is one of 12 hitters in big-league history to hit fewer than 50 homers and strike out at least 18 percent of the time in their first seven seasons. Three of those 12 active (Dexter Fowler, Ronny Cedeno and Carlos Gomez) and younger than Bourn, so they can’t count here. Here is how the other eight fared after age 30:
Leroy Stanton: .227/.300/.377 in 987 at-bats (111 OPS+ in 1,588 AB through 29)
Gary Pettis: .229/.332/.300 in 1,766 at-bats (80 OPS+ in 1,863 AB through 29)
Felix Jose: .229/.319/.375 in 96 at-bats (104 OPS+ in 2,431 AB through 29)
Greg Gagne: .258/.310/.373 in 2,726 at-bats (85 OPS+ in 2,947 AB through 29)
Darren Bragg: .239/.311/.352 in 685 at-bats (91 OPS+ in 1,1776 AB through 29)
Rich Becker: Out of baseball
Andujar Cedeno: Out of baseball
Jose Castillo: Out of baseball
Now, of course, you’re saying none of those guys is as good as Bourn. And maybe they’re not. But Bourn hasn’t been very good offensively, either. While OPS+ isn’t the most suitable method for measuring his value, it says something that he comes in at 90. He’s not in the same class as guys like Kenny Lofton, Willie Wilson and some of the other speedy center fielders in the past. Exactly 100 major leaguers since 1901 have stolen 200 bases through age 29. Bourn’s OPS+ ranks 85th of the group. Here are some notables:
Rickey Henderson: 134
Tim Raines: 133
Cesar Cedeno: 130
Roberto Alomar: 119
Lenny Dykstra: 118
Kenny Lofton: 115
Chuck Knoblauch: 112
Lou Brock: 112
Mickey Rivers: 109
B.J. Upton: 105
Carl Crawford: 105
Willie McGee: 103
Willie Wilson: 102
Marquis Grissom: 100
Chone Figgins: 99
Delino DeShields: 99
Brett Butler: 99
Luis Castillo: 94
Roger Cedeno: 90
Juan Pierre: 85
Vince Coleman: 85
Tom Goodwin: 76
There are plenty of guys on the list who had as little power as Bourn, but most of them struck out less and hit for higher averages.
Of the 00 players, only eight struck out in at least 18 percent of their plate appearances (remember, Bourn is at 20.2). The other seven (Darryl Strawberry, Eric Davis, Bobby Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Brock, Upton and Juan Samuel) had all hit at least 90 homers and slugged .422 or better through age 29. Bourn has 22 homers and has slugged .365.
Finally, one more list. Here are the 10 players most similar to Bourn through age 29, according to Baseball Reference.
1. Max Flack
2. Brett Butler
3. Dave Collins
4. Roger Cedeno
5. Brian Hunter
6. Albie Peterson
7. Solly Hofman
8. Johnny Bates
9. Bob Beschler
10. Rudy Law
Only one of those players proved very valuable after age 30, and that’s Butler, who actually had all of his best seasons after turning 30 (he received MVP votes six times, all from ages 31-37). Collins had one good season at 31 and was done as a useful regular afterwards. Flack, who played from 1914-25, faded gradually after 30 and had his last year as a regular at 33.
Of course, Bourn could always defy the odds. It’s not as though he’s likely to suddenly collapse at age 30, and even if he ceases being much of a hitter, he’ll still have value with his defense. However, he’s a pretty awful bet at what figures to be a four- or five-year deal worth $14 million-$16 million per year.
Oct 23, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Will the Blue Jays trade Lind after he hit .321 this season?
Oct 23, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Or did the players actually have something to do with all of this?
Oct 23, 2014, 12:12 PM EDT
Who wants THAT job? Anyone? Anyone?
Oct 23, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT
The team may soon own the buildings across Waveland and Sheffield Avenues.
Oct 23, 2014, 10:42 AM EDT
Presumably, the Braves will also hire a general manager, giving them the two-headed front office we’ve seen in Chicago and will soon see in Los Angeles.
Oct 23, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT
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Oct 23, 2014, 8:59 AM EDT
The Freak was back last night. And he did OK, though he left with a stiff back.
Oct 23, 2014, 8:26 AM EDT
‘Tis the season of overanalysis.
Oct 23, 2014, 7:44 AM EDT
The rookie didn’t have control. With his pitches or with his emotions.
Oct 23, 2014, 2:25 AM EDT
Petit deserves the nod over probable starter Ryan Vogelsong.
Oct 22, 2014, 11:34 PM EDT
Yordano Ventura held the Giants to two runs over five-plus innings and the Kansas City offense awoke for seven runs on 10 hits as the Royals evened up the 2014 World Series at a win apiece with a 7-2 Game 2 victory on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Oct 22, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT
The host Royals have the visiting Giants right where they want them in Game 2 of the World Series.
Oct 22, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT
Game 2 of the World Series has been a back-and-forth affair thus far, with the visiting Giants scoring single runs in the first and fourth innings and the Royals scoring in the first and second. It’s all square at 2-2 as the action shifts to the top of the sixth.
Oct 22, 2014, 9:03 PM EDT
Major League Baseball announced in April that two new regular-season awards would be handed out every year, going to the top reliever in each league. The NL’s award was named after Trevor Hoffman and the AL’s was named after Mariano Rivera. Here, via MLB’s Twitter account, are the first recipients …
Oct 22, 2014, 8:39 PM EDT
The Giants jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning Tuesday before eventually winning Game 1 of the World Series in a 7-1 rout. And they got off to another fast start in Game 2 on Wednesday night, but the Royals were able to answer right back.
Oct 22, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
Statcast, the new 3D tracking technology from MLB Advanced Media, gives us this unique look at Brandon Crawford’s rangy catch to rob Omar Infante of a hit Tuesday in Game 1 of the World Series …
Oct 22, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
Johnson was acquired from the Pirates last year.
Oct 22, 2014, 7:19 PM EDT
Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Phillies have signed catcher John Hester to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Oct 22, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT
Dan Haren underwent arthroscopic surgery Wednesday on his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He’s expected to be ready for spring training.
Oct 22, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT
“I was doing some stuff in the training room.”
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