Skip to content

History suggests that Michael Bourn is likely to be a bust

Nov 5, 2012, 11:26 PM EDT

Michael Bourn AP

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
Bourn: 90
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.

Latest Posts
  1. Justin Masterson wants to rejoin the Indians, but he’ll make at least one more rehab start

    Jul 22, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    masterson getty Getty Images

    Justin Masterson tossed five innings in a minor-league rehab start Sunday, but rather than welcoming him back from the disabled list the Indians will have the right-hander make another rehab start.

  2. Roy Halladay really loves Chase Utley

    Jul 22, 2014, 2:05 PM EDT

    roy halladay long getty Getty Images

    The softer side of Roy Halladay.

  3. Yankees acquire Chase Headley from Padres

    Jul 22, 2014, 1:22 PM EDT

    Chase Headley Chase Headley

    Two seasons ago Headley smacked 31 homers, led the league in RBIs, and finished fifth in the MVP balloting, but his production plummeted last season and this year he’s been mostly injured and ineffective.

  4. Michael Cuddyer still 3-4 weeks from returning to Rockies

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:46 PM EDT

    cuddyer getty Getty Images

    Cuddyer, who won the batting title last season by hitting .331 with a .919 OPS in 130 games, hit .317 with five homers and an .866 OPS in 31 games before the injury this year.

  5. Changes to official scorers rulings have tripled in recent years

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Four Getty Images

    Murray Chass — yes, Murray Chass — has an excellent article about this today.

  6. No one is sure when Matt Cain will pitch for the Giants again

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT

    Matt Cain AP

    After letting Matt Cain pitch (poorly) through a “cranky” elbow since spring training the Giants finally shut him down yesterday, placing him on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.

  7. The guy with the curly-W beard is . . . awesome?

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Nationals cap logo

    That’s some real Nattitude right there.

  8. Dustin Ackley robbed Travis d’Arnaud of a home run

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT

    Dustin Ackley Reuters

    Last night Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud hit a home run to left-center field, except Mariners left fielder Dustin Ackley jumped up, reached over the fence, and brought the ball back with a spectacular catch.

  9. Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow has a degenerative muscle disease

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Krukow and Kuiper

    Non-fatal, but serious enough to where, after eight years, he is going public.

  10. Tommy Milone declines to comment on report he requested a trade from A’s

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

    Tommy Milone Getty Getty Images

    Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported yesterday that A’s left-hander Tommy Milone has requested a trade after being demoted to Triple-A despite plenty of success in the big leagues.

  11. Blue Jays call up pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    Aaron Sanchez AP AP

    Sanchez’s numbers this season haven’t been particularly impressive, including an underwhelming 4.19 ERA and 27/17 K/BB ratio in 34 innings at Triple-A, but he was a first-round draft pick in 2010 and ranked as a consensus top-50 prospect coming into this season.

  12. Roenis Elias leaves game with arm issues

    Jul 22, 2014, 9:16 AM EDT

    Roenis Elias AP

    He’s not at the top of the M’s rotation, but no contender wants to lose a pitcher.

  13. The Phillies are telling teams Cole Hamels is not available

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT

    cole hamels getty Getty Images

    A big lefty on the market would bring a nice return. But the Phillies aren’t putting their big lefty on the market.

  14. And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

    Jul 22, 2014, 6:33 AM EDT

    Adam Jones AP

    Adam Jones smacked two homers. So did David Ortiz. Oh, and Lisa needs braces (dental plan), Lisa needs braces (dental plan).

  15. Shin-Soo Choo regrets playing through ankle injury

    Jul 21, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    Shin-Soo Choo AP AP

    The Rangers had high hopes when they signed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year, $130 million contract over the winter, but a lingering injury to his left ankle is a major reason why his first season with Texas has been a bust.

  16. Cliff Lee struggles in first start back from disabled list

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:29 PM EDT

    Cliff Lee AP AP

    Plenty of scouts were in attendance tonight for Cliff Lee’s first start in the majors in over two months. They likely didn’t come away impressed.

  17. Jason Vargas could rejoin the Royals’ rotation as soon as Sunday

    Jul 21, 2014, 9:58 PM EDT

    Jason Vargas AP AP

    Royals left-hander Jason Vargas underwent an appendectomy less than two weeks ago, but he could be activated from the disabled list as soon as Sunday against the Indians.

Featured video

Colby-on-Colby crime in Toronto
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. H. Street (3534)
  2. C. Lee (2755)
  3. H. Ramirez (2392)
  4. M. Trout (2346)
  5. Y. Puig (2105)
  1. D. Price (2090)
  2. T. Tulowitzki (2057)
  3. B. Belt (2052)
  4. J. Segura (2041)
  5. J. Papelbon (2005)