Michael Bourn is slated to be the Astros starting center fielder in April, 2008.
Let’s take a look at his offensive production:
First, in the minors, ignoring A ball (65% of his games were in AA) from thebaseballcube.com:
05 AA: .268/.348/.364/.712 – 146/544 with 18 2B, 8 3B, 6HR, 63BB, 123K, 38/12 SB/CS, 80 RS in 135 games
06 AA: .274/.350/374/.715 – 87/318 with 6 2B, 5 3B, 4HR, 36BB, 67K, 30/4 SB/CS, 62 RS over 80 games
06 AAA: .276/.362/.421/.783 – 42/152 with 5 2B, 7 3B, 1 HR, 20BB, 33 K, 15/1 SB/CS, 34 RS over 38 games.
– these numbers are not league adjusted and Reading AA is a hitter’s park with a park factor of 1.04.
So, in 253 games he had 275/1014 – 1141 PA, with 29 doubles, 20 triples, 11 HR, 119BB, 223K, 83/17 SB/CS with 176 RS over 253 games.
Normalized to a 162 game season, I get .271/.345/.378/.723 – 1141 PA, with 19 doubles, 13 triples, 7 HR, 76 BB, 143K, 53/11 SB/CS with 113 RS.
Again, most of these numbers are from AA – he had only 172 PA at AAA in his career. It is very unusual for a ballplayer to consistently hit better in the majors than he did at AA – it’s possible, but unusual, both because the pitchers in the majors are significantly better and the fielders are significantly better as well.
In the major leagues, he’s had 144 PA, 133 in 07 and 11 in 06 over 122 total games. In order to more accurately look at the offense he generated from a plate appearance, I’ve reviewed every game in which he appeared last year (ignoring 06 in which he had only 17 PA) to eliminate his stolen base and runs scored from pinch running appearances.
He appeared in 105 games total last year, was strictly a defensive replacement in 15, was strictly a pinch runner in 8, in which he stole 3 bases and scored 1 run, and a PR/DR in 8 more in which he stole 2 bases and scored 2 runs. Therefore, he had actual plate appearances in 74 games, and he started 13 of those.
So he had 119 AB/133 PA, with 33 hits, 3 doubles, 3 triples, 13 BB, 21 K, 13 SB, 1 CS and 26 RS for a line of .277/.348/.378/.727 over 74 games.
So predictions are being made based on 969 PA at AA, 172 PA at AAA and 144 PA in the majors. Not much to go on, really, is it. He is 25, and I do think that it is safe to say that it is doubtful that Bourn will hit a lot of home runs, short RF porch notwithstanding and I also doubt that he will GIDP very often. I find it difficult to believe that he will hit better than he did in the minors, or will be walked as often, as he has essentially doubles power and he won’t be pitched around. Also, unlike Willy Taveras, Michael doesn’t bunt for a significant percentage of his hits.
Now, if the questions is asked – how will his production compare to Luke Scott’s?
Well, Luke had an .855 OPS with a .504 SLG over 132 games and 369 AB. He created 13 runs in approximately half the AB he should have had if he had played full time, and 25 of those games/PA were pinch hit appearances and Luke is a terrible pinch hitter.
Michael Bourn created 1 RCAA in those 74 games/133 PA, so if he hit exactly the same, would be expected to create 6 runs above average playing every day. Not exactly Luke.
As for fielding, well, Michael played only 56 innings in center and I can’t judge him from that. I hear tell from all the Philly fans that he’s really good, so I hope they are right. However, Luke isn’t exactly a bad glove – according to thehardballtimes.com, of NL RF who have played at least 500 innings in right, his RZR is .918, tied with Ethier for the best, and he had 8 assists and only 3 errors (one of which should have been assigned to the fielder who didn’t make the easy play he should have – I think it was Lamb at third.)
And Pence was decent in center with a RZR of .885, actually better than Willy.
Again, I think it is very VERY hard to predict what Bourn will do with the bat because there is so little on which to base a prediction, other than to say he’s not going to hit many homers. I must say I have no idea why any prediction system is convinced that he will outperform his AA stats.