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Bold Predictions: Peter Bourjos

March 11th, 2013

I’m not really one for betting or making flashy predictions, especially when it comes to something with as many variables as baseball. There’s a good reason that YCPB is a thing.

But in the spirit of good fun – and, full disclosure, an eye towards winning a friendly wager with fellow Halos Daily writer Drew Mumford – I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and make a crazy(?) conjecture about the Angels’ 2013 season, knowing full well it has a very good chance of biting me in the ass at any time in the next seven months.

Here goes…

/deep breath

I believe that Peter Bourjos will have a better 2013 at the plate than Michael Bourn.

There. I said it and now there’s no taking it back.

I thought for a long time about adding the caveat “with a full season of playing time,” but that wouldn’t make my prediction very bold, so I decided to toss it out.

Thus, the prediction is as straightforward as they get: either Bourjos has a better year and I win, or he doesn’t and I don’t. Meaning that as much of this rides on the whims of Mike Scioscia’s line-up merry-go-round as it does Bourjos himself.

So… now I guess it’s time to defend my claim.

Bourjos and Bourn both profile as defense-first center fielders with tons of speed and without much in the way of power, so it makes a certain amount sense to compare the two directly.

For all the time it seems that Bourjos has been on the Halos’ roster, it’s very easy to forget that he’s entering just his age-26 season. The Indians’ new $48-million man, on the other hand, is entering his age-30 season. Going by the traditional aging curve, we’ve likely seen the best of Bourn, while Bourjos should be entering his prime. Thus, the early advantage goes to Bourjos, though fast players are known to age more gracefully.

As luck would have it, both players entered the league as part-time players during their age-23 seasons and had just one year as a full-time player entering their fourth MLB campaigns (age 26), so let’s start by comparing their rather similar first three years in the league:

 BourjosChart1

 

At first glance, it looks like Bourjos has the advantage in almost every category. He has the benefit of about 300 more plate appearances, however, so comparing counting numbers alone isn’t fair. With that in mind, let’s look at their rate stats over that same span and see how they compare:

 

BourjosChart2

 

As the first chart made evident even without CS numbers, Bourn was/is absolutely better at swiping bags than Bourjos. That’s not to say Peter is a slouch when it comes to stolen bases – 73% is probably around his break even point – but he’ll never lead the league in steals like Bourn did for three consecutive seasons.

But what Bourjos lacks in base-stealing acumen, he more than makes up for with the bigger pop in his bat. Bourn’s slugging numbers were (and are) well below league norms, while Bourjos sits just above average. Not only that, but Bourjos’ above-average number of extra-base hits were put up in a much more depressed offensive environment than Bourn’s, which makes his performance more impressive and accounts for the massive discrepancy in OPS+ in the previous chart.

What stands out next is the discrepancy in walk and strikeout numbers, with Bourjos on the wrong side of both. The numbers aren’t great by any means, but they’re also not atrocious. Bourjos has a better walk rate than both Erick Aybar and Mark Trumbo, who have had plenty of success despite swinging at everything that moves.

A lot has been made of Bourjos’s strikeout issues, but Bourn is right there with him, as are many others. You know who struck out a career-high 22.8% of the time last year but still put up career numbers? Torii Hunter. And you know who whiffed 21.8% of the time but had the best season since the earth was void? Mike Trout.

The point being I really don’t think that Bourjos’s proclivity for giving the umpire a nice breeze in a fifth of his at bats is as big a deal as people make it out to be. Yes, it’d be nice if he cut down on the whiffs, but it’s not as though he’s Mark Reynolds (32.6%)… or even Mark Trumbo (23.9%).

The real wild card in all of this – that which will likely decide who is buying whom the round of drinks come October – is the stat that traditional number lovers seem to love to hate: Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP).

For the uninitiated, BABIP is essentially a modified version of batting average that removes strikeouts and home runs from the equation. The thinking behind that is to measure how often a guy reaches base when he hits a ball that the defense has a chance of making a play on. The league average for BABIP hovers around .290 — meaning abnormally high and low numbers will typically move towards .290 as the season progresses — but not all players normalize to that number.

For instance, guys like Carlos Quentin or Rod Barajas — who are not only painfully slow but also hit a high number of pop-ups and fly balls — have career BABIPs around .250 and they’re always going to stay there. On the other end of the spectrum, guys like Austin Jackson and Dexter Fowler — quick-footed, ground-ball guys — sit in the .350+ range.

In his first three years, Michael Bourn was one of the normal guys as far as BABIP was concerned, coming in at .299 through is first 650+ big-league plate appearances. For the last four seasons, however, Bourn has been a card-carrying member of the speedster/ground-ball group: his .354 BABIP since 2009 is the seventh best in all of baseball and is a huge reason for his rise to fame and $$$.

Bourn’s seemingly permanent increase in BABIP — while his rate stats have remained pretty stable — has allowed him to put up a much more serviceable .280/.348/.378 line over the past four years, and set him up for his big payday with the Tribe last month. If Peter Bourjos wants to put up the kind of numbers that will make my prediction seem prescient, he’s going to have to join Bourn and the rest of the speedster BABIP crew.

Like Bourn’s early years, Bourjos has fluctuated around league norms in terms of BABIP in his first three seasons, sitting at .302. Given his quickness and his propensity for hitting grounders, there’s a chance that Bourjos will make the same BABIP leap that Bourn did at 26, but he’s got his work cut out for him if he wants to make it happen.

Unlike Bourn and most of the high-BABIP guys, Bourjos hits a lot of infield flies, and not a whole lot of line drives. According to FanGraphs, Bourn has hit just 20 infield fly balls — otherwise known as sure outs — in his seven-year career. Bourjos, on the other hand, has 22 in three years. Not so great. As bad as it may look, though, not all is lost.

Nearly half — i.e. nine — of Bourn’s pop-ups came in his first 650 plate appearances, with just 11 coming in the last 2500+. Likewise, Joey “The King of Pop-Ups” Votto hit seven infield flies in his first two campaigns, but has hit just four in the last four seasons. So, like Bourn and Votto, perhaps Bourjos will hit fewer infield pop-ups as he adjusts to big-league pitching. Or not.

PECOTA, ZIPS, Bill James, Oliver, Steamer, Pythia, and all the other projectors seem to think that Bourjos’ BABIP will stay pretty much where it is, maybe creeping its way up to .315 or so. But because this is a bold prediction, I believe that not only will Bourjos hit fewer pop-ups, but also that many of those cans of corn will turn into line drives or extra grounders, putting him in league with the high-BABIP gang and one-upping Bourn at the dish with his superior power.

Now, so far as what a “better 2013 at the plate” entails in terms of tangible numbers, I’m thinking it should come down to triple slash line and number of extra-base hits, or maybe oWAR. Perhaps even an end of year vote?

Comments

16 Comments

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  • sleepy49er says on: March 11, 2013 at 1:19 pm

     

    I hope you are correct? If you are the Angels win the West and who knows how far they go? He is the only question mark in the batting lineup. The rest of the lineup you know what you are getting.

    What the Angels need is for Bourjos to elevate his BA to the point he can lead off, then Trout can move down to a power spot in this lineup. Now your talking!

  • ParisB says on: March 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

     

    If Bourjos comes close to numbers similar to 2 seasons ago when he played regularly, I think keeping him 9th is ideal. Once through the lineup, he essentially will be batting in front of Trout anyway.

    You want to keep Trout leading off for now. I don’t understand the fascination of putting him in a power spot. His speed and OBP is so valuable at the top and jump starts the offense, especially considering Pujols and Hamilton follow him shortly. He led the league in runs created and stolen bases. The Angels offense led the league in almost every statistical category (or dang close) when they had Trout in the lineup. Why mess with that?

  • sleepy49er says on: March 11, 2013 at 10:27 pm

     

    For those that don’t understand: Power spot = Increase RBI = more runs = WINS! Understand now.

  • Paris says on: March 12, 2013 at 12:19 am

     

    Trout led the league in win shares and WAR. Runs created > runs batted in. Him on the base paths makes the lineup so much better when Pujols and Hamilton are up to bat. When your fastest guy is also your best OBP and best base stealer, you lead him off.

    The Angels don’t have another legitimate leadoff guy, but they have 3 cleanup caliber power hitters in Pujols, Hamilton, and Trumbo. Aybar is best suited for second, being a switch hitter, low strikeout, great bunter. You put high on base guys in Callasp and Ianetta at the bottom of the lineup, mixed with a speedster in Bourjos, and all of a sudden Trout’s value gets maximized. He leads off to start the game and from there becomes a quasi cleanup guy once the lineup turns over.

    Like I said, with Trout in the lineup, even with all their blown saves, the Angels led the league in winning percentage and offense.

  • sleepy49er says on: March 12, 2013 at 8:04 am

     

    Like I said originally, we need Bourjos to elevate his BA and THEN we can move Trout. So, I guess you are now agreeing since Bourjos would be that guy on base. Lets hope.

  • Dubya19 says on: March 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm

     

    It won’t matter much what Trout or Bourjos do when Pujols unfurls a .277/.345/.506 batting line this year and Hamilton nearly “one-ups” him at .253/.332/.490.

    How many more years and millions of dollars does the organization owe these two?

    The Angels FO is the biggest joke in all of MLB.

    • ParisB says on: March 12, 2013 at 6:01 pm

       

      Of course, man. The sky is falling!!!

      You care too much about the Angels. Stick to the Cardinals forums, man. You will be better off for it.

  • Dubya19 says on: March 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm

     

    “Like I said, with Trout in the lineup, even with all their blown saves, the Angels led the league in winning percentage….”

    You’ve uttered this inaccuracy before and were called out for it….yet it doesn’t seem to dissuade you from spewinng falsehoods.

    The Angels were 6-14 on April 27th, 2012 – covering the 20-game stretch to begin the year when Trout wasn’t on the team – and then went 83-59 the rest of the way with him for a .585 winning percentage. The Yankees were 84-59 (.587) in that same stretch. The A’s were 83-58 (.589). And that’s just the American League. You also have Washington at 84-58 (.592), Cincinnate at 88-54 (.620), and San Francicso at 84-58 (.592) from the National League.

    • ParisB says on: March 12, 2013 at 5:51 pm

       

      You’re going to call me out on a 1/2 game? Winner winner chicken dinner. Bottom line, for all the trash talk you do and how everything is spiraling out of control, everyone is fading and the manager is horrible and the front office is a joke, doesn’t it seem funny that you just grouped them with some elite teams? Ironic that you refuse to group them with them.

      LOL!

      • Dubya19 says on: March 13, 2013 at 10:59 am

         

        “You’re going to call me out on a 1/2 game? Winner winner chicken dinner.”

        A falsehood is a falssehood. And too many people spew too much of it on the internet.

        “….doesn’t it seem funny that you just grouped them with some elite teams? Ironic that you refuse to group them with them.”

        I’ve said all along – at least since the Pujols trade last offseason – the Angels were a good but not great squad. It’s all about perspective. You equate my “sky is falling” rhetoric with me saying they’re a bottom-tier team. Not so. I fully acknowledge they’re at least middle-of-the-pack to above average, just well short of the juggernaut/elite status that you and so many other homers have been hyping them up to be for well over a year now.

        • ParisB says on: March 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm

           

          Just make sure you keep reminding us of that! The internet depends on you, you holy middle of the pack reminderer you. Don’t let off, just keep telling us every day. I hope your wife permits you to post every day though.

  • caffeine says on: March 12, 2013 at 3:00 pm

     

    Is there really that much breeze? It seems like he’s always getting rung up. Any stats on his Ks swinging vs looking?

    • Nathan Aderhold says on: March 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm

       

      According to Baseball-Reference, 26% of all Bourjos’ strikeouts over the last three years have been looking. That’s two percent more than the MLB average, but his rate has gone down each of the three years.

  • Jeff Mays says on: March 14, 2013 at 7:34 pm

     

    In the battle for LA, I predict that Bourjos will have a better year than Andre Ethier. And by that I mean Bourj will save more runs in the outfield, have a higher OBP, and produce more runs.

    • Hudson Belinsky says on: March 16, 2013 at 10:42 am

       

      Saving more runs seems like a given. Not sure on OBP, though. Ethier declined to .351 last year, and Bourjos was at .327 in 2011, his best year.

  • Andrew Karcher says on: March 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm

     

    Is it possible for me to get in on this bet? Except I take Trout.

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