Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Mets Outfield Is Showing Life Without Being Bourn

Remember when the Mets were trying to land Michael Bourn during the offseason?  Bourn decided to take the money and run to Cleveland instead.  So how's that going for him?  Well, his new team is doing well in the American League Central, just three games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers.  But they're not succeeding because of Bourn.  In fact, other than a decent batting average (.291), Bourn's other numbers are far less than what Cleveland bargained for when they signed him.

Earlier this season, Bourn had a short stint on the disabled list, but he has still managed to rack up 306 at-bats.  In those at-bats, he's collected 14 doubles, one triple, four homers and 29 RBI.  He's also scored 43 runs and stolen 13 bases, while striking out 74 times and drawing 20 walks.

Think about this.  Bourn was signed for his defensive prowess (he's won two Gold Gloves) and for his speed.  Therefore, it would not be unreasonable to expect him to steal many bases, as well as leg out many doubles and triples.  Yet Bourn is seventh on his own team in doubles (Asdrubal Cabrera has eight more doubles than Bourn even though Bourn has one more at-bat than Cabrera) and five teammates, including backup catcher Yan Gomes, have more triples than Bourn.  Bourn isn't even leading the team in stolen bases.  That honor goes to Jason Kipnis, who has 21 steals in 26 attempts.

And let's look at those stolen base numbers for Bourn.  He has 13 steals in 21 attempts.  In 2011, he led the league in times caught stealing with 14.  But he also stole a league-leading 61 bases that year, which made it easy to overlook the times he was erased on the bases.  Last year, he was once again the caught stealing champion with 13.  He was successful on 42 stolen base attempts, a noticeable decline from his 2011 numbers, but still not something to be worried about.  This year, Bourn has just 13 thefts, which is a significant dropoff.  Despite the drastic decrease in stolen bases, Bourn is still the league leader in caught stealing with eight.  Clearly, he is not the player he once was in the stolen base department, as his success rate has been taking a tremendous hit in 2013.

In addition to stealing bases, a leadoff hitter is supposed to get on base and score runs.  Although Bourn has never been a threat to lead the league in on-base percentage, he has still managed to maintain an OBP above .340 in each of the last four seasons.  This year, despite his .291 batting average, Bourn is only reaching base at a .338 clip, which would be his lowest on-base percentage since 2008.  After averaging 61 walks per season since 2009, including a career-high 70 walks last season, Bourn has only seen ball four 20 times this year in 330 plate appearances.

The combination of his poor stolen base success rate and his inability to draw a walk has limited Bourn to only 43 runs scored, which is tied for fifth-most on the Indians.  Prior to this year, Bourn had surpassed 90 runs scored in three of his last four seasons.  The one year he failed to score 90, he missed the last three weeks of the season due to an oblique injury.  He still managed to score 84 runs in 2010 despite missing 21 games.

So that's what Michael Bourn has done in his first year with the Indians.  Now let's compare his numbers to the ones posted by Mets center fielder Juan Lagares.  You might notice some similarities between the two.

  • Bourn: .291/.338/.382, 14 doubles, 1 triple, 4 HR, 29 RBI, 43 runs, 13 SB, 74 K, 20 BB, 1.9 WAR
  • Lagares: .263/.294/.398, 15 doubles, 1 triple, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 17 runs, 2 SB, 47 K, 7 BB, 1.9 WAR

Juan Lagares looks better in blue and orange than Michael Bourn, don't you think?

Now what if I told you that Bourn has almost twice as many plate appearances (330) than Lagares has with the Mets (171)?  Therefore, it would be reasonable to assume that if Lagares had come to the plate 330 times, his cumulative offensive statistics would be equal to or would surpass many of the numbers posted by Bourn.

There are two things, however, that Bourn has a commanding edge over Lagares.  First, he is more than six years older than Lagares.  Bourn will turn 31 in December, while Lagares won't turn 25 until next April.  And second, Bourn is in the first year of a four-year, $48 million contract.  A vesting option could turn that into a five-year, $60 million deal.  Lagares is playing for the major league mininum salary.

The Mets came close to paying Michael Bourn tens of millions of dollars to play center field for the team until his mid-30s.  Instead, they just handed over the job to a player in his mid-20s whose numbers are rivaling those being put up by Bourn in Cleveland.  The only numbers Lagares is not rivaling Bourn in is age and salary.

When the season began, the Mets were playing musical chairs in the outfield, hoping to find a set of three players that would be around when the music stopped.  With nearly two-thirds of the season complete, the Mets have finally found those three players.  With Eric Young, Jr. and Marlon Byrd flanking him in left field and right field, respectively, Juan Lagares has taken over as the field general in the outfield.  He's done everything that's been asked of him, including playing stellar defense.  That's what the Mets were hoping to get from Michael Bourn before the season started.  It's good to know that the outfield has shown signs of life without ever being Bourn.

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