If you are a frequent user of this website, you likely know that on our player pages, you can find the five most-recently cited articles about a player — a mix of FanGraphs and RotoGraphs articles. Generally, a regular player will be written about at least five times a year. But when I sat down to write this piece, when I went to Peter Bourjos‘ page, the fifth article was Dave Cameron’s piece from Nov. 22, 2013, reacting to the news that Bourjos had been traded from Anaheim to St. Louis along with Randal Grichuk, for David Freese. That in and of itself is a bad sign. While we once thought of Bourjos as one of the game’s premier defenders, Bourjos — who was claimed this week via waivers by the Phillies — is an after-thought.
In that 2013 piece, Dave noted how Bourjos had basically become the best defensive center fielder in the game:
Since 2010, here are the top 5 center fielders in UZR/150 among players who have spent at least 2,000 innings in center field.
Peter Bourjos, +20.2
Carlos Gomez, +18.2
Jacoby Ellsbury, +13.7
Michael Bourn, +9.9
Denard Span, +9.5
The deal seemed like a great one for the Cardinals — and thanks to Grichuk, it may still be — but Bourjos never really held up his end of the bargain. In his four seasons with the Angels, he played 405 games — effectively two and a half seasons — and piled up 9.2 WAR. Not bad, right? That’s something between three and four WAR over a full season. Full seasons were hard to come by for Bourjos, though, which is why the playing time was spread out over four seasons. Still, hope sprung eternal when he landed in St. Louis.
Of note, Bourjos set a goal of stealing 40 bases in his first season in St. Louis. (Hat tip to Scott Perdue for the reminder) This was always going to be a bit of a stretch, as Bourjos, to that point, had just 41 stolen bases over his four-year career, against 13 times caught stealing. Clearly he had the speed, and a knack for stealing bases, but when your career high is 22 steals, shooting for 40 is a lofty goal.
That’s not really the point. The point is that he was excited. And the Cardinals appeared excited, as well. Bourjos started on Opening Day, and eight of the first 10 games in center. And then… he stopped playing. After those 10 games, Bourjos was hitting just .207/.258/.310, and while it was just 31 plate appearances, manager Mike Matheny had seen enough to know that he didn’t want Bourjos to be his everyday center fielder. Bourjos would start just six of the next 17 games in center, with Jon Jay logging the other 11 starts. And then Grichuk was called up. He and Jay would start the next five games, and then Bourjos reclaimed the job, as the Cards optioned Grichuk back to Triple-A. If this seems like an odd playing time pattern, well, let’s just say it wasn’t an isolated incident for Matheny.
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