Peter Bourjos Can Hit

If you google “Peter Bourjos” “can’t hit”, you’ll get 3,040 results. There aren’t actually that many articles about the inadequacies of Bourjos’ offensive abilities, but there are a lot of them. After the Angels called up Bourjos last year and installed him in center field, he did little to dispel the notion that he was a defensive wizard who wouldn’t be able to hit his weight – his 2010 UZR was off the charts (+34.7 UZR/150 in about half of a season), but his .273 wOBA was awful, just as had been expected based on the scouting reports. There just aren’t that many blazing fast leadoff types who can make the skillset work without patience or contact ability, and Bourjos hasn’t shown either as a professional.

However, I’m wondering if we’ve underestimated Bourjos’ offensive abilities to date. Yes, he’s an impatient hack who relies heavily on his speed, but when you look at the types of hits he actually does get, the Juan Pierre comparisons fall apart.

Thus far in his Major League career, Bourjos has 60 base hits, and 25 of those have gone for extra bases. That kind of XBH/H ratio is something you expect from a slugging first baseman, especially once you factor in that 10 of his hits have come on bunts. When Bourjos makes contact, he actually hits the ball with some authority.

Now, his speed is almost certainly inflating his career .182 ISO to some degree. He gets doubles on balls where slower batters would hold at first, and he’s already accumulated six triples, taking extra bases on balls in the gap on the strength of this wheels. The fact that Bourjos is right behind Ryan Howard on the 2011 ISO charts is hilarious, but it’s not exactly indicative of their relative strength.

That said, there isn’t much of a value difference between a ringing double off the wall and a speed double where Bourjos just outruns the opposing outfielder. The former might be more effective at scoring a runner from first with two outs, but the difference is going to be minor throughout the year. If Bourjos’ wheels let him get himself in scoring position on balls that would ordinarily be singles, well, that still counts.

Yes, he only has 278 plate appearances in the Majors, but Bourjos showed similar extra base hit ability in the minors as well. In Triple-A last season, 39 of his 130 hits went for extra bases, and his lowest ISO in any full-season league was .142. Bourjos has consistently hit the ball into the outfield often enough to collect doubles and triples, and he even muscles up from time to time – he hit 49 home runs in his minor league career.

In reality, Bourjos’ lousy offensive line last year was the result of a .228 BABIP, the kind of number that is unsustainably low for even a plodding catcher, much less a speed-burner who can bunt his way on board and beat out infield singles with regularity. This year, he’s posting another unsustainable BABIP, but the other direction, as he’s at .412 so far in 2011. He won’t keep that up either, but based on his speed, his expected true talent BABIP is almost certainly north of .300.

However, even with a .278 BABIP for his career now, his wOBA is an acceptable .297, which puts him about 10 runs below an average hitter over the course of a full season. Considering his defensive prowess, that makes Bourjos a pretty useful player, and it certainly doesn’t qualify him as someone who “can’t hit”.

He’s never going to be a high on base guy, but Bourjos’ ability to get multiple bases when he does get on base make him better than other defensive specialists. He has some glaring flaws, but he does enough else well to justify his spot in the line-up, and is showing enough that there shouldn’t be too many more articles penned about how he “can’t hit”. He can’t walk, but that’s just not the same thing.




Print This Post



Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


57 Responses to “Peter Bourjos Can Hit”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Levi says:

    2011 Peter Bourjos = 2010 Brett Gardner = 2009 Nyjer Morgan?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • mymrbig says:

      Not really, yet kind of. Bourjos strikes out much more and walks less than Garnder, and he strikes out more and has slightly fewer walks than Nyjer. He has way more power than either of them. Nyjer and Gardner are closer, but Nyjer relies on better contact ability to boost his OBP (at least when he was successful) while Gardner relies on more BB to boost his OBP (at least when he was successful).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Levi says:

        I guess it was more meant in the way of “getting value in ways the MSM doesn’t deem fruitful”. That is, largely through defense while providing marginal offensive “value”. Of course, each player is very different offensively (as you pointed out). Not that Morgan or even Gardner should be used as any predictive measurement on Bourjos, but it’ll be interesting to see if he goes on to put up a 4-5 win year in ’11, how he’ll turn out in ’12.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. ppabich says:

    Still nothing is more important in regards to Bourjos, than his position. With him in center and moving career CFs to corner spots has had a noticeable positive affect to Weaver this season. The range the OFs have is as good as i have ever seen. Wells and Hunter might not be worth their price-tag, but they will hit above average, and provide great defense. I might be a homer, but there is a lot to like about this Angels team right now.

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • LionoftheSenate says:

      Bourjos is the best defensive player I have ever seen. He is as good on defense as Rodman was at rebounding. He is dominating.

      No chance in hell Trout takes over CF. There is plenty of room in RF or LF.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. PJ says:

    Just holding the fort till Trout is ready/

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • theflash141 says:

      I’d much rather have Trout and Bourjos in the outfield than just one of them.

      The Wells deal looks even worse when you realize the log jam he’s created in the outfield. Hunter and Abreu will be around through next year unless they can manage to give one of them away (would have to eat some of their contract).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        That was my biggest complaint of the deal. They can absorb the salary, but there’s nowhere for Wells to play once Trout comes up. Is Wells really going to DH?

        I think far too many fans are too willing and eager to bury the Angels. Folks the Angels are a top notch franchise. They have pitching, batting, and defense. They have youth and veterans.

        It is interesting that Bourjos has more pop than the stereotype.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jaywrong says:

      i doubt that. someone else will ride the pine when trout is ready.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • delv says:

      How likely is it that Trout will join the ranks of Howie Kendrick, Sean Rodriguez, Dallas McPherson, Brandon Wood, and Mathis as Angels prospects who crushed the bal in the minors and didn’t perform anywhere near as well in the ML?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • jaywrong says:

        Howie is pretty good when healthy. SeanRod is a work in progress, but still a positive ML player in terms of potential and versitility. You have a point with McPherson and Wood, but those are totally different players then Trout. You should research before just name dropping.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • delv says:

        eh? I know how all of those guys are hitting, thanks. The point is not that they’re bad players (which I didn’t claim), but that they have not performed on offense anywhere near the 900-1000 OPS-levels that they did in the offense-inflating minor league park system of the Angels. That was my point. S-Rod’s defense is irrelevant.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • theflash141 says:

        Trout is in a whole different league than those guys…

        Kendrick is a guy who has never walked but had a ridiculous BABIP in the minors because of a steady fastball diet. Those lofty but unrealistic expectations were carried over into his MLB career and he’s had trouble adjusting to off-speed.

        Rodriguez still has a shot to be a decent player but his K rate is ridiculous.

        McPherson and Wood were guys who could crush a fastball but had astronomical K rates throughout minor leagues that just ballooned when they went pro.

        Jeff Mathis has always sucked and always will suck. He never put up an OPS anywhere near .900, minor leagues or otherwise.

        Trout is only 19. He is the #1 prospect in baseball. He has a high walk rate and a good K rate. He is currently playing in a very pitcher-friendly park at AA (0.81 HR) and is hitting .283/.367/.566 with 4 HRs in 15 games.

        There is always a possibility that he may bust, but it seems highly unlikely at this point.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • AA says:

        Kendrick is crushing the ball this year and was hurt last year by a very low BABIP for his skillset. Also, his low walk/moderate K approach of years past depended on a high AVG and probably suppressed his power.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • AA says:

        A big issue with Wood was that they should have never moved him off SS. He is a plus defender at the position and moving him to 3B decreased his value.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. AndyS says:

    “There aren’t actually that many articles about the inadequacies of Bourjos’ offensive abilities, but there are a lot of them.”

    …what?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Weznoth says:

    MIKEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE TRRRRRRRRROUUUUUUUUUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Jim says:

    We get it Dave, you like highlighting players who’s value comes mainly from defense. Bourjos is not a good hitter. He is an all-world defender. I don’t see why you have to argue the former because of the latter.

    Saying he “can’t hit” is not saying “he is not a starting caliber player”.

    I personally don’t have a problem with people saying that a .297 wOBA player “can’t hit.” It’s a subjective/arbitrary term, and I think .297 arguably qualifies. And it has nothing to do with UZR.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. DonCoburleone says:

    Dave nice article I’ve been waiting for something on Bourjos. 2 questions for you: 1) Is Mike Cameron a good comp for Bourjos going forward? 2) Who would you rather have right now, Bourjos or Cameron Maybin?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cameron used to walk quite a bit to go with his strikeouts and decent power.

      Smells more like Rocco Baldelli to me.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • AA says:

        1) Baldelli is no comparison defensively.

        2) Bourjos consistently put up solid contact numbers in the minors, which drove his above average OBPs. If he can maintain around a 7% BB rate and a .330-.340 BABIP (both of which were basically average in the minors), it is entirely possible that he puts up a consistent .350-.360 wOBA. That makes him a young Torii Hunter with an even better glove.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Andre says:

    Grammar correction: it should Bourjos’s, not Bourjos’.

    Unless you’re referring to more than one Bourjos, and their collective offensive abilities, that is.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Benjamin says:

      Both are correct. AFAIK, ” s’s ” is a “super-correct” version (as my English teacher once said) but ” s’ ” is more commonly used.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • rickpo says:

      Different style guides do the possessive-after-sibilant-ending differently. The most common usage: if you pronounce it with a double-s sound, Bourjos’s; if you pronounce it with a single-s sound, Bourjos’. I would do Bourjos’s, but there’s an argument for doing it either way.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • STFU says:

      Wow, nitpicking s’ on an analytical baseball website. please just STFU andre.

      And Telo, you’re an idiot.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Bob says:

    If you Google Peter Bourjos great defense, you get 116,000 hits. But maybe we’re overestimating his defensive abilities. While in 2010, his UZR/150 was an ungodly 46.3, so far in 2011, he’s only a slightly above average 2.6. In addition, the bulk of his defensive value is due to his arm.

    Now, while there isn’t much difference between gunning down a hitter trying to stretch a single into a double and catching a deep flyball, getting almost all of his defensive value from baserunner kills is typically unsustainable. Scouts rave about his range, however, the defensive metrics in 2011 do not bear this out, and there may be some confirmation bias in that fast players are viewed as having great range.

    In the future, there shouldn’t be many more articles about how well he plays defense. While he can throw, that’s not the same thing.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Scotty Allen says:

      Probably the stupidest thing written yet. Bourjos’ range is completely unparalleled. Yes he has a good arm, but it’s not other-worldly,, it’s merely among the Top 10. No, it’s his range that IS other-worldly.

      Have you even watched him play or are you too busy looking at what numbers you THINK indicate his defensive range? Even people that absolutely dislike Bourjos and hold a bias against all things Angels admit that Bourjos has greater range than any player in recent memory.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • LionoftheSenate says:

        Let there be no doubt as to PB’s rannge. He is to range as Deion Sanders was to shut down corner. There is no comp.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Turks Teeth says:

      UZR/150 means nothing with 2-3 weeks of data. I wouldn’t read too much into that — give it a half season to start to stabilize.

      Just watch three or four games with Bourjos in CF, and you’ll see that UZR/150 given a paucity of data is not capturing his defensive value.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jeff says:

      UZR should be viewed in 3 year samples for maximum benefit. We’re still in April so it means absolutely nothing for this year so far. Scouting is going to be a lot more accurate right now.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Jim says:

    “jim, i’m not going to do your work for you. have at it analyzing why you’re comment made me go ‘wtf is this guy smoking.’

    good luck!”

    Trust me, you don’t want to hear my conclusion.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Oprah says:

    Anon, tripes are actually indicative of both speed and power.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Adam says:

    Not one of Bourjos’ doubles has been a stretched out single (Ala Mike Trout in the Futures game). He has a quick bat with a little bit of pop.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. fjmanuel says:

    so do we just not care about small sample size anymore?

    300 at-bats = yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Steve Balboni says:

      You’ve got to read more than 5 paragrpahs to get to: “Yes, he only has 278 plate appearances in the Majors, but Bourjos showed similar extra base hit ability in the minors as well. “

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Matt says:

    Read from a scout that trout projects as a corner outfielder. Bourjos won’t get pushed out if he holds his own

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Bookbook says:

    How does Bourjos’ D compare to Guti’s?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>