I think it's safe to say that every Astros' fan was pleasantly surprised at how well Michael Bourn performed in 2009. He was one of the absolute worst players in baseball during his first season as an Astro in 2008 and coming into his second campaign few could realistically see him rebounding. He did though, and did so in a big way. He was a four win player and a Gold Glove recipient. He was rewarded by the team with a new contract worth $2.4 million this season. Though his team was lucky to tally 74 wins, Bourn played to his strengths and had himself a 2009 to remember.
That's not to say that he can't have an even better 2010. For all of the lauding we paid to MB a year ago, there are definitely areas of his game that can be worked on so that our lead off hitter can continue to grow. It's tough at this point to say whether or not he can actually make significant changes to his approach at the plate because of he is already 27 years old. This is the prime of his career, yes, but most players are what they are at this point. My hope is that because he is a late bloomer of sorts, Bourn can still be molded a bit in his late twenties.
What specific areas am I talking about? Well, first of all, his strikeout percentages are high for a leadoff hitter. Or let me clarify that point: he strikes out too much for a leadoff hitter who doesn't hit for a ton of power. I can see a few more Ks when a hitter swings a power bat, but for a singles hitter, a K rate as high as Michael's really hurts his ability as a table setter for a team that will struggle as it is with getting on base. Once Lance (hoepfully) returns, MB's propensity to get on in front of Lance will be key to getting the Astros back into the NL Central race.
We don't have much data to go off of thus far, but, and I hesitate to even try to draw conclusions, Bourn appears to be off to a good start in terms of his contact rates, both in and outside of the strike zone. His swinging strike percentage is down below 5% as well, a career low by far. I would be even more excited if he could up his walk percentage, but Bourn has time to improve in that area. However, we're getting in range of being able to judge both his swing % and contact rates. Hopefully the Astros are able to dig themselves out of this hole and begin to play respectable baseball. If they are, or even if they continue to sit in last place, pay attention to Michael Bourn's offense. The fate of the team may be directly related to how MB performs in the leadoff spot.