It's obvious that Michael Bourn has elite speed. We see it when he glides effortlessly to beat out a ground ball, or when he tracks down a fly ball deep in the outfield gaps. Where it's probably most apparent is when Michael attempts is on the basepaths. Whether it be in a steal attempt, tagging up, or simply taking the extra base, there is much more to being a good base runner than pure speed.
In 2008, Bourn led the Astros with 41 stolen bases in 51 opportunities. This is a good percentage, but for someone with the ability that Bourn has, it would be even better for the Astros if he could bump that percentage even higher. As much as we may not like to talk about it, someone like Carlos Beltran and his 88% stolen base success rate would be an ideal person to imitate. This is especially true given the advantage Bourn has over Beltran in pure speed.
In his first full season as an every day major leaguer, Michael was ranked 75th in MLB by Baseball Prospectus in baserunning, contributing 1.92 runs over what would be expected from a player in those base running situations Bourn encountered. It would be expected that Michael excelled in the stolen base portion of base running skill, as he was nearly three runs better than expected. However, he was merely average, or below average when it came to scoring on ground balls, as well as flyballs, and advancing on ground balls/fly balls. This may be due to a lack of experience, or general carelessness that plauges many a young player.
This season has seen Bourn step his game up considerably. He now ranks fourth in MLB in baserunning. The best part of his ranking is that it's the "other" parts of his baserunning- advancing on the basepaths, and scoring on batted balls that have helped him attain this high position. His stolen base numbers, 13/16 (81.25%), are slightly better thus far as compared to last season. Combine these improvements with his newfound ability to get on base, and Michael Bourn is fast becoming the kind of player..gasp!...worth building around.