Following a disappointing season, Michael Bourn is coming back with a vengeance. Let's face it: most of us weren't expecting a lot from Bourn this year. But, now he again can be compared to the Matt Damon character with the dominating robotic qualities. Maybe this is temporary; who knows? But let's give Micahel his due. And, now we can laugh at people on other team's blogs who sometimes refer to Bourn as the worst hitter in baseball.
I think the most impressive aspect of Bourn's hitting so far is that he isn't just relying on bunts and speed. Michael is driving the ball in to outfield gaps. Bourn's line drive rate is 26%. His isolated power (ISO) rate is a respectable .151, which is more than double the ISO he showed in 2008, and more like the ISO he demonstrated in his AAA season with the Phillies' organization.
Let's compare his offensive line for 08 and so far in 09:
08 .229 BA .288 OBP, .300 SLG, .588 OPS
09 .301 BA, .369 OBP, .452 SLG, .821 OPS
Bourn has made incremental improvements in his plate discipline pretty much across the board. The biggest improvement is that Bourn is swinging at a much lower percentage of balls outside the zone (18%, down almost 4 percentage points). He is swinging at fewer pitches overall (39.2% vs. 41.6%), but also swinging at more pitches in the zone (61.2% vs. 59.7%). Bourn's contact pecent is up both in the zone and outside the zone, resulting in an increase in his overall contact rate of almost 3 percentage points. This is one of those cases where the stats provide an illustration of the way that more selectivity at the plate improves hitting in all areas. Pitchers have responded by throwing fewer pitches to him in the zone (49.8%) than at any time in his career. As a result, Bourn's walk rate (9.7%) has improved by more than a percentage point, even though it still isn't as high as his Philly years.
If you are wondering if this plate discipline is sustainable, a reassuring point is that his current plate discipline stats are not that dissimilar from his corresponding stats when he played for the Phillies. In other words, he is more like the player Wade thought he was getting from Philadelphia.
Bourn's speed on the basepaths obviously becomes more valuable when he can get on base. And Bourn's speed in the outfield is paying defensive dividends, as shown by Bourn's UZR/150 of +12. With the usual caveats that it is early to draw conclusion, we can say that Bourn will be one of the more valuable CFers in baseball, if he keeps this up.
In honor of Bourn, I found this video montage posted by one of Michael Bourn's fans on You Tube.