We had a nice discussion going yesterday about Michael Bourn, vis a vis Fangraphs re-examining the Brad Lidge/Bourn trade of 2007. I specifically liked the point made about Michael's slugging percentage improving in the future.
His .367 BABIP portends of a 2010 where his batting average is most likely going to decline, but that doesn't mean he will be any less effective. I point to two aspects of his game that will suit him well in the future. Looking at his hit chart from 2009, it's pretty clear that Michael is willing and able to hit to all fields for singles, as well as doubles. One specific instance that I would be interested to see is the percentage of balls he hits to left field when he has two strikes on him, or when he has runners in scoring position.
His discipline at the plate isn't dramatically different than what he showed in 2008. He is swinging at fewer pitches outside the strike zone, which has led to improvement at making contact with balls outside the strike zone. It's difficult to say whether or not that contact has led to more hits as a result, but it probably means that he is fighting off pitches with two strikes, extending counts and allowing himself to go to the opposite field as I touched on earlier.
As far as comparisons are concerned I have compared Bourn to Jacoby Elsbury in the past, coming to the conclusion that Bourn has had the superior season in 2009. Chone Figgins is another player who is Bourn-like, but I am optimistic that Michael will develop the sort of power that Figgins never has, making him less reliant on a high BABIP to be an effective lead off hitter.
Certainly, Bourn's leading the league in speed (a Fangraphs stat which takes into account four different baserunning components) and being a defensive maven makes him a unique talent especially on a veteran, "base to base" team like the Astros. The bottom line is that the Phillies won the 2008 World Series and Brad Lidge played a big part in that team's success. This season has seen Bourn snare the headlines, while Lidge has headed in the opposite direction. What had seemed like a "win" for the Phils is looking more and more like a wash, with the potential to be a better deal for Houston. I can't imagine that Phillie fans are more excited about the future for Lidge than we are about Michael Bourn's 2010 and beyond.