The short answer is yes, but I wanted to see how he stacked up to the rest of the league.
There are three components that make a good lead off hitter getting on base, stolen bases, and pitches seen. I ranked each lead off hitter in the league on four stats OBP leading off an inning, stolen bases, stolen base percentage and pitches seen.
I should mention here that these stats are only for this season up to the end of games this past Sunday, so this isn't a reflection of career numbers. Also I selected players who had the most games batting in the first spot of the order, so some players may no be leading off for their respective teams currently. Stolen bases are reflective of the entire season as I could not separate just stolen bases after leading off an inning. The other thing is that the leading off OBP doesn’t always correlate to batting order or the first inning, it reflects any inning in which the player started the inning regardless of inning or batting order position.
How good is Bourn so far this season? By my analysis he’s top five in the Major Leagues at leading off an inning and the the best at leading off an inning in the National League.
1. Rajai Davis
2. Austin Jackson
3. Denard Span
4. Ichiro Suzuki
5. Michael Bourn
6. Kelly Johnson
7. Nyjer Morgan
8. Corey Patterson
9. Jose Reyes
10. Derek Jeter
If I don’t adjust the rankings at all he’s actually top three with Austin Jackson and Denard Span ahead of Bourn respectively. He ranks 14th in the league in OBP, tied for second in stolen bases with Rajai Davis, and 13th in stolen base percentage.
Speaking of Rajai Davis adjusted he jumps to the top of the rankings from 5th unadjusted, which I found very surprising considering I checked Sunday’s box score and he was batting 8th. If you look at his entire OBP for the season he has a .312 OBP, on the surface not typically ideal for a lead off hitter. You look deeper at his OBP numbers when leading off an inning and it jumps to .375 which ranks 3rd in the Major League. Combine that with his stolen bases (2nd) and his stolen base percentage (10th) you can see why he jumps to the top after some adjustments. I know what you’re thinking sample size, nope. For his career in 216 games and 329 plate appearances when leading off an inning Davis has a .374 OBP.
But this isn’t about Rajai Davis this is about Bourn, and if the question is "Has Michael Bourn been a good leadoff hitter this season?" I can confidently say yes he is.
Some other observations:
- Martin Prado and Marco Scutaro rank 1 and 2 respectively in OBP but took a big hit in the stolen base categories where they ranked pretty much dead last. Which irked me a bit and made me want to implement the adjustments.
- Jason Bartlett, Akinori Iwamura, and Felipe Lopez all rank at the bottom regardless of adjustments.
- Akinori Iwamura had the fewest games leading off innings, and still had more than any other pirate. Andrew McCutchen has batted 3rd more than 1st this season and has only batted first for 20 games.
- Felipe Lopez I figured he would of been middle of the pack but he only has a .281 OBP leading off an inning and only 5 steals.
- Two FJM favorites Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik took a bit hit in stolen base percentage even though they’re both 1 and 4 respectively in stolen bases.
- I was surprised to see Corey Patterson so high but a solid OBP and stolen base numbers to go along with a top 5 stolen base percentage really helped him to climb the ranks.
I have included a spreadsheet in this post with those ranks and stats up to July 18 2010. Instead of assigning points to each rank I simple added up the rank in each category so the lower the overall score the better they were. As I was compiling this data I realized that not all four categories should be given the same weight, and that I’d consider OBP to be more valuable than stolen bases and stolen bases more valuable than pitches seen. So I made some adjustments by making both stolen bases and stolen base percentage worth 50% of OBP and I adjusted pitches per plate appearance at 10%. These percentages are my own opinions and not reflective of any advanced math I found.