If such a metric as a "hustle index" existed, surely infield hits would be a component of the index. And if that's true, then two Astros, Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, must be two of the hustling-est players in the league.
Back in July, I wrote an article about the liklihood that Pence and Bourn would rebound on offense, because their expected BABIP was so much higher than their actual BABIP at the time. You may have been surprised at the high BABIP prediction for Bourn and Pence referenced in that article. Since then Pence's BABIP and overall offense has continued to rebound. (His BABIP has risen from .266 to .306, but still short of his expected BABIP of .322.) Bourn's BABIP has continued to plummet since then---even though recently he may have shown some signs that his offense is on the way up. One of the reasons that the expected BABIP for both Bourn and Pence is so high is because of their ability to beat out infield hits. Perhaps it's no surprise that Brad Mills emphasized to Bourn the need to redouble his bunting efforts prior to the Philly series.
Who are the leaders in infield hits in the National League so far?
NL Infield Hits
H. Ramirez 20
Hunter Pence leads the NL in infield hits, and Bourn is in the top five. In the major leagues, Pence trails only Ichiro (37) in infield hits. In 2009, Bourn was in second in the major leagues, behind Ichiro, with 29 infield hits. Pence was sixth in the NL with 21 infield hits. In 2008, Pence tied Ichiro for most infield hits among major leaguers with 40. Clearly, Pence's ability to rack up infield hits is not a new thing.
Led by Pence and Bourn, the Astros have the second highest number of team infield hits in the majors so far.
MLB Team Infield Hit Leaders
Wonder why Brad Mills might be concerned about Bourn's lack of bunting this year? His reduced bunting results may be part of the reason for his decline in BABIP. In 2009, Michael Bourn led the NL with 29 bunt hits. So far, in 2010 Bourn is 4th in bunt hits with only 8. Michael Bourn is on pace to have only about one-third as many bunt hits as last season. If Michael had maintained the same pace as last year for bunt hits, his batting average might be 35 points higher.
Do you think Pence will be the King of NL Infield Hits by season end?