Michael Bourn: Way Better Than You Know

HOUSTON: Michael Bourn #21 of the Houston Astros steals third base in the fourth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Well, maybe not you, in particular. But definitely you, generally.

If someone asked you (generally) to name the National League's 10 best outfielders, would Michael Bourn make your list?

Probably not.

If someone offered you the choice between Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, would you choose Michael Bourn?

Probably not.

To be sure, Pence is the better hitter. From 2009 through yesterday, Pence's OPS is 814: .342 on-base percentage, .472 slugging. Same time frame, Bourn's OPS is just 721: .348 OBP, .373 slugging.

Now, on-base percentage is more important than slugging percentage, so that 93-point difference in OPS is slightly less massive than it looks ... but it's still fairly massive.

What's perpetually amusing to me is how much lip service gets paid -- by old baseball men and old baseball writers, mostly -- to baserunning and defense, but when the rubber hits the road, who's going to defend the notion that Michael Bourn is a more valuable baseball player than Hunter Pence?

Which he probably is. Because of his massive edges in defense and baserunning, Bourn's got more Wins Above Replacement, these last three seasons, than Pence; 13-10. Okay, so maybe you don't trust FanGraphs version of WAR (fWar). I do, but you don't have to. Maybe you prefer Baseball-Reference.com's version (rWar).

According to rWAR, Bourn's lead is significantly larger: 11.8 to 6.4.

The simple truth is that if you do consider defense and baserunning with any sort of rigor, you're going to conclude that Michael Bourn is, in fact, better than Hunter Pence. In fact, if you believe fWAR, Bourn has actually been the second-best outfielder in the National League since 2009.


Baseball Nation: Braves Acquire Michael Bourn

Maybe you don't believe any of that. Still, it's hard to not believe that Bourn represents a huge upgrade for the Braves. Their leadoff hitters this season have reached base roughly 31 percent of the time; Bourn's going to reach base roughly 34 percent of the time. Those extra three percent are worth an extra win or two. Toss in Bourn's fantastic baserunning and his brilliant defense, and you've got another extra win or two.

Four's probably too many. Three might be too many. But the Braves have added at least two wins to their bottom line, and that's just this season. Probably four or five wins next season, too.

Not many teams add that many wins at the trading deadline. The Phillies probably didn't. Despite what you (generally) might think.

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