Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Look At Extending Michael Bourn

I don't claim to be an expert on the Braves' budget, and I don't know their situation going forward, as far as projected spending room for the next few years. So this post is based on the notion that they can afford an extension, and I'm making this case because of value and stats.

If the Braves can afford to do so, they should give Michael Bourn an extension. Over the past few years, Bourn has been incredibly underrated. Since 2009, he has the third highest fWAR among center fielders at 13.8. He's behind Matt Kemp for first by only half a win, and take a second to think of the names he is ahead of on the list of center fielders: Curtis Granderson, Shane Victorino and Andrew McCutchen.

Among the top 10 center fielders since 2009, Bourn is sixth in OBP at .348. This may not seem overwhelming as a leadoff hitter, but he has maintained a 8.7 BB% while keeping the strikeouts below 20%. So he can take a walk and work counts even with the slightly lower on-base numbers.

But the thing to note is Bourn really gets the maximum out of his leadoff hitting abilities. There are so few true leadoff hitters (based on the traditional leadoff type) who can combine the speed characteristics with on-base ability. Bourn's name is right there with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Denard Span and Victorino. And that's pretty much it. That's pretty solid company.

Bourn's value as a base stealer has been recorded multiple times and there's no need to return to that part of the story. The same can be said for his defense, which rates among the best for center fielders. You could say he gets a larger portion of his value from speed and defense, which is his game.

My perception is Bourn fails to get the same recognition as the others on the previous list. Reasons could be team (Houston and Atlanta aren't exactly media hot beds) and he's a pretty quiet fellow who sticks to the right words between the quotation marks.

Of course, I know better than to think the Braves don't recognize Bourn's talent for these reasons. If they thought along those lines, they would sit in last place every season. Frank Wren knows what he has in Bourn, and if he thinks he can afford an extension, he will do it, I'm sure.

Bourn provides a ton of value in a prime position with a set of tools that are constantly overlooked. This is a combination the Braves should take advantage of by keeping around longer. Here's to hoping it can happen.

For a deeper look into what it might take to extend Bourn, check out Ben Duronio's post at Capitol Avenue Club.

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