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Friday, February 08, 2013

The Joe Sheehan Newsletter: Michael Bourn

Bourn free, as free as the…Joe Sheehan Newsletter remains free!

It may seem unkind to compare any player to Vince Coleman, given that we know how Coleman’s story ended, but given the limited number of players who match Bourn’s performance to this point in his career, Coleman is probably the best match. If anything, Coleman was a better version of Bourn, striking out less and walking about as often. (I was surprised to note that of the seven comps identified in this exercise, Bourn had the seventh-highest walk total and fourth-highest walk rate.)

This is why Bourn is such a risky signing. Bourn’s OBP is held up not by his walk rate, but by his BABIP and infield hits, which are speed-based. (Also, last year, by a spike in HR/FB.) Once Bourn loses a little speed, he’ll lose some of those hits, and he’s right on the line as it is. Michael Bourn batting .275/.340/.370 bats leadoff for you. Michael Bourn batting .260/.325/.355 has to bat eighth. There’s really no middle ground for a hitter who lacks power, as does Bourn. In Bourn’s favor is that he clearly the best defensive player of the group mentioned above. Defensive skill matters in projecting longevity—but defensive skill won’t make you a good leadoff man.

We don’t have to go back very far to see what happens when a player roughly the shape of Bourn loses batting average. Two offseasons ago, the Red Sox signed Carl Crawford, basically Bourn with some extra pop, after his age-28 season. Like Bourn, Crawford brought the promise of defensive value, as well as stolen bases and double-play avoidance. Crawford, however, stopped hitting for average, slipping from .306 in his two seasons prior to free agency to .255 with the Red Sox. After a 2012 season lost to injury, Crawford is now a Los Angeles Dodger with five years left on a contract and a limited number of ways to earn back $20 million a year.

Bourn won’t get that kind of deal, but the Crawford experience is a clear example of the downside risk here. Bourn is going to steal fewer bases, because that’s what older players do, and he may lose a step in center field. If he slips from being a good leadoff hitter to a poor one, he doesn’t have a way to make up that value, and the line between him being a good leadoff hitter and a poor one is incredibly thin. When you look at what players of similar performance to Bourn have done in their thirties, it becomes clear that the market’s handling of his free agency isn’t irrational, but in fact, a reasonable approach to a player whose future performance is uncertain.

Repoz Posted: February 08, 2013 at 03:40 PM | 46 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 08, 2013 at 04:27 PM (#4365812)
The Crawford deal was just bizarre. And the fact that they were going to try to reap his defensive value out of Fenway's left field just took it over the top.
   2. JJ1986 Posted: February 08, 2013 at 04:30 PM (#4365816)
Coleman, of course, was a mediocre LF, while Bourn is a good defensive CF.
   3. bfan Posted: February 08, 2013 at 04:33 PM (#4365819)
The Crawford deal was just bizarre


There were plenty of suckers. The SI baseball writer picked him pre-season as the league MVP, for his 1st year in Boston.
   4. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: February 08, 2013 at 04:44 PM (#4365826)
It may seem unkind to compare any player to Vince Coleman, given that we know how Coleman’s story ended, but given the limited number of players who match Bourn’s performance to this point in his career, Coleman is probably the best match. If anything, Coleman was a better version of Bourn,


WAR disagrees, strenuously

I may be biased, I got my best look of Coleman during his stint with the Mets, what was so shocking to me seeing him play day in and day out was how utterly bereft he was of an baseball SKILL. He was athletic and ran and well, and that was it,

he wasn't good defensively, his speed kept him from being a trainwreck, his hands weren't terrible, he didn't ave the depth perception problems that it seemed like Lonnie Smith had, but he just wasn't any good at anything.
he had no pop with the bat, none.

The Mets had Mookie Wilson before Coleman, Coleman was a better base stealer than Mookie and drew a handful more walks per PA, Mookie was better at everything else,
The Mets had Lenny Dykstra before Coleman, other than base stealing Lenny was better at every other facet of the game

Coleman was simply not a baseball player, he was a sprinter who at his peak was useful to a baseball team, post peak he was dead weight.

Bourn is an elite defender with elite speed, he will almost certainly still be good defender when he has merely good speed- Coleman was a mediocre defender when he had elite speed, he was a poor defender when he had very good speed, he was out of baseball when he had merely good speed.
   5. Ron J2 Posted: February 08, 2013 at 05:06 PM (#4365846)
#4 According to Bill James, Smith's problems were primarily caused by unusually small feet (meaning he fell down a lot -- particularly at speed) and small hands (meaning that he had a tough time getting a good grip on the ball)

He picked up a fair number of assists on guys who assumed he'd fall down or drop the ball or ...

   6. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: February 08, 2013 at 05:13 PM (#4365848)
James' description of Smith's expertise with defensive miscues in the newest Abstract is absolutely brilliant, one of those passages that is at once wildly entertaining and genuinely insightful.
   7. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 08, 2013 at 05:17 PM (#4365852)
Sean's system sees Smith (hey, that's four S's in a row) as a slightly above average fielder for his position, if I'm reading it right. An Rfield of +24 for his career. 1989 alone accounts for the positive rating (+23).

AROM doesn't appear to break out his arm from his overall fielding, though, from what I can tell.
   8. Mike Emeigh Posted: February 08, 2013 at 05:17 PM (#4365853)
It's interesting, because Coleman came up the other day when we were discussing Billy Hamilton. I don't think of Bourn as a Coleman-type but offensively that seems to be appropriate.

Sheehan doesn't mention Dave Collins (because of the latter's strikeout rate), but that's another decent-looking comp - .274/.340/.352 through age 29 vs .272/.339/.365 for Bourn. Collins's second half of his career was virtually the same as his first: .270/.336/.349, in just about the same number of games. I haven't checked Collins's K rate, but he K'd 400 times through age 29 in an era where there weren't quite as many strikeouts as there are today. I'd like to have seen Sheehan pay more attention to cross-era effects.

-- MWE
   9. bobm Posted: February 08, 2013 at 05:19 PM (#4365854)
given the limited number of players who match Bourn’s performance to this point in his career, Coleman is probably the best match


"Match" and "Coleman" used together is something that Mets fans do not want to be reminded of.
   10. BDC Posted: February 08, 2013 at 05:32 PM (#4365859)
I find articles like this, which try a number of different methods for finding comparable players, to be very interesting. I agree that Vince Coleman ends up being neither here nor there.

Here are ten good centerfielders who played regularly from ages 26-29, had at least modest SB ability, and hit somewhere in the neighborhood of Bourn for those same ages. (The fact that Bourn was a terrible hitter at ages 24-25 may or may not be of interest anymore; I'm assuming for our purposes that it's not.)

Rk            Player Rfield  SB OPS+   PA
1       Darin Erstad     87  84  100 2410
2       Garry Maddox     78 110  108 2412
3        Devon White     73 135   94 2592
4      Michael Bourn     62 216   98 2708
5      Lance Johnson     55 138   92 2401
6        Bill Virdon     44  23   88 2304
7    Marquis Grissom     42 146  101 2543
8       Steve Finley     39 110  107 2344
9       Torii Hunter     37  73  108 2231
10         Jim Busby     33  50   90 2445 


Perhaps the moral is that comps lists aren't good oracles. Some of these guys became part-timers pretty quickly. The best of them were the best hitters to begin with (Finley, Hunter). White had a lot left, but he was one of the very greatest defensive CF, by reputation at least. Johnson had his best years ahead of him; Grissom had some good ones too, but his career was erratic. Bourn has been a very good player for the last four years, but where he's headed is anybody's guess.

I don't know if the list really should have picked up Virdon and Busby. They are the earliest players, the weakest hitters, and the least-accomplished basestealers; but perhaps in a different era they would have run more and showed more power. Hard to know.
   11. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: February 08, 2013 at 05:42 PM (#4365865)
Sean's system sees Smith (hey, that's four S's in a row) as a slightly above average fielder for his position, if I'm reading it right. An Rfield of +24 for his career. 1989 alone accounts for the positive rating (+23).


I probably watched 75% of Smith's games in 1989 (yay TBS) and I don't think I've ever seen another season in which a player so consistently played at the high end of his ability. Meaning that it wasn't a pure fluke year, but rather a guy being the guy he'd always been but playing at the very top end of his established ability. Does that make sense? I'll buy the +23; a constant theme that year was how he'd allegedly left his defensive difficulties behind him. Lonnie was a joy to watch on a really terrible team, and it was probably the best hitting season by a Brave between Aaron and peak Chipper. In a better world he gets a lot more consideration for the MVP, but when you take a team with 57 win talent and lead it to 63 wins you're not going to pick up many awards.
   12. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 08, 2013 at 06:32 PM (#4365885)
Once Bourn loses a little speed, he’ll lose some of those hits,


Just what I said about Ichiro when he was 30 years old!

And when he was 31, and 32, and 33, and, and, gosh darn I was proven right at age 37!

Why do writers so often assume players with elite speed aren't going to still remain fast deep into their thirties, even if no longer elite?
   13. booond Posted: February 08, 2013 at 07:27 PM (#4365901)
Why do writers so often assume players with elite speed aren't going to still remain fast deep into their thirties, even if no longer elite?


As long as they stay healthy and fit the decline in speed should be gradual.
   14. Davo Dozier Posted: February 08, 2013 at 07:48 PM (#4365904)
I came up with THIS list of comps for Bourn:

OUTFIELDERS. IN THEIR AGE 26-29 SEASONS. WITH AN OPS+ between 86-110 in at least 2,000 PAs. BUT A SLG% BELOW .420. AND AT LEAST 150 STEALS. SINCE 1950.

The list:

Mickey Rivers
Brett Butler
Bill North
Willie Wilson
Luis Polonia
Mookie Wilson
Vince Coleman
Juan Pierre

   15. Steve Treder Posted: February 08, 2013 at 08:00 PM (#4365910)
As long as they stay healthy and fit the decline in speed should be gradual.

Sure, but the issue is that many, many players (whether speedsters or not) encounter a hard time staying healthy as they advance through their 30s.
   16. formerly dp Posted: February 08, 2013 at 08:23 PM (#4365914)
I may be biased, I got my best look of Coleman during his stint with the Mets, what was so shocking to me seeing him play day in and day out was how utterly bereft he was of an baseball SKILL. He was athletic and ran and well, and that was it,
I agree. But going purely from memory, it seemed like he lit up the Mets when he was with the Cardinals. I'll admit to being very excited when they signed him-- he was coming off a nice year in 1990, still on the youngish side, and had been pretty durable for the Cards. I've had a few surgeries to remove the Vince Coleman years from my skull, but there are still some fragments rattling around, and they're not pleasant-- he had been a high-percentage basestealer up to that point (?), and then dropped to 73% in his three years with the Mets, while running a lot less often (94 attempts per 162 games with the Mets vs. 124 per 162 with the Cards). Urg. Not fun.
   17. formerly dp Posted: February 08, 2013 at 08:46 PM (#4365916)
Memory fail-- Coleman was terrible against the Mets in 1990-- .226/.276/.302-- but he still managed to steal 11 bases in 13 games.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: February 08, 2013 at 09:05 PM (#4365918)
Michael Bourn batting .275/.340/.370 bats leadoff for you. Michael Bourn batting .260/.325/.355 has to bat eighth.

Meanwhile ...

The 2012 NL average leadoff hitter was 257/319/382. Bourn's supposed 325 OBP would play just fine there. His 340/370 would be OK in the #2, #7 and even #6 spots.

Leaving aside that batting order doesn't matter a whole lot and that The Book would probably have Bourn batting 6th or 7th, as long as your leadoff hitter gives you a league-average OBP and a bit of speed, you're satisfied.

We saber folk seem to enjoy the fantasy that there is a large group of good OBP, low power ideal leadoff types out there. Instead, at any given time, there probably aren't more than half a dozen guys with good OBPs and low ISOs. Last year there were only two qualified players with an OBP of 350 or better and an ISO of 120 or less -- Jon Jay and Derek Jeter. Drop the OBP requirement to 335 and you still only get 11. Drop the min PA to 400 and you only get up to 14. Jump the ISO to 150 and you can get up to 27. Drop the ISO altogether and you only get 89 including, of course, a whole bunch of folks you don't particularly want batting leadoff.

Above-average OBP tends to go with above-average power which tends to go with un-blazing speed -- so not prototypical leadoff men. If you want a leadoff guy with some speed, you are rarely going to find a high OBP to go with it. Some compromise between the two will probably lead you to a "reduced Bourn" type -- average OBP, 30 steals say. The number of players in 2012 with at least a 325 OBP and +3 baserunning in 400+ PA ... there are only 19 of those. Drop it to +2 baserunning and you're up to 32, most of whom would be perfectly fine leadoff guys. Note, Atlanta had 3 (Bourn, Prado, Heyward) so Bourn might not have been their best choice for leadoff.

Now the Book says generally your top 3 hitters should go 1, 2, and 4. But judging from that list of 87, anybody with a 335 OBP or better is probably in your top 3, maybe #4 behind a lower OBP high power guy so good Bourn is probably always your best leadoff option. Even reduced Bourn is probably in your top 5 hitters meaning that even The Book wouldn't consider it a huge mistake to put him at leadoff with the other 4 guys at 2 through 5 given The Book's top alternative would probably be Bourn at #5.

None of which means it's necessarily a good idea to sign Bourn for many years for many dollars but it does strongly suggest that even the aged Bourn will still be a deserving "full-time" player. Juan Pierre is an interesting comp. The problem with Pierre is that he can no longer handle CF. But even as an LF the last 4 years, thanks to baserunning and DP avoidance, he has 4.4 oWAR. That's hardly spectacular but it's not disastrous even though he's being comped to other LF. Move that "offense" to CF and you're at about 6.7 oWAR (in 2300 PA). That's still below average for a CF but it's not a major problem as long as it's combined with average defense. Toss in a mere 3 runs above-average defensive CF and you've got an average CF.

So, basically, as long as Bourn can maintain at least Pierre levels of offense and average CF defense, he's a starting quality CF. Of course Pierre these last 4 years has a 340 OBP (also only a 340 SLG) so that's a slightly better hitter than reduced Bourn.
   19. The District Attorney Posted: February 08, 2013 at 09:14 PM (#4365920)
I agree that era adjustments need to be done here. Bourn strikes out a ton, but for a guy with no power in the 1980s, so did Coleman. I think #4 nails it that, although Whitey Herzog was able to get something useful out of him when Coleman was super-hyper-fast as a youngster and playing on turf, the guy essentially lacked skills.

"Being better than Vince Coleman for the Mets" is a super-low bar that I'm sure Bourn can clear. If the Mets don't lose their first round pick and the contract is no more than three years, it wouldn't set back the franchise much even if Bourn flopped. The things that worry me are the loss of the draft pick, and Boras' ability to pluck mega-contracts out of thin air.
   20. formerly dp Posted: February 08, 2013 at 09:27 PM (#4365925)
Drop the OBP requirement to 335 and you still only get 11.
Ruben Tejada just missed the cut-off with a .333 OBP, but he should probably get good leadoff hitter bonus points for his .063 ISO.

Your post goes a long way toward convincing me $60M/4 would not be a disaster. I don't think it's a move they have to make, but at the same time, it's doubtful the next good Met centerfielder is currently in the system. Gose would have been a good get for them, but d'Arnaud's the better prospect by a bit, and the young arms they got in the deal will be more valuable to the organization by the time the team matters again. On top of that, Gose is no sure bet to be as good as Bourn. Nieuwenhuis looked OK in CF when he first came up, but seemed stretched out there as the season went along. He'd be OK as a stopgap. Den Dekker hit a wall when he got to AAA. Beyond that, I think you're in Corey Patterson or Cesar Puello territory.
   21. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: February 08, 2013 at 11:10 PM (#4365949)
Who exactly subscribes to sheehan's newsletter? Power to him, I suppose - but what special insight has he ever shown?
This is a sincere question, not intended as a dig (though I suppose that it is).
   22. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 09, 2013 at 12:24 AM (#4365963)
Who exactly subscribes to sheehan's newsletter? Power to him, I suppose - but what special insight has he ever shown?
This is a sincere question, not intended as a dig (though I suppose that it is).


I will happily go to war defending Sheehan's newsletter. I've subscribed every year, have recommended it to friends, have purchased a few gift subscriptions for friends.

His writing style is free, easy, interesting, and entertaining. He chooses subjects that are interesting and relevant. He doesn't write the idiot things that sportswriters write (well, nobody's perfect so I supposed there has been the rare exception). He thinks about the issue at hand before writing about it, and does his research. He is intelligent and understands the stathead concepts and debates and, while I presume he's not capable of doing the math that is necessary these days to do the cutting edge research and thus is not a stathead, he is a very good writer. I enjoy his playoff coverage immensely, his breakdown of a game, which I think is one of his best skills. He also answers emails.

What "special insight"? I'm not sure how to answer that because unless you're actually doing the math to break new ground, none of this is rocket science. I think it's an overall picture kind of thing, rather than one thing in particular.

I find his writing interesting. Not everyone will agree, I understand. He's actually the only writer I read regularly these days.
   23. PreservedFish Posted: February 09, 2013 at 12:46 AM (#4365970)
while I presume he's not capable of doing the math that is necessary these days to do the cutting edge research and thus is not a stathead,


I object to your nomenclature. A "stathead" is a baseball fan that has some knowledge of the dorky numbers side of things, and, probably, shares some of the biases of that community. No knowledge of advanced math required. Almost everyone in this community is a stathead. What you are saying is that Sheehan is not a sabermetrician.
   24. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: February 09, 2013 at 06:04 AM (#4365999)
Bourn won't get that kind of deal, but the Crawford experience is a clear example of the downside risk here. Bourn is going to steal fewer bases, because that's what older players do, and he may lose a step in center field. If he slips from being a good leadoff hitter to a poor one, he doesn't have a way to make up that value, and the line between him being a good leadoff hitter and a poor one is incredibly thin.


Sheehan writes well, but makes some strange statements. The line between being a good leadoff hitter and a poor one is not incredibly thin. In fact, there's no line. There's a gradient, and it's not steep. If you ran a simulation with Bourn's OBP going from .280 to .370 by .010 steps, you wouldn't find a step dive at some point in the number of runs he or his team scored.

Further, just before the quoted paragraph, Sheehan acknowledges

In Bourn's favor is that he clearly the best defensive player of the group mentioned above. Defensive skill matters in projecting longevity


It matters in projecting longevity, and contrary to what Sheehan asserts,

"If he slips from being a good leadoff hitter to a poor one, he [DOES] have a way to make up that value", namely through his defense.

I'd be fairly confident of Bourn, coming off a 6.0 bWAR season, returning close to 60/5.5 = 11 wins on a 4/60 contract, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to see that return in the form of 4, 3, 2, 1 wins, with Bourn retiring thereafter. With the Mets likely to be most in need of wins in order to contend in 2015 and after, Bourn doesn't make sense for them.
   25. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: February 09, 2013 at 06:23 AM (#4366002)
He thinks about the issue at hand before writing about it, and does his research. He is intelligent and understands the stathead concepts and debates a

there must be a second joe sheehan writing about baseball.

   26. greenback calls it soccer Posted: February 09, 2013 at 01:57 PM (#4366106)
there must be a second joe sheehan writing about baseball.

Well, there was.
   27. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 09, 2013 at 02:24 PM (#4366109)
I object to your nomenclature. A "stathead" is a baseball fan that has some knowledge of the dorky numbers side of things, and, probably, shares some of the biases of that community. No knowledge of advanced math required. Almost everyone in this community is a stathead. What you are saying is that Sheehan is not a sabermetrician.


Ok, I'll go along with that.


there must be a second joe sheehan writing about baseball.


As I said, he's not for everyone.
   28. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 09, 2013 at 03:20 PM (#4366133)
I object to your nomenclature. A "stathead" is a baseball fan that has some knowledge of the dorky numbers side of things, and, probably, shares some of the biases of that community. No knowledge of advanced math required. Almost everyone in this community is a stathead. What you are saying is that Sheehan is not a sabermetrician.

I don't think there's any advanced math required to be a sabermetrician either. Certainly no calculus or linear algebra.

I mean, you need basic stats, and econometrics to understand regressions, projection, correlation and confidence intervals. But, with any decent statistical package, you don't need to do any of the math. Heck, Excel is pretty good for statistics these days.
   29. Jim Wisinski Posted: February 09, 2013 at 03:35 PM (#4366138)
The issue I have always had with Sheehan is that, like Dave Cameron, his mind is as narrow as the stereotypical old-timey scout types he likes to criticize. It's one thing to discount the human element in player performance, development, and analysis but rejecting it entirely is just as wrong as refusing to acknowledge what statistical analysis can tell you.
   30. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 09, 2013 at 03:38 PM (#4366140)
Meanwhile ...

The 2012 NL average leadoff hitter was 257/319/382.

turns out, though, that last year was a bit of a fluke--that .319 OBP from the leadoff postion is the lowest in the NL for as far back as I cared to check (back to 2000). Generally it's in the high .320's to the mid .340's
   31. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 09, 2013 at 03:44 PM (#4366143)
The issue I have always had with Sheehan is that, like Dave Cameron, his mind is as narrow as the stereotypical old-timey scout types he likes to criticize. It's one thing to discount the human element in player performance, development, and analysis but rejecting it entirely is just as wrong as refusing to acknowledge what statistical analysis can tell you.


If you've read Sheehan, he absolutely does not reject the human element entirely.
   32. Jim Wisinski Posted: February 09, 2013 at 04:04 PM (#4366153)
If so then he has changed his tune since writing for BPro. He was always extremely dogmatic when it came to stats.
   33. greenback calls it soccer Posted: February 09, 2013 at 05:26 PM (#4366179)
I've always thought Sheehan's problem was a willingness to torture the data to make it confess to anything. This is how you end up using Vince Coleman as a best comp for Michael Bourn. This doesn't come from a lack of statistical chops so much as a desire to go beyond the obvious WAR reckonings, because once everybody knows about Baseball Reference, ZiPS, etc., there's not much to say that's accessible, original, and sabermetrically valid.
   34. Darren Posted: February 09, 2013 at 06:01 PM (#4366194)
I don't think Joe makes a very good case here. First, Coleman was not as good a player as Bourn--never, not even close. Second, Bourn does rely a lot on speed, but speedy player tend to age well. One of the things that you hope happen is that as their speed diminishes, they pick up some old player skills, like power and patience. Sure enough, Bourn put up is best ISO and best BB rate of his career. But that's ignored in the analysis. Third, he compares him to Crawford, which I'm not sure is useful. Crawford fell apart so completely and so uniquely that I wouldn't want to draw any conclusions about anyone else based on that case. And lastly, he decides that Bourn is actually a 340/370 hitter who will quickly decline to 325/355. Why not look at an actual projection for him, like Oliver, which puts him at .275 .343 .384 for next year.

Even on Sheehan's terms, he's going to be worth 3.5 to 4 WAR to start. What does that make him worth, something like 4/55?

   35. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: February 09, 2013 at 07:12 PM (#4366226)
I went to the last game of the 2008 season at Citi Field against the Astros, which featured a depressed small crowd put through a torrential rain delay. Seeing Bourn on the Astros I thought "hey, it's that guy who's so terrible nobody will add him in my fantasy league despite all the steals." It boggles the mind that he's turned himself into a very good player.
   36. Darren Posted: February 09, 2013 at 07:34 PM (#4366234)
Ad, it took me a long time to change that impression of him too.
   37. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: February 09, 2013 at 07:47 PM (#4366238)
darren

agreed. it's a dumb comparison.
   38. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: February 09, 2013 at 10:01 PM (#4366293)
Heck, Excel is pretty good for statistics these days.

I use it all the time, not that my endorsement carries an overpowering amount of weight or anything. But this was done in Excel.
   39. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: February 09, 2013 at 10:17 PM (#4366299)
Sign me up for [35] and [36]'s newsletters.

I really thought Bourn was Willy Taveras v 2.
   40. The District Attorney Posted: February 09, 2013 at 10:44 PM (#4366318)
Sign me up for [35] and [36]'s newsletters.
Are they less than $24.95 a year?
   41. Walt Davis Posted: February 10, 2013 at 02:56 AM (#4366374)
turns out, though, that last year was a bit of a fluke--that .319 OBP from the leadoff postion is the lowest in the NL for as far back as I cared to check (back to 2000). Generally it's in the high .320's to the mid .340's

Are we being marked down for laziness here, cuz I never would have enrolled if I'd known that. :-)

Fair point. Taking a gander (NL avg OBP, NL avg leadoff OBP)

2012 318 319
2011 319 331
2010 324 328
2009 331 340
2008 331 342
2007 334 341

So an average of 7-8 points (2-2.5%) above league average. From 2009 when Bourn became un-sucky through 2012, league average park-adjusted OBP was 330 and his was 348. Assuming we'd be projecting to 2011-12 league context, 325 would still be 6 points above league average, about average for a leadoff hitter. So my general point still seems to hold to me.

I wouldn't give him a big money contract, at least not for more than 3 years. The collapse probability is high -- among other things, we all know that he's just a chronic hamstring problem away from being useless.

By the way, there's another thing wrong with the Crawford comp other than Crawford's unlikely (at least partly injury-related) complete collapse. Crawford had excellent defensive numbers ... for a LF! For the 4 years prior to signing with Boston, he had just 1 dWAR. Over the last 4 years, Bourn has 8 dWAR. It's not even close. Crawford in CF would have been average while Bourn in CF is excellent. Another way to look at Bourn is that as long as he can continue to deliver at least 1 dWAR per year plus a league-average leadoff OBP, he's worth starting.

It's hard to find good contemporary comps for Bourn because his type is pretty rare in this power-driven age. I raised Pierre earlier who's probably a good offensive comp but poor defensive comp. Coco Crisp is a decent comp and he's been worth 8 WAR (4 WAA) in 1400 PA from 30-32. That's nearly a 4 WAR player in full-time. Victorino was better at his peak (equal OBP, much more power, average-good defensively, good baserunner) and he was huge at 30 (power-driven), meh at 31 and his days in CF seem done.

   42. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: February 10, 2013 at 11:28 AM (#4366431)
Crawford seems like a poor comp based on size alone. He was bound to lose his speed fast (what I didn't expect was him losing power and walks). Bourn, like Pierre or maybe Brett Butler, is a mite who should retain his speed for a few years. Five years is too much, but he should give solid value on a three or four year deal.
   43. billyshears Posted: February 10, 2013 at 01:01 PM (#4366495)
I tend to agree with the point raised in #42. For a unique player like Bourn, I think you need to focus more on body and athlete type comps more than comps among players who provided a similar shape of value. Based on minimal research, I have a suspicion that tiny little fast guys retain their skill longer than players who carry more mass. That's one reason why i think the Pierre comp is a good one - not only do they provide a reasonably similar shape of value, but they are also nearly the exact same size. And Pierre is really no worse of a player now than he was at 28. Another guy I keep thinking about in comparison to Bourn is Otis Nixon. It's not really a great comparison - Bourn is better now than Nixon ever was (as while they have the same listed weight, Nixon was taller), but Nixon was basically just as fast when he retired as when he came into the league. Speed isn't everything, even for a player who relies on it, but if Bourn can keep that, his decline might actually be slower than that of a typical player.
   44. Walt Davis Posted: February 11, 2013 at 02:26 AM (#4366882)
For a unique player like Bourn, I think you need to focus more on body and athlete type comps more than comps among players who provided a similar shape of value.

Maybe. Ideally you want to find other fast guys with little power but good defense. There aren't many that have all three. Vince Coleman was wicked fast, a kinda similar hitter to Bourn, similar in size to Bourn (skinnier I guess) but was never close to Bourn's level of defense. Coleman as a projection of Bourn the hitter is probably in the ballpark but Bourn would be delivering 2+ more wins in defensive value which is huge and has to be accounted for.

And Pierre is really no worse of a player now than he was at 28

Same issue as Coleman. At 28, Pierre was an average defensive CF. By 30 he was in LF most of the time and by 31-32 he was a below-average defensive LF. He's gone from 0 dWAR at 28 to negative 1-2 dWAR per year since he was 28. He's largely the same hitter and baserunner that he was at 28 but he's lost a lot of defensive value for some reason. Now I suppose that as long as he retains his offensive value, Bourn can stand to lose 2-3 wins on defense but it's a far less attractive package.

Willie Wilson would be another uninspiring Bourn comp. He was a consistent 4 WAR player in his prime. He retained excellent baserunning and DP value but he went from +2 dWAR per year to zero and his bat went to complete shite from 30-34 (well, he bounced back at 34). He put up 6.7 WAR in about 4 full seasons of PAs.

Nixon is just a strange guy who probably doesn't comp to anybody. :-) He didn't make it past 305 PA until he was 32. He was pretty valuable from 31-34 (9 WAR, including 3 dWAR, in under 3 seasons of PA) then, like Wilson, he lost a win with the bat and a win with the glove while retaining his baserunning value. From 35-40 he put up 4 WAR in about 5 full-time seasons. But, sure, if Bourn could produce at Nixon's pace in more playing time from 30-34, a 5-year deal would be fine.

But maybe we're making the same point -- if Bourn loses a win with the bat and a win with the glove, he's still a 2.5 WAR player. If that happens tomorrow that's not a great signing. If that happens gradually over the next 4-5 years, then you're talking 13-15 WAR over the next 4-5 years which would make $15 M per year tolerable.
   45. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 11, 2013 at 02:43 AM (#4366883)
The issue I have always had with Sheehan is that, like Dave Cameron, his mind is as narrow as the stereotypical old-timey scout types he likes to criticize. It's one thing to discount the human element in player performance, development, and analysis but rejecting it entirely is just as wrong as refusing to acknowledge what statistical analysis can tell you.

This is the problem with him. He always wants to take the Side of Statistics, under the impression that there is a Side of Intuition which he is arguing against. Which is good if he is actually engaged in that sort of discussion, but that does not happen much. His own podcast is just a disaster. He can spend 30 minutes saying "Player X is supposedly playing well, but the sample size isn't big enough to predict that it will continue" in different ways. I swear that in two straight episodes he devoted over an hour each to explaining why Mike Trout should be the MVP. Good lord! What a waste of time! Dave Cameron is infinitely more informative.
   46. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 11, 2013 at 03:06 AM (#4366884)
This is the problem with him. He always wants to take the Side of Statistics, under the impression that there is a Side of Intuition which he is arguing against. Which is good if he is actually engaged in that sort of discussion, but that does not happen much. His own podcast is just a disaster. He can spend 30 minutes saying "Player X is supposedly playing well, but the sample size isn't big enough to predict that it will continue" in different ways.


ISTR that in his podcast last October during ARod's struggles he predicted that ARod was injured in some way. That's certainly not the conclusion of someone who is only wedded to stats and "the sample size isn't big enough to predict that it will continue." And I know, because I _am_ a person who will go to the end of the earth saying that. I mean, yes, I consider whether the player might be injured, but I will never conclude it unless there is some corroborating evidence that stretches beyond, e.g., an 18-PA sample vs. RHP. (In ARod's case, the strikeouts could perhaps have been considered separate evidence, although on the other hand he was robbed a time or two also, as I recall.)

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