Sunday, August 28, 2011

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By Andre Castillo - AngelsWin.com Feature Columnist

Wow, is Peter Bourjos a great story or what? Just look at these numbers:

Stat line
wOBA
(combines AVG/OBP/SLG, league average appx. 315)
UZR/150
(defense, min. 700 innings)
Bsr (baserunning)
WAR
Peter Bourjos '2011
.342
15.8
2.8
4.1

I know this is Greek to many of you (bear with me!), so to give you an idea of how just good these numbers are, let's look at some rankings:


wOBA
UZR/150
(defense, min. 700 innings played)
Bsr (baserunning)
WAR
Angels team ranking
2nd
2nd
1st
2nd
MLB ranking among CF
11th
1st
8th
6th

On the Angels, Petey trails only Howie Kendrick in wOBA and WAR (who, it should be noted, has been the Angels' most valuable everyday player by a good margin, both in offense and defense).

In the majors, Petey has the best defense of all center fielders with at least 700 innings played using UZR/150. UZR/150 is a little different than UZR, which tries to measure the raw number of runs a fielder saves with his glove. UZR/150 prorates that raw number over the course of 150 games, which helps Bourjos a bit since he missed some time and otherwise would trail Jacoby Ellsbury when you look at only raw UZR.

Regardless, the fact remains -- Bourjos clearly deserves to win a gold glove. (It should also be noted that Brett Gardner has posted a much higher UZR than both him and Ellsbury, however, which means that there will be stiff competition for the award even among the statistically inclined).

Looking at Bourjos's WAR rankings, we can see that Bourjos has been one of the most valuable center fielders in all of baseball, and the 6th-most valuable CF overall. This is saying something. Just look at the All-Star cast of characters he currently trails: MVP-candidate Jacob Ellsbury (6.8 WAR), Matt Kemp (6.4 WAR), another MVP-candidate in Curtis Granderson (6.2), another (less-heralded) MVP-candidate in Shane Victorino (6.0), and then another soon-to-be MVP-candidate in Andrew McCutchen (5.6). Then there's Petey at 4.1. That's it.

That's elite company Bourjos is keeping, and I don't think he even realizes it.

Much of this is driven by his defense, and anyone whose seen Bourjos play knows his defense is simply spectacular. But my favorite part of the story right now is his hitting. He's already  become the second best hitter on the Angels, according to weighted on-base average (wOBA), which combines the standard AVG/OBP/SLG slash line into one weighted statistic. It is amazing in that he has shown so much progress since his slow start last year and earlier this year. But, to be honest, it's also a little disheartening because part of it is that the other Angels have done so little at the plate this year (Kendrick is 1st with a .358 wOBA, then Petey, followed by Branyan (.338), Hunter (.328), and Trumbo (.327)). At the least, It certainly reinforces how valuable Petey's two-way skills are to this team.

But Bourjesus's bat isn't just good by Angels' standards. If you look at another statistic that I'm about to introduce, you can see that he has been a clearly above-average bat not just for an Angel, not just for a center fielder, but by any measure. That stat is wRC+. wRC+ is like wOBA but with one difference -- it regresses the numbers according to the league average that year on a scale of 100. So if you have a wRC+ of 100, you are a league average hitter that year. If it is above 100, you are better than average, and below 100 is below average. This makes it really easy to see how a player is doing compared to league average for all hitters. Bourjos's wRC+ this year is a very solid 116.

But it wasn't always like this.

Petey started off the fear pretty well, but had an awful month of May. So bad that by by June 1st, Petey overall was hitting a lousy AVG/OBP/SLG of .236/.292/.382, with an OPS of .674. Today, he's hitting .280/.331.448 with an OPS of .779. So what happened?

The first thing that comes to mind when someone tanks like this is that OBP -- they're not seeing enough pitches. They need to be more patient and take more walks, you would think. Interestingly enough, this doesn't explain what went wrong with Bourjos.


BB%
K%
wOBA
March/April
4.9%
27.5%
.349
May
7.9%
27.2%
.252
June
2.7%
18.9%
.347
July
5.8%
25.0%
.352
August 1-27
5.3%
16.0%
.435

Petey is a bit of an anomaly here. His best BB% was in May, which also coincides with his worst hitting month. Maybe he was seeing too many pitches?

Instead, his best hitting month has been August by a long shot, but that has only been his third best BB% this year. It has also been his lowest K%, which might explain some of it (though as you can see, striking out a lot hasn't exactly prevented Petey from hitting well in other months).

Let's look at his batted ball profile.



BABIP (batting average on balls in play)
LD% (line-drive %)
GB/FB (groundball/flyball ratio)
March/April
.415
22%
1.09
May
.243
9.2%
0.74
June
.411
15.4%
2.38
July
.364
25.0%
1.67
August 1-27
.358
13.2%
1.19


It's kind of all over the place. Clearly in May Petey was done in by his low BABIP. Bad luck perhaps, but at least some of this was his fault -- he wasn't hitting the ball all that hard (low LD%) and he was hitting more weak fly balls (GB/FB of 0.74).

Interestingly enough, his great August didn't see much of a spike in either ground balls or line drives. His LD% and GB/FB are both significantly lower than previous highs. So why is his wOBA so high for August?

Well, you have to remember that wOBA also takes into account power. Let's look at the numbers, introducing another stat, Isolated Power (ISO). So what is ISO? It's very simple, you just take SLG and subtract AVG, to get rid of all the noise that slap hitting singles might create:



Doubles
Triples
Home runs
ISO (Isolated Power, or SLG-AVG)
March/April
5
4
2
.202
May
3
2
1
.098
June
5
0
0
.071
July
4
1
0
.130
August 1-27
5
2
6
.307


Now that's an ISO! A .300 ISO is Joey Bautista territory. While other months Petey has had more success on the base paths, on balls in play, and in walks, this month it's all about power.

Sure, a .300 ISO is not something that Bourjos is likely to sustain, but there's not reason he can't be in the .150-.200 range like he was in the minors. He hit for a solid .135 ISO last year after all, as well as .186 ISO in AAA and .142 ISO in AA.  Given that, it would only make sense that Petey would lash out for a .300 ISO every so often after posting a few months in the .100 range.

So, what are the lessons to take from all of this? That, simply, there are many factors driving The Awesomeness of Peter Bourjos.
Love to hear what you think!

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