Yesterday, Peter Bourjos broke up a double-play with a hard and vicious slide into second-base. It worked but it also left Bourjos with a hurt thumb and he was forced to leave the game.
It’s too bad because Bourjos, despite injuries, is having a career year. In a 144 plate appearances this year, he’s posting a batting line of .331/.386/.457. If Bourjos was to stay healthy, could the Los Angeles Angels on him to maintain this kind of offensive production?
When you delve into the numbers, it’s hard to find anything different from previous years that Bourjos is doing at the plate in 2013. His K-rate is down a notch, but if you look at his plate discipline numbers, there’s no real indication as to why that is. Bourjos is still swinging at almost the same percentage of pitches outside the strike zone as he has his entire career and making contact with those pitches the same amount as well. Similar results ensue when looking at his contact and swing rate on pitches inside the strike zone. Bourjos is also walking less than he did in 2012 but as indicated before, he’s maintaining his career average in contact percentage.
However, one thing that does stick out is what happens when Bourjos makes contact. The first indication that Peter Bourjos is finding more success when he hits the ball is his high BABIP of .389 (Batting Average of Balls in Play) in 2013. According to Fangraphs, typically 30% of all balls that go into play will fall for hits. Some of the aspects that contribute to fluctuations in a player’s BABIP include defense, change in talent level and luck. The average BABIP for hitters usually sits between .290-.310.
Taking that into consideration, it seems Bourjos might be due for a slight regression in his hitting line. However, the regression may not be all that dramatic. Bourjos is also known for his speed and speedy players like Ichiro Suzuki in his prime typically have a high BABIP (.346 career). After all, these types of players tend to not hit for power, and as Fangraphs points out, “line drives go for hits more often than groundballs, and groundballs go for hits more often than flyballs.”
Which leads us to our second indication of what has changed in Peter Bourjos. Looking at Bourjos’ flyball rate, we see that he’s 8% below his career average in hitting flyballs. This is in line with the off-season adjustments Bourjos was quoted as attempting to make in regards to his hitting. From April 26th via MLB.com:
“Staying on top of the baseball is something I’ve continued to work on,” Bourjos said. “I think that’s why you’re seeing more ground balls.”
So far it seems to be the key to his success in 2013. His groundball to flyball rate is up to 2.12 opposed to his career average of 1.41. And as a result his line-drive rate is up a percentage point from his career average as well. If Bourjos stays healthy, we can expect a slight regression in his BABIP and as a result his batting line. But we shouldn’t expect a regression to the dismal numbers posted in his injury-riddled 2012 season but something more in line with his breakout 2011.