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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Bourn Trade 

This is a late post, but a late post is better than a never post ... Last night's 6-4 loss to the Diamondbacks evens the series at 1-1 and saw Randy "Big Unit" Johnson post his 286th career victory, good enough to tie former Phillies great Robin Roberts at 27th all-time. Good work, Randy Johnson. It is unfortunate that Adam Eaton notched his first loss of the season after beginning the year quite well.

Tonight: Micah Owings (4-1, 4.41 ERA) vs. Kyle Kendrick (2-2, 5.01 ERA). Good luck, Kyle.

Prediction: Diamondbacks 8, Phillies 2. Kendrick is done is three innings or less.

Today's topic will be a brief evaluation of the Michael Bourn - Brad Lidge trade between the Phillies and Astros from this off-season and how the trade looks from one month plus into the 2008 season. A little recap: back on November 7 of last year the Phillies and Astros struck up a deal wherein the Phillies shipped Michael Bourn, their fourth outfielder in 2007, to the Astros along with prospect Mike Costanzo and middle reliever Geoff Geary in exchange for Closer Brad Lidge and Infielder Eric Bruntlett. The Phillies, jammed with Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino and Pat Burrell in the outfield, had no room for the speedy Bourn, who had wowed Phillies fans with 18 steals in 19 attempts in 2007. What they needed as a closer to get Brett Myers back into the rotation, thus improving the Phillies pitching staff in a two-for-the-price-one deal.

Reaction was generally mixed. Click here for a piece by Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver blasting the Phillies for making the deal.

Well, I thought I might take a few moments to discuss how the deal is shaping up at the moment.
What the Astros Got:

Michael Bourn: currently the Astros starting centerfielder. So far this season he's wowed observers with 13 steals in 13 attempts. That means he's stolen 31 bases in 32 attempts the last two seasons combined. At his current pace of base-stealing, Bourn will steal 70-75 bases this season, a pretty nice total. Additionally, Bourn is one of the best defensive centerfielders in the National League. According to Relative Zone Rating (RZR), Bourn is the third-best in the N.L. with an RZR of .965. Bourn is also leading the N.L. in assists with three.

Before you get too impressed by Bourn's stats, let me just print a number that tells you all that you need to know about Bourn's abilities as a lead-off hitter:


That's not Bourn's Batting Average. That's Bourn's On-Base Percentage. .275 ... At the moment Bourn is hitting .194, an absurdly low total with brings down his respectable .100 walks per plate appearance. I think Bourn's problem is that he strikes out waaaay too much: 28 times in 120 plate appearances. This might be a fluke: Bourn's Batting Average on Balls Put Into Play (BA/BIP) is just .234, nearly one hundred points lower than what he did last season with the Phillies: .330. He's going to have to hit better to be a more viable threat to steal bases and score runs. Despite those 13 steals, Bourn's scored just 14 runs, a pretty small total in my opinion. It is too soon to liken Bourn to Vince Coleman, the speedy outfielder who was the 1985 Rookie of the Year with the St. Louis Cardinals when he stole 110 bases but posted an anemic .320 OBP. Coleman was a fast player (he led the National League in stolen bases six consecutive seasons from 1985 to 1990), but he was hampered by his inability to get on base. His career OBP was just .324. Bourn is shaping up to be a speed demon who doesn't get on base enough.

Geoff Geary: Geary is having a solid season with the Astros, having tossed 14 innings with a 0-1 record and an ERA of 1.93. Geary's numbers are interesting because he's struck 15 batters out and walked eight, both are high numbers. Can a relief pitcher continue to keep giving batters free passes and then blow fastballs past them? I am skeptical, but at the moment Geary is the biggest part of the Lidge deal to actually be contributing to the Astros.

Mike Costanzo: this part of the deal is a little tough to evaluate because Costanzo was shipped back east to Baltimore as part of the Miguel Tejada deal. We'll start with Costanzo, who is currently playing with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides in the International League, and has struggled a little this season, with three home runs and nine RBI. His OPS is just .696. This is a big drop-off from the 27 home runs and 86 RBI he had in Double-A Reading last season. Costanzo's future potential is considerable, however, so don't be surprised to see him produce for the Orioles in 2008 and beyond.

Tejada, if you want to include him in the deal, has hit five home runs and 25 RBI and is powering the Astros offense. Costanzo's addition, which helped to bring Tejada's, might be the biggest part of the deal for the Astros, though Geary's impact clearly seems to be the most significant.

What the Phillies Got:

Brad Lidge: has been quite good as the Phillies closer since he returned from his pre-season knee injury. Lidge is currently 1-0 with an ERA of 0.00 and seven saves in seven tries. Naturally, Lidge's performance isn't sustainable, but he's gotten quite a few strikeouts (13 in 15 innings of work, or 7.8 K/9) although his walk rate (6 walks, or 3.6 BB/9) is very high as well. Lidge should save 35-40 games for the Phillies and give the team the reliable closer it needs to make a push on the N.L. East.

Eric Bruntlett: since Jimmy Rollins went down, Bruntlett has filled in as the Phillies starting shortstop and has done a decent job. Sort of a throw-in piece to the deal to give it some balance, Bruntlett has been pressed into service as the Phillies starting shortstop with 2007 N.L. MVP Jimmy Rollins on the D.L. Bruntlett's performance initially was bad (four errors in the field, an On Base Percentage of just .296), but he's improved of late. In games 1 & 2 of this series with the D-Backs, Bruntlett has two runs score, six RBI and a double, a triple and a home run on four-for-ten hitting.

Analysis: Time will tell how Bourn, et al. for Lidge, et al. impact the Phillies and Astros. Will Lidge be in a Phillies uniform in 2009? Will Bourn turn around, post a .300+ batting average and get on base enough to steal 100 or more bases? Will Geary struggle? Will Bruntlett turn into an effective middle-infielder? Will Costanzo get to Camden Yards, go on a tear and ultimately make the Orioles the real winners of this deal? Time shall tell.

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I hadf my doubts at first about trading Bourn. But the Phils desperately needed a closer and to get Myers back into the rotation.

So far, all you can say about Lidge is; "flat-out nasty" or shock and awe! So far, this acquisition has been huge! Hopefully, Lidge stays nasty.
sweet post.

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