How does one man go from untradeable to a forgotten player on the bench to prime trade bait back and then back to a critical starter at a premium defensive position all in one calendar year? Let's take a look at the year that was and the year that will be for Peter Bourjos to find out.
2012 Stats: 195 PA, .220 AVG, .291 OBP, .315 SLG, 27 R, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 3 SB, 1 CS, 44 K, .272 wOBA, 73 OPS+, 1.9 fWAR
2013 ZiPS Projections: 471 PA, .248 AVG, .302 OBP, .396 SLG, 63 R, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 18 SB, 6 CS, 102 K, .302 wOBA, 2.8 fWAR
2013 Bill James Projections: 613 PA, .262 AVG, .316 OBP, .411 SLG, 88 R, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 24 SB, 9 CS, 124 K, .315 wOBA
2013 CAIRO Projections: 453 PA, .255 AVG, .308 OBP, .401 SLG, 58 R, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 16 SB, 6 CS, 95 K, .309 wOBA
2013 MWAH Projections*: 530 PA, .253 AVG, .308 OBP, .394 SLG, 58 R, 11 HR, 52 RBI, 31 SB,9 CS, 114 K, .313 wOBA
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA calculation is approximate)
2012 in Objective Review:
After spending the entire off-season hearing about how he was a hot commodity on the trade market, but one that Jerry Dipoto refused to part with, Peter Bourjos rewarded his new GM's loyalty by promptly posting a .481 OPS in the first month of the season. Even with as bad as many other Angels were that month, Peter stood out as the worst and, as such, was quickly transitioned into a part-time role before the emergence of Mike Trout and the torrid bat of Mark Trumbo forced Bourjos into a strict bench role by the end of May. That was pretty much all she wrote for Bourjos' season aside from some defensive replacement and pinch-running cameos. He couldn't even work his way into a platoon with Mark Trumbo when the latter went into a tailspin. That role went to Vernon Wells, so that should tell you where Bourjos stood in Mike Scioscia's mind at that point. It should be noted though that Peter's second half relegation was attributed to hip and wrist problems.
2012 in Revisionist History:
The perception of Bourjos' 2012 season depends on how much credence you give the injury excuse. The hip problem was well-documented before the season, but it shouldn't have caused him to forget how to hit, especially since he played with the same injury in 2011. It is that wrist injury that is a bit more dubious. There is no doubt that having a wrist injury would greatly hamper his ability to swing a bat, but the injury that supposedly bothered him all season didn't get made public until very late in the season, almost like it was a convenient cover for their valuable trade asset turning in a clunker of a season. The doubters amongst us would point to Peter's erratic approach at the plate as he looked to have contracted a case of what I call Aybar-itis. That would be the disease that many free swingers come down with when they try and change their approach to be more patient so that they can be considered for a top of the order job, only it backfires horribly because it is an unnatural approach and only results in the hitter looking totally lost at the plate, which Peter certainly did prior to his benching. Whatever the excuse, it was evident that Bourjos was a convenient scapegoat for Mike Scioscia who needed to bench somebody to try and change things up after the Angel lineup got off to such a wretched start to the season and Peter just never recovered from it.
Three Lingering Questions for 2013:
1) So, can this kid hit or what?
Well, if I knew that then this wouldn't be a question now would it? My hunch is that he can, kind of. People seem to have forgotten that he put up decent numbers in 2011, I just don't know if that wasn't him hitting his ceiling already. He probably isn't as bad as he was in 2012 though, at least if you are willing to believe in the bad wrist and bad hip being the reason he flopped. The added wrinkle this year is that Petey might have to have a bounceback season all while looking over his shoulder due to fear that he Scioscia will have a quick hook with him once again.
2) Can he earn Scioscia's trust?
You know that quick hook thing I just mentioned? Yeah, that's a real thing. Scioscia only gave Bourjos all of one month last season before functionally benching him. Granted, Peter was horrible that month, but so was almost everybody else on the roster, yet it was Peter who got the shaft. Will he be given the same short leash this season? One would think so, but keep in mind that a major difference between this season and last is that Scioscia was trying to juggle playing time for a lot of players last season whereas this year he doesn't have much of a bench at all.
3) Should he really be playing center field instead of Mike Trout?
Yes, but for reasons that are almost totally unrelated to Bourjos. Trout is a superb center fielder. Bourjos is probably a slightly more superb center fielder. The difference between them defensively is maybe two or three runs over the course of the year. However, there is some opportunity cost here in that Bourjos being in the field means that Trumbo is only in the batter's box and Wells is only on the bench and Trout is hopefully spending less time in the training room due to the fact that he is unaware that solid matter cannot pass through other solid matter (i.e. a human being cannot pass through a padded wall).
Three Irrelevant Questions for 2013:
1) Who is faster: Trout or Bourjos?
There isn't a question out there that matters less in the grand scheme of things but carries the same level of fanboy interest. I like to think that a foot race between Trout and Speedy Petey is only slightly less controversial than the age old debate of who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman (the answer is Batman, by the way). My guess is that in a straight up sprint, Bourjos is faster, but when it comes to game speed, Trout has the edge, which is why Trout is such a stellar base stealer and Bourjos is only kind of "meh." So I guess this boils down to whether or not we are talking about the two racing out of the batter's box and going once around the bases or just a good old fashioned 100 meter dash.
2) Where on the rage scale will The Monkey end up if/when Bourjos gets benched for Vernon Wells?
How high does the rage scale go? Mine goes to eleven and I would probably blow right through to 13 if this comes to pass. In fact, it is my greatest recurring nightmare behind the one where I dive into a swimming pool only to find that it turned into a pit of venomous snakes. It is the primary reason I want the Angels to rid themselves of Wells. Mike Scioscia quit on Bourjos pretty quickly in 2012 but still seemed to show faith in Vernon Wells for some reason, so it leads me to believe Bourjos will be on a short leash this year. The defense will obviously be there, but will the bat? If it isn't, what is the minimum performance threshold Peter must clear to keep Scioscia from reverting to washed up Wells because of his "veteran presence?" Only Scioscia knows the answer to that.
3) Do I still have an unhealthy mancrush on Peter?
Yes, and it will be taken a step further this season once I finish watching the "Ronaiah Tuiasasopo's Catfishing for Dummies" instructional video series.
2013 in Subjective Projection:
My biggest concern about Bourjos isn't his injury issues or the possibility that he can't actually hit that well but rather what his mental state is. Over the course of the last two seasons, he has gone from potential franchise centerpiece to forgotten player all while constantly having his name involved in trade rumors. Now he enters this season still involved in the same trade rumors but with the added burden of having to look over his shoulder since he no longer has any job security. To me, that makes for a perfect situation for Peter to suffer a relapse of Aybar-itis. What Bourjos no longer has to worry about, we hope, is the lineup underperforming to a point that mandates his benching. There is so much talent in the batting order, the Angels can suffer one or two subpar hitters so long as they play good defense and Bourjos will always provide elite defense. In fact, his defense might be even more valuable this season since the rotation has dropped off in talent. The Angels need to prevent runs somehow, so keeping Bourjos in the outfield with Trout is the best way to back up this rotation full of average, inning-eating flyball pitchers, you know, other than getting better pitchers.
One area I suspect we should see some more certain improvement from Bourjos is on the basepaths. Despite his blazing speed, he has never been a great basestealer, but that is something that can be taught. It probably also helps that he has been rehabbing his balky hip as well. Add better health to some instruction from Alfredo Griffin and some emulation of Mike Trout, and Bourjos should be able to become the top-notch base thief we all hoped for him to be.
What I'd ultimately guess is that Speedy Petey once again starts slow, but gradually improves over the course of the season. The threat of Vernon Wells will probably be a benign one as my hunch is that Jerry Dipoto will intervene or issue a preemptive mandate to Scioscia that Wells is not to get regular playing time under any circumstance, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part. Of course, there will be trade rumors too, but that is a given and will continue to be the case probably until the day that Petey is finally no longer wearing an Angel uniform.