These report card grades we’ve been giving out are not meted on an absolute scale. If that were the case, the best players would get A’s and a player like Peter Bourjos, who just hit 21% worse than league average as a right fielder, would earn a failing grade. But like all baseball evaluation, these grades are given on a relative scale, based on expectation.
If you’ve followed Peter Bourjos for much of his career, you essentially knew what was coming. Last offseason Bloglordess Corinne Landrey wrote a post about the Phillies outfield options for the upcoming season. In this post, she talked about Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, and even trading for Marcell Ozuna. However, shortly after the post went live, the Phillies claimed Bourjos from the Cardinals and Corinne added an update blurb about him. This is what it said:
UPDATE: The Phillies announced that they’ve claimed outfield defensive guru, Peter Bourjos, on waivers about two hours after I posted this. Bourjos is entering his final year of arbitration and adds very little on offense.
Bourjos was one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball for the first several years of his career. He’s always been very fast with great range but limited arm strength. That’s not to say he’s Juan Pierre out there, but perhaps he would have been better off spending time in left field than right. According to both DRS (+1) and UZR (+1.1), he was a slightly above average right fielder, but for a guy with a reputation as a “defensive guru,” that’s faint praise.
As for the bat, well, let’s just say Corinne was spot on with her analysis there. Outside of a June in which he posted a 190 wRC+ in 23 games, he was absolutely dreadful at the plate in 2016. Bourjos stepped to the plate 383 times and posted a .291 wOBA with an on-base percentage below .300 on the season. Bourjos is a good baserunner, but with so few chances to showcase it, his prowess on the basepaths was wasted. He had just 6 stolen bases against 4 times getting caught.
Bourjos wasn’t always a black hole at the plate. Through the first three years of his career Bourjos posted a 97 OPS+ and 7.1 fWAR over almost two full seasons of playing time. Since, his OPS+ has dropped to 83 over 414 games, and he’s posted just 2.5 fWAR. This year? He posted an 82 OPS+, right in line with his previous three seasons.
The most succinct way I can sum up Bourjos’ year is as follows. He was a bad hitter after a career of bad hitting. His fielding went downhill as he approaches his 30th birthday. He continued to be a below-average player after being a below-average player for several years now. If you had realistic expectations for Bourjos entering the year, as Corinne did, I don’t think you can really fail Boujos despite his bad year. He gave us exactly what was advertised.