Trying hard to like Peter Bourjos

Before I start off on a topic more contentious than immigration reform, race relations, the gender gap, and boxers or briefs all rolled into one, I owe you a disclaimer. I’m not always 100% honest here on the blog. Now, hang on, I’m not lying to my four loyal readers each week…I’m just not always as perfectly open as I could be in the interest of bringing some objectivity to my writing. There, it’s been said. One thing I haven’t been totally open on is Peter Bourjos.

There is a tremendous amount of pressure from the Bourjos lobbying group on Twitter to embrace his awesomeness. Since November 2013, I have been scratching my head. Then the season started. Jon Jay lost the war, he’d be relegated to riding the pine except for the appearance every eight or nine days when Peter needed a day off. I was saddened by this, but I saw a benefit. Now that I can watch this mystery man play, I’ll surely be won over to the good side.

It’s almost July, and I’m not there. I still don’t get it.

I have had lots of people try to talk sense into me. They’ve spoken of the glory days when Bourjos was splendid. I go and try to look up these moments, but stats obviously just don’t do this sort of thing justice. Of course, if he were hitting the baseball, that would show in the stats. But the magic that Peter Bourjos brings to the table (or brought to the table in 2011) isn’t something you can capture on paper, apparently.

I want to like a fast player. I liked Pete Kozma a lot, and he wasn’t even that fast. I appreciate great defense, I really do. For instance, I love watching Yoenis Céspedes. That guy isn’t a human. He’s a cylon. When I watch that guy gun down a runner from the very corner in left I get more excited than a teenage girl watching a stupid vampire movie. So I got my hopes up when my well-meaning friends told me of the legend of this defensive powerhouse. Plus, I hear he’s good-looking. I really wanted to like this guy.

I still don’t get it.

I see a guy who’s fast. But so far, fast is about all he is. Imagine Billy Hamilton early in 2014. That’s what I see when I look at Peter Bourjos: A guy who is real fast at getting back to the dugout after a strikeout. But Billy figured it out. He now hits .270 *and* he’s fast. Peter has a .212 average. When he does manage to get on, he rarely even attempts to swipe a bag. He’s swiped a total of 5 this year — and botched two, including Thursday night’s 2nd out in the 9th. Bad form, Peter.

But let’s get back to when Peter Bourjos was good. I’ve been told that was 2011. He was a .271 hitter that year. That was clearly his best year in the majors where he’s a .246 hitter lifetime. 2011 is also the only year Peter Bourjos has seen a full work load with 502 at-bats. In every other year, he’s averaged less than half of that. So 2011 is really all we have to go on. Unfortunately, that was three long years ago. And if he performed very acceptably that year at the plate, there’s no evidence that the same person currently works for the Cardinals.

While we’re at it, if we’re going to give credit for feats a player accomplished years ago, why not save that sappy feeling for someone who did something for the Cardinals, rather than the Angels? Pete Kozma, anyone? Daniel Descalso?

Peter is a good centerfielder. He gets to the balls he should get to, and throws the ball pretty well. So he’s obviously better than Jon Jay, but what kind of a bar is that? Bourjos’ PR crew is asking Cards fans to be OK with benching a .300 hitter for a .212 one with superior defense, so it better be stunning fielding. If you’re waiting for a  Céspedes moment from Bourjos, just turn off the TV. I’m yet to see him layout and make that amazing web gem catch. Does every centerfielder need to do that? No, but the ones who can’t hit a ball to save their lives better be able to.

At a time when the St. Louis Cardinals offense leaves a whole lot to be desired, I find it troubling that a vocal minority advocates putting a guy in the starting lineup that has to stand on his tippie toes to see over the Mendoza line. Bourjos may have been amazing at some point in the past. I suppose I’d have to watch highlights to actually verify that, but I’ll concede that his offensive numbers do look significantly better back then. That stipulated, he was a bad buy in the 2013-2014 offseason for the Cards.

The Cardinals needed two things in the offseason. A better shortstop (offensively), and a replacement for Carlos Beltran. They essentially punted on the Beltran replacement by putting the now struggling Allen Craig out in right, and they solved shortstop by signing Jhonny Peralta. What in the world Mo was doing messing with centerfield is still beyond me.

One final note on Bourjos: If you just watched a series in Colorado where you thought Peter started to get things together, then you’re easily impressed. What we all just witnessed was a one week period in time where he hit .231. Indeed, that is pretty amazing for Peter Bourjos, but it’s terrible for anyone besides the pitcher. In case you’re wondering, his highest average of any point in 2014 was .230. So yes, I suppose he really is improving. You’ll excuse me if:

I still don’t get it.

  • Ben Chambers June 28, 2014, 3:34 pm

    Wes, You said, “I’m yet to see him layout and make that amazing web gem catch. Does every centerfielder need to do that? No, but the ones who can’t hit a ball to save their lives better be able to.”

    I don’t know if you realize this, but based on UZR/150, Bourjos has been the 5th best outfielder with more than 351 innings in the outfield. I’m not talking about just center field, but all outfielders from all outfield positions, which is a total of 83 players, and Bourjos is the 5th best. What more can you really ask from him?

  • chalupabatman786 June 28, 2014, 5:01 pm

    Pure idiocy. You spend a lot of time examining the offensive differences between Jay and Bourjos, but not one sentence QUANTIFYING the defensive differences between the two. Just lazy.

  • keenemlb June 30, 2014, 8:47 am

    I didn’t expect the Bourjos fans to enjoy this post. Thanks for taking the time to read the post anyway.

  • jonjayfan July 5, 2014, 1:00 pm

    great article. one thing it is missing is that jon jay was in the running for gold glove two years ago. Also,that jay does make those highlight reel catches and he also has been centerfileder on two WS teams. Maybe that is more than one (-: I also think UZR and DWAR has many many flaws in it. I will take true results in the field measured by wins any day and twice on sunday. So in almost every way (even baserunning, jay is just smarter on the bases) Jay wins out over bourjos and bourjos was one of the dumbest moves of the Mo era. Granted he hasn’t had many dumb moves….

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