At Winter Warm Ups this week, the Cardinals' fans got a look at their team, players new and old. One of those new players came over in a deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim earlier this winter: Center Fielder Peter Bourjos. Bourjos is known for his speed - but mostly on defense. In one of his press conferences he was quoted as saying that he wanted to steal 40 bases this year. That, of course, was the headline in the Post-Dispatch when reporting on the Winter Warm Ups. However, Bourjos said more in that presser that I would like to go over. He said that he has the history of doing it in the minors, but knows it will be difficult in the majors. (He goes over that he had a couple of 30+ steal seasons - realistically, in 2009 he stole 32 bases and in 2010 he stole 27 bases in the minors plus 10 more in the majors for a total of 37. He also talked about having a 50 steal season in the minors - which was 2008.) In the majors, thus far, Bourjos has 41 stolen bases in 54 attempts in his career. In the minors he had a 141 to 41 stolen base to caught stealing ratio (SB:CS). His MLB SB% is 75.9% and his MiLB SB% was 77.5%. Using basic laws of math here, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he will need to have somewhere around 52-53 stolen base attempts to get to 40 steals this season.
Let's look further into this. Bourjos also says that it is all going to depend on what he can do with the bat as well. This is true. In the minor leagues, Bourjos got on base 34.5% of the time (a .345 OBP). In the majors, his OBP has been down at .306 for his career. Not so coincidentally, Bourjos had 385 singles in the minors and 182 stolen base attempts and only 174 singles in the majors and only 54 stolen base attempts. He tried to steal 47.3% of the time that he got a single in the minors and 31% of the time that he got a single in the majors. Catchers in the majors are better. By him saying what he did, I believe that Bourjos is going to attempt to steal more often than he has been, but I don't see him trying to steal nearly half of the time he gets on base. I'll round to 35% of the time.
If Bourjos tries to steal 35% of the time he gets a single, he would need to have (52.5 stolen base attempts divided by .35 equals) about 150 singles this season alone. Bourjos must be feeling healthy if this is the case because he's only been a .251 hitter in the major leagues. Due to Bourjos having okay pop in his bat (XBH on 32.5% of his total hits), he would need 222 total hits to have 150 singles this year.
Now, this is nowhere close to an exact science, I realize. However, the only ways I see Bourjos getting close to 40 steals are:
1) He totally saps his power and goes for mostly singles rather than driving the ball. This is not a good option.
2) He learns to take a lot more walks to drive up his on base percentage. This is a great option, but not something that is often learned at the MLB level.
3) He hits like he did at the beginning of 2013 before his wrist injury. This is a great option, but one that cannot be guaranteed - as he hit .333/.392/.457 pre-injury.
4) He takes his stolen base percentage from mid-70s to record paces over 90%. This is a great option, but one that is not likely at all.
In any case, it is great to hear him acknowledge that getting on base is going to be the key to his stolen base performance. If he can steal 40 bases this year, then I believe he'll be earning a lot more plate appearances than I currently have him penciled in for.