The Case Of Cleveland Indians OF Michael Bourn's Missing Legs

By Thom Tsang
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians may have stayed quiet on trade deadline day itself, but with the acquisition of Marc Rzepczynski to take the place of the slumping Vinnie Pestano in the Bullpen Mafia, it’s not as if they were content to stand pat in a surprisingly-tight AL Central race either.

Besides, one of the things that they’d probably most like to get back is not something they can get in a trade, anyway.

And you know, I think Michael Bourn would probably like to have it back, too. I’m talking about his speed, that is — the game-changing element of the veteran center fielder’s game that not only allows him to be one of the league’s best at swiping extra bases, but the same tool that allowed him to post a 23.3 fielding runs above average in a career-best 6.2 fWAR season.

At the rate that he’s going these days, the Indians leadoff man will be lucky to be worth half of those wins above replacement.

Though I guess you could say there’s not a whole lot wrong with his bat since the break as far as his power goes (.817 OPS in 38 PA thanks to a pair of home runs and doubles), he is hitting just .237 in 10 games since then heading into play on Wednesday, and is on pace to post his worst statistical month so far with a .244/.309/349 triple-slash on the final day of July.

Even so, he’s still scored a healthy 12 runs atop the Indians lineup and has driven in a whopping 17 runs (more than half of the 32 he has on the year) in July alone thus far … so what’s wrong?

Mainly, he’s just not really running much anymore.

With just two steals in five attempts in the month, Bourn has continued a concerning trend that has seen both his attempts and effectiveness at base-stealing diminish. At this point last season, he had a total of 28 steals. Two years ago? It was at 39 at the end of July.

In 2013, however, he’s just at 13 swipes in 21 attempts, a poor 61.9 percent success rate that is uncharacteristic of the 30-year old who has stolen at least 40 in each of his last five seasons.

Now, it might not be all that necessary to steal as long as he’s still getting on base and getting the counting numbers, but the drop in speed and effectiveness hints at one thing that should really give the Indians some pause, which is that they might have signed the veteran to a long-term contract at the beginning of his decline.

We already know that guys who run don’t do so forever, but it’s not so much the stolen base totals so much as the ability to get them that serves as an indictment for their futures.

And with three years left on Bourn’s four-year, $48 million contract, the Indians will have to hope that the dramatic drop in stolen bases and defensive range (7.0 UZR/150 in 2013 to 23.4 in 2012) aren’t an ominous sign of things to come.

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