Michael Bourn was signed to a 4-year, $48 million deal before the 2013 season began because he was one of the best defensive center fielders and one of the best base runners in baseball. Injuries (mostly involving his hamstrings) have cost him a lot of playing time, hurt his defense, and put a massive dent in his base stealing.
Lost in all that is that when he's played this season, he's put up pretty solid numbers at the plate. Not great numbers, but above average, and as strong as they've ever been, when you account for the run-scoring environment. (His current wRC+ of 105 would be a career high.) He's no longer being a plus defender, and he's on pace to steal only 10 bases, which mean he's not going to end the year as even a league average player, and his bat is going to be his strongest contribution this season, which is pretty bizzarre.
Oddly enough, while leg injuries seem to have robbed him of the speed that made him such a potent player in 2011 and 2012, and he's missed 53 games this season, after hitting two triples in last night's game in Chicago (more on that in a minute) Bourn now leads the American League with 9 three-baggers, and could be come the first Indian to lead the league since Kenny Lofton in 1995.
Indians who have led the league in triples:
- Elmer Flick in 1905 (18), 1906 (22), and 1907 (18)
- Joe Jackson in 1912 (26, which remains the franchise record)
- Joe Vismik in 1935 (20)
- Earl Averill in 1936* (15)
- Jeff Heath in 1938 (18) and 1941 (20)
- Hank Edwards in 1946 (16)
- Dale Mitchell in 1949 (23)
- Bobby Avila in 1952 (11)
- Brett Butler in 1986 (14)
- Kenny Lofton in 1995 (13)
*tied for league lead
As with most things, the Indians had more than their share of league leaders through the mid 1950s, and have had less than their share since then, with only two players leading the AL in triples in the last 62 years.
As I already mentioned, Bourn tripled twice in last night's game. Baseball-Reference has complete box scores back to 1914. In the 101 seasons that covers, Bourn is one of 54 players to triple twice in a game for the Indians. Earl Averill did it 7 times, Kenny Lofton 4, and Lou Boudreu, Ray Chapman, Charlie Jamieson, Ken Keltner, Ed Morgan, Tris Speaker, and Omar Vizquel each did it 3 times. Bourn is one of ten players with 2 such games for the Tribe. Lofton, Vizquel, and Bourn are the only Indians to do it two different times in the last 50 years.
Among the players who have tripled twice in a game for the Indians: Jim Hegan (a catcher who stole only 15 bases in his 17-year career), Leon Wagner (yo!), Duane Kuiper (which means he triples twice in a game as often as he homered once), Richie Sexson (who had only 17 triples in his entire career), and Jim Thome (who had only 1 other triple in 136 other games that season)
Since returning from the DL a couple weeks ago, Bourn is batting .310/.408/.452 in 50 plate appearances. That's a very small sample, but if he can keep producing like that at the top of the order, it could make the difference in winning a game or two, and one or two games could make a big, big difference in the standings. Let's hope Bourn continues to triple his fun.