The Race Between Furcal and Bourn

“We haven’t had a true lead off man since 2005”. Those words were spoken by Braves GM Frank Wren right after the trade for Bourn was complete. Naturally Braves fans felt excited about the trade as it was clearly pointed out that we had filled a hole that had been missing for almost 6 years.

Rafael Furcal while playing for the Braves

While were on the topic of Furcal and Bourn I think that many of you would interested in comparing the two players. Yes they are both “true” lead off hitters but there are certainly some crucial differences between the two players. The differences between the two could alter the way they would help the Braves win ball games.

Now we have to keep in mind that we are comparing the Michael Bourn of today to the Rafael Furcal of 2004-2005 time period. This is the best place to go for comparisons because they would both be roughly 28 years old. That way we can’t argue that age is a factor and they both played for the same team in the same ballpark.

SPEED: Both players are extremely fast. There’s no arguing that. However do both players use their speed in the same capacity? Not exactly. Up to this point in his career Michael Bourn has a season high of 61 steals. Rafael Furcal in his best base stealing year only had 46 steals. That’s a 15 steal difference which is pretty significant. The speed advantage goes to Michael Bourn.

POWER: Power? Yes I’m talking about lead off men and power in the same conversation. It’s something that I found to be an interesting comparison. Michael Bourn has never hit more then 5 Home Runs in a season and usually hits several less then that. Rafael Furcal during his stint with Atlanta hit double digit home runs for 4 straight seasons, topping out at 15 Home Runs twice. Timely home runs from your lead off man is nothing to over look. So the power advantage goes to Rafael Furcal.

On Base Percentage: A good lead off man gets on base right? Doesn’t matter if he walks or gets a bloop single. His job is to set the table for the 2-3-4 hitters that are coming up behind him. The first two categories saw clear cut winners. This one isn’t so cut and dry as Furcal had a .347OBP through his first 6 seasons. Bourn currently has a .339OBP as he has played several less seasons then Furcal. To me there’s no winner in this category and I’d chalk it up as a draw.

Let’s did just a little bit deeper into the Furcal and Bourn comparison. Here are some other highlights that should be observed when making this judgement call. This is based on the first 6 seasons which puts them at the same age of roughly 28. I see no real “advantage” for either player in terms of “fairness”. Stats are what they are.

The Braves new center fielder

Rafael Furcal: .284 batting average, 292 RBI, 924 hits, 817 games played, 38 triples

Michael Bourn: .272 batting average, 145 RBI, 597 hits, 671 games played, 32 triples

Who’s better. I’ll let you be the judge. If your asking me for my opinion, then I’m going with Rafael Furcal. It’s close and I don’t believe there is a clear cut winner. However Furcal handled the bat better then Bourn and gave the Braves some pop at the top of the order. A guy who can hit 15 home runs in the lead off spot and posses his speed, that’s no joke.


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