Why Justin Bour is walk­ing more than ever this sea­son

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - MLB - By Matthew DeFranks Staff writer mde­franks@sun-sen­tinel .com, Twit­ter @MDe­Franks

MIAMI — Marlins first base­man Justin Bour is walk­ing more — a lot more — this sea­son for Miami. Now it’s just a mat­ter of fig­ur­ing out why.

“Just kind of tak­ing the same ap­proach that I’ve al­ways had,” Bour said. “That’s equated to more walks this year. … It’s noth­ing crazy.”

In­clud­ing the Marlins’ 7-0 loss to the Dodgers on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, Bour had 28 walks in 154 plate ap­pear­ances, putting him on pace to smash his ca­reer­high of 47 walks set last sea­son. He’s walk­ing in 18.2 per­cent of his plate ap­pear­ances, more than dou­ble the league av­er­age of 8.8 per­cent.

Bour’s .377 on-base per­cent­age is the high­est in his ca­reer and ranks in the top 15 of the Na­tional League. But Bour has no ex­pla­na­tion for why the walks are com­ing, whether it be a more cau­tious ap­proach from op­pos­ing pitch­ers or a more pa­tient plan at the plate from Bour.

“You have to go out there with your ap­proach and have a plan ev­ery day,” Bour said. “If that means you walk one day, and you don’t the next day, that’s just the way it goes. It’s not like I’m go­ing to go out there look­ing to walk or look­ing to not walk.”

The walks are still pil­ing up. Bour set a Marlins record by draw­ing at least two walks in five straight games ear­lier this home­s­tand. He has more walks in the past nine games (12) than Derek Di­et­rich (four) and Lewis Brin­son (seven) com­bined have the en­tire sea­son.

Marlins man­ager Don Mattingly has a hy­poth­e­sis: Teams are pitch­ing around Bour more with rookie Brian An­der­son hit­ting be­hind him in the or­der.

“He’s the one truly, truly dan­ger­ous guy that you feel can hit the ball out of the ball­park at any mo­ment,” Mattingly said. “With Andy be­hind him this year, they’re prob­a­bly go­ing to make Andy swing the bat. I think he’s been up to that chal­lenge of driv­ing in runs. So I think you’ll prob­a­bly see it a lit­tle bit less.

An­der­son has been an above-av­er­age ma­jor league hit­ter this sea­son, post­ing a .736 on-base plus slug­ging per­cent­age, but does not mea­sure up to who Bour hit in front of last sea­son.

Early in the sea­son, Mar­cell Ozuna pro­tected Bour. As Ozuna got hot­ter and Mattingly shuf­fled the lineup, J.T. Real­muto and Martin Prado took turns be­hind Bour. And by the time pitch­ers got to Bour, they’d al­ready run the gaunt­let through Dee Gor­don, Gian­carlo Stan­ton, Chris­tian Yelich and Ozuna.

“His ad­van­tage last year was you get through Ozuna, you get through Yelich, you get through Stan­ton, take a breath and there’s J.B.,” Mattingly said. “Now, it’s a lit­tle more em­pha­sis on J.B.”

The un­der­ly­ing num­bers also point to a dif­fer­ent ap­proach for Bour.

He’s swing­ing at fewer first pitches than ever be­fore (13.3 per­cent this year, 20.3 per­cent last year). He’s see­ing more pitches per plate ap­pear­ance than ever be­fore (4.29 this year, 4.13 last year). Ac­cord­ing to FanGraphs, he’s swing­ing at fewer balls out­side the strike zone than ever be­fore (23.2 per­cent this year, 32.4 per­cent last year).

“J.B. is a guy that is not re­ally a strike­out guy,” Mattingly said. “He’s usu­ally a guy that puts the ball in play. If he has the right ap­proach and the right think­ing process, he should get his walks.”

While Bour’s walks have con­trib­uted to his of­fen­sive pro­duc­tion, there’s still room for big­ger num­bers with his bat. His bat­ting av­er­age is a ca­reer-low .238 and his bat­ting av­er­age on balls in play (.244) is well be­low the league av­er­age that hov­ers around .300. Marlins catcher

did not start on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, snap­ping a string of six straight starts. Since re­turn­ing from a low back bruise on April 17, Real­muto started 23 of 26 games be­hind the plate.

started in his place. Mattingly said Real­muto will still get his

Real­muto Bryan Ho­la­day J.T.

days off de­spite the temp­ta­tion to keep one of the Marlins’ best hit­ters in the lineup ev­ery day.

“He’s go­ing to have to have his days,” Mattingly said. “I don’t think you see catch­ers catch 145-150 games.”

Real­muto pinch-hit in the ninth in­ning.

AARON DOSTER/AP

The Marlins Justin Bour is walk­ing in 18.2 per­cent of his plate ap­pear­ances, more than dou­ble the league av­er­age of 8.8 per­cent.

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