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