Bourn proving a perfect fit for surging Braves

Bourn proving a perfect fit for surging Braves

Bourn proving a perfect fit for surging Braves
ATLANTA -- Shortly after learning his childhood friend had been traded by the Astros to the Braves on July 31, Carl Crawford sent Michael Bourn a text message that read, "It's always fun to be in a pennant race."

Before signing his mega-contract with the Red Sox in December, Crawford spent each of his previous nine seasons with the Rays. Prior to helping them reach the World Series in 2008 and the postseason last year, the veteran outfielder experienced six consecutive 90-loss seasons, including two 100-loss campaigns.

"I just couldn't have done that," Bourn said. "You're coming in every year knowing you are going to lose 100 games. That's just not fun."

Bourn was seemingly on his way to experience the first 100-loss season of his career, as he spent the first four months of this season with the Astros. But the speedy outfielder's path was significantly altered on the morning of July 31, when he awoke in a Milwaukee hotel and learned the Braves had acquired him in exchange for four prospects.

A Houston native, Bourn recognized how special it had been to spend 3 1/2 seasons with his hometown Major League team. But it certainly was not devastating for him to introduce himself to a pennant race for the first time since 2007 with the Phillies.

"I'm happy with the situation," Bourn said. "I loved it in Houston. It was fun while it lasted. I wish them the best -- unless we're playing against them. I like to learn from the past, but I like to move forward."

Four weeks after putting Bourn in their lineup for the first time, the Braves seem to be moving in the right direction. They have won 16 of the 24 games played since he arrived to become the legitimate everyday leadoff hitter they had lacked since Rafael Furcal left town in 2005.

While Bourn has not necessarily produced eye-popping numbers since joining the Braves, he has certainly served as an upgrade for a team that had rolled the dice while putting Jordan Schafer and Nate McLouth at the top of its lineup during different stretches this year.

Through his first 24 games with Atlanta, Bourn has batted .297 with a .342 on-base percentage, a .356 slugging percentage and eight stolen bases in 13 attempts.

Before Bourn's arrival, Braves leadoff hitters combined to bat .258 with a .309 on-base percentage, a .370 slugging percentage and 17 stolen bases in 27 attempts.

"Man, what a pickup for us," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "He brings so much to the table."

While proving unsuccessful in five of his first 13 stolen-base attempts, Bourn has not been as reliable as he had been while proving successful with 39 of the 46 attempts made with the Astros this year. He was actually successful with 82.5 percent of the 236 stolen-base attempts he made for the Astros dating back to the start of the 2008 season.

Still, Bourn has provided the Braves a component they had not had during any of the five previous seasons. The highest stolen-base total posted by a Brave since the start of 2006 was 17 -- produced by Willie Harris in 2007 and Edgar Renteria in '06.

In the process of recording 13 stolen-base attempts in his first 24 games with the Braves, Bourn has moved three steals away from recording 50 for a third consecutive season.

Since 1900, the Braves have had a total of two players with 50 stolen bases in a season. They were Otis Nixon (72 in 1991) and Hap Myers (57 in 1913).

With Bourn likely around at least until the end of the 2012 season, when he is eligible for free agency for the first time, the Braves could certainly benefit from looking a little different than they have in the past.

"Mike has changed this team tremendously," Braves starting pitcher Brandon Beachy said. "He gets on base all the time, and he's always creating havoc on the bases. Other guys have to worry about him. It creates opportunities for the guys sitting at the plate."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.