Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Appreciating Bobby Abreu

Inspired by this post, I have a few things to say about Bobby Abreu.

In Italy there are many museums. One day in the museum a visitor strolled along the halls, inspecting the old art. When he was leaving, the curator asked him what he thought of the paintings.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't like them at all," the man answered.

"Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that, sir," the curator replied.


"You don't understand. The painting are no longer being judged. The viewers are."

And so it is with Bob Kelly Abreu.

Time after time, I hear on the radio, read in the paper, see on tv, the same tired refrain. He can't hit in the clutch. He doesn't hustle on defense. He doesn't understand the game. He's too selfish a player. And on and on and on. The reason I draw the above analogy is because Bobby's game speaks so eloquently for itself. In every measurable way, he's one of the best outfielders in the game today.

Lifetime numbers:

OBP: .413
SLG: .511
OPS: .924
GPA: .313

Take a look at HOF right fielders. There are only two names with a higher lifetime OBP than Abreu. One is Mel Ott. There are only 6 with a higher SLG. There are only 3 players with a higher lifetime GPA.

I will grant that we are living in an era of high offense (although there have been other high offense eras, as well), but that is pretty impressive.

But what about being judged against his contemporaries?

In 2005, Bobby was 4th in VORP among all right fielders in baseball. In 2004, 2nd. In 2003, 5th. In 2002, 2nd. Are you noticing a trend?

Mike Berquist wrote "consistency, thy name is Bobby Abreu." And he didn't mean consistently bad. He discusses Bobby's win shares production, which is at an elite level year after year.

In this article, mention is made to how many win shares are required to get into the HOF. Specifically, Bill James said that 300+ WS means a likely HOF-er, while 400+ means a certain one. Bobby's career WS is 244, and showing no signs of slowing down. Over the next 3 or 4 years, it's likely, almost certain, he'll pass the 300 WS mark. Incidentally, Bobby is the youngest player with at least 244 WS, and there are only 18 active players with more.

Do I need to go on? Let's examine some likely marks Abreu will make before he retires. According to Bill James' favorite toy, Abreu has a 50% chance of ending up with 2,300+ hits, 400+ steals, 320+ HRs, 1,300+ RBI, and 1,400+ Runs. All of those numbers hold up quite well against the HOF standards.

I am not quite trying to make a case for Abreu to be in the HOF, but I think beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will have a very powerful case when his name comes up.

Now let's discuss his lack of "clutchiness." Again in no measurable way is this provable. Inspect Bobby's inning per inning performance, and given the predictable fluctuations every ballplayer might have, he is a winner. His 9th inning GPA is .305, which I think I'd take any day.

In the current year, he's one of the clutchiest hitters in baseball, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Regarding defense, whether he deserved it or not, he did win a gold glove last year. While I don't think he's a great defensive outfielder, he's not an embarrassment, and his strong arm does indeed limit opponent's baserunning. It's not as if anyone in the majors is playing in right field because of their defense, anyway.

I've said before that a team of Bobby Abreu's would probably score over 1,000 runs during the course of a season, and be derided for not scoring 1,200. Bobby Abreu is not hard to appreciate. What is hard is to understand why he's not appreciated more.


At 7:16 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Amazing post man, but you use too many facts. And I didn't see 'heart' or 'desire' in there, that won't appeal to many Philly fans. They'd rather see 8 Aaron Rowands than 8 Bobby Abreus, which is not a putdown of Rowand(I like the guy) but a putdown of many fans' inability to see offensive production.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger Oisín/Wizlah said...

Nice piece PK, but he'll never get the respect he deserves in this town until he wins something with the team. At which point, he'll suddenly be described in the same terms as manny. Formidable. Machine. etc.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Tom Goodman said...

Superb post, PK. Apart from his defense, the player he reminds me of without having looked at the numbers is Don Mattingly, another terrific and consistent player (who was also a great fielder) and who never got the respect of the fans outside NY and certainly hasn't gotten respect from the HOF.

At 6:00 PM, Blogger John Salmon said...

Nice analysis. Every Philadelphia team that "fails", as the Phillies seem likely to do again this year (the current series with the Mets will have a lot to say about where they're headed) needs somebody for the fans to beat up on. It's a shame Bobby's the guy. Que lastima, Bobby!

Interesting that the fans have taken to Rowand's take no prisoners style, as he is likely to get hurt again before long. Some people don't understand that it's a 162 game marathon. Maybe they should prefer the guy who's more apt to be available in September, if the team's still in the hunt.


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