16 July 2004

Bobby Abreu

I would love to make a case for Bobby Abreu as the most underrated player in major league baseball.  Surely you hear the talking heads squawk about Garret Anderson- a player that not only didn't entirely deserve such praise, has become so "underrated" that he's now overrated- every Tom, Dick and Tim McCarver with a limited grasp of baseball and a penchant for watching Baseball Tonight seems to rattle his name off in such a question.  As such, let's make the comparison here first.  Let's compare, to start, the player's respective two best seasons.

Abreu (1999, 2002)
1999  .335AVG  .446OBP  .549SLG  .995OPS  20HR  93RBI  27SB  352B  113B  152GP  149OPS+
2002 .308AVG  .413OBP  .521SLG  .934OPS  20HR  85RBI  31SB   502B  063B  157GP  155OPS+
Now, Garret Anderson.

Anderson (2002, 2003)
2002  .306AVG  .332OBP  .539SLG  .871OPS  29HR  123RBI  6SB  562B  33B  158GP  130OPS+
2003  .315AVG  .345OBP  .541SLG  .885OPS  29HR  116RBI  6SB  492B  43B  159GP  137OPS+

Bobby Abreu is clearly better player- he contributes on the basepaths (lots of SB, known as a fast, smart runner), hits for comparable power (not as good as Garret in HRs, but their SLG numbers are close.  GA has a .479 career SLG with a .549 season high, while BA has a .513 career, .553 season high) and most importantly, gets on base at an exponentially higher rate.

Abreu kills the Mets...

This, of course, chiefly explains why Abreu's career OPS+ numbers are so significantly better than Anderson's.  Anderson, for instance, has a career OBP of .328 and a season high of .345, in 2003.  The season in which he came to the attention of many, 2000, Anderson hit 35 HRs and had 117 RBI.  In that same year, Garret chewed up more outs than Cagney chewed scenery- a .307 OBP, which is utterly appalling.  Abreu, on the other hand, has a career OBP of .409, with a season high of .446 in 1999.  His worst full-time OBP numbers came in 2001, when this sad sack only got on base at a .393 clip.  What an embarassment.  Note sarcasm.
Lest this become an anti-Anderson post more than a pro-Abreu one, let's look at Abreu's ranking in his career for MVP balloting.


That's right, Bobby Abreu, every bit the 5 tool player that Vladimir Guerrero and Carlos Beltran are, has never so much as cracked the top 10 in MVP voting.  All that despite the fact that since 1998 when he first got his full time assignment with the Phillies,  Abreu has been ~45% better than the average NL hitter.
OK, so over the last 6 seasons, Abreu just hasn't been one of the top ten players in the league, a league stocked with Bonds, Pujols, Bagwell, Helton, Sosa, Jones, Edmonds, Thome, Berkman.  Let's assume for a moment that's true- though I'm not sure that it is- surely then, Abreu should be featured on a few All Star Games in that 6 years span.
Until 2004- none.  Not one.  Not a reserve, not a start, not a sympathy injury fill in.  NOTHING.  Let's look at who's started over him these last six years (starters in italics).
1998Tony Gwynn, Barry Bonds, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Dante Bichette, Gary Sheffield, Greg Vaughn, Devon White
1999: Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, Tony Gwynn, Jeromy Burnitz, Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Sheffield, Brian Jordan, Luis Gonzalez
2000: Jim Edmonds, Sammy Sosa, Vladimir Guerrero, Barry Bonds, Steve Finley, Brian Giles, Ken Griffey Jr, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield
2001Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Luis Gonzalez, Moises Alou, Lance Berkman, Brian Giles, Vladimir Guerrero, Cliff Floyd
2002Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Vladimir Guerrero, Lance Berkman, Shawn Green, Luis Gonzalez, Adam Dunn, Andruw Jones
2003: Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Gary Sheffield, Andruw Jones, Preston Wilson, Jim Edmonds, Luis Gonzalez, Rondell White, Geoff Jenkins

Notice I've put a number of names in bold.  Those are the names of players Abreu beat out in OPS+ in that particular season's end.  This DOES over simplify a bit- OPS+ isn't an end-all be-all tool of comparison, and year-end numbers are not the same as mid-season numbers.  What it DOES tell us though, is that Bobby Abreu very likely never should have made it to 2004 before his first All Star Game, and certainly shouldn't have had to wait until the 30th Man Voting before it happened, either.
As I type this- 9:20 Friday July 16th- Bobby Abreu has just hit a 2 run HR off the Mets' Jae Seo.
I don't mean to say that Abreu should be starting All Star Games and winning MVPs.  Unfortunately for Bobby, there are usually 3 OF in the NL that get by on being either better or more popular in a given year, and Bobby Abreu has very probably never been the best player in the NL, not a league in which Barry Bonds plays.
But to not list this guy among the game's stars is what I would term underrated.  Bobby Abreu is THE best "Five Tool Player" in major league baseball- the greatest personification of the adage playing now.  Average, power, speed, defense, throwing arm- no one has all five as potently as Abreu.
And kudos to Chuck LaMar for drafting him in the Expansion Draft in 1997.  Good pick Chuck.  Wait- you mean he's on the Phillies?!  How'd that happen?!
November 18, 1997: Traded by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the Philadelphia Phillies for Kevin Stocker.

Thing is, it's tough to quantify. Many would call Brian Giles more underrated, and I'd have a tough time arguing. I just think Abreu hasn't gotten the first slice of the chunk of credit he deserves.

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