Friday, December 20, 2013

Is Bobby Abreu a Hall-of-Famer?

When the Yankees signed Carlos Beltran, I did an "Is He a Hall-of-Famer?" for him, and decided he was 2 good seasons short of being worthy.  I stand by that judgment.

While going over his credentials, I noticed that, among the players that Baseball Reference included among his "Top 10 Most Similar Players," a factor that takes players of the same or similar position into account, was former Yankee Bobby Abreu.  I thought at the time that Abreu doesn't reach Hall of Fame level.

I've decided I need to look at Abreu's record again, because I've always liked him, even when he was with the Phillies.

Unlike most Hispanic players nicknamed "Bobby," Abreu's real name isn't "Roberto." This was a big point of contention with Roberto Clemente, who was so often called "Bobby" when he was younger, and a lot of his baseball cards list him as "Bob Clemente." It got to the point where he insisted upon being called Roberto, and pretty much the only guy he let call him "Bobby" was, ironically, another Bob, the broadcaster Bob Prince, a.k.a. "the Gunner," one of the few people in Pittsburgh Pirates history who was as beloved as Clemente.

Bob Kelly Abreu was born on March 11, 1974, in Maracay, Venezuela.  He grew up there, and made his major league debut on September 2, 1996, pinch-hitting for Houston Astros starting pitcher Darryl Kile in the top of the 6th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium (the 2nd stadium by the name, 1966-2005).  He flew out to left field.  The Cards won the game, 8-7.

(Abreu had officially made his debut the day before, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, being announced as a pinch-hitter, but when the Pirates made a pitching change, he was called back, without having actually faced a pitch.  Still, his name made it into the box score, and Baseball Reference counts that as his debut.)

Abreu never had a full season with the Astros, getting that September callup in 1996 and playing half a season in the majors in 1997.  Then, using the kind of acumen that has resulted in their winning only 1 Pennant in their 52 seasons of play, the Astros left him unprotected in the expansion draft, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays chose him.  But on the very same day as the draft, the Rays traded him to the Phillies for shortstop Kevin Stocker.  Dumb deal, as Stocker, a .324 hitter and a decent fielder on the Phils' 1993 Pennant-winners, forgot how to hit, and played his last big-league game at age 30.

Abreu gave the Phils 8 solid seasons.  In 2003, when the Phils closed Veterans Stadium, their fans voted him the right fielder on their All-Vet Team.  But they won nothing with him.  On July 30, 2006, they traded him, along with pitcher Cory Lidle, to the Yankees for 4 players who ended up doing nothing for them.

Abreu batted .330 with 7 home runs and 42 RBIs in the last 2 months of the 2006 season, helping the Yankees secure the American League Eastern Division title.  He was very solid the next 2 years also, helping us win the Wild Card in 2007, and while we missed the Playoffs in 2008, it was hardly his fault.

Still, with his contract running out after 2008, the Yankees let him go.  He signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and gave them 2 good seasons before running out of gas.  Early in 2012 the Halos released him, and the nearby Dodgers picked him up.  He did very little for them, and they let his contract run out at the end of the season.

He did not play in the 2013 season, and it looks like his career is over -- although we can't be sure of that, as Yankee general manager Brian Cashman has picked up "overage destroyers" before, and at 40, Abreu will be the same age that Raul Ibanez was when Cashman picked him up, and he's the same age as Ichiro Suzuki.

In terms of career numbers: His lifetime batting average is .292, on-base percentage .396, slugging percentage .477, OPS .873, OPS+ 129, making him 29 percent better at producing runs than the average player was between 1996 and 2012.

He has 2,437 career hits, including 565 doubles, 59 triples, and 287 home runs.  He has 1,349 runs batted in.

Those 565 doubles rank 23rd in baseball history.  Counting only players who have played in the post-World War II, post-integration era, 1947 to the present, he ranks 16th.  Of those who've played entirely in my lifetime, which coincides with the start of divisional lay, 1969 to the present, he's 12th.  Among players who debuted in 1992 or later, only Todd Helton has more.  I know, doubles don't have the psychological oomph (if you don't mind me using a technical term) that home runs do, but they're pretty effective.

Six times, and just missing 2 others, he's batted .300 in a season.  Nine times, he's hit at least 20 home runs, although his peak is just 31.  Eight times, he's had at least 100 RBIs.  He led the National League in triples with 11 in 1999, and in doubles with 50 in 2002.  He's never had 200 hits in a season, but he's had at least 180 3 times.  But he's never come close to a Most Valuable Player award, and has been named to only 2 All-Star Games.

It is true that playing as a lefthanded hitter at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and the original Yankee Stadium in New York has helped him.  But he also played a lot of home games at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia and Angel Stadium in Anaheim, and those aren't exactly hitters' parks, regardless of handedness.  So whatever help he got from The Bank and the House That Steinbrenner Built get canceled out by the Vet and the Big A.

He's been durable: 13 times -- every season from 1998 to 2010 -- he played in at least 151 games, including all 162 games in 2001 and '05.

Does his baserunning help his credentials? Yes, a little: He has 399 stolen bases, and has been caught only 129 times.  He's had 13 seasons of at least 20 steals, 6 of at least 30, and 1 of 40.  Among players with as many or more career steals, only Rickey Henderson, Bobby and Barry Bonds, and, barely, Craig Biggio have more home runs.

How about fielding? That doesn't help him much, although he did win a Gold Glove in 2005.

Among players born in South America, he is the all-time leader in doubles.  He trails only Omar Vizquel and Luis Aparicio in career hits; only Andres Galarraga in RBIs; only Galarraga, Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez in home runs; only Cabrera (and then by just .003) in on-base percentage; only Vizquel (and then only by 4) in runs scored; and only Aparicio and (by just 5) Vizquel in stolen bases.  (Note that all of those players are from Venezuela.  The only other country in South America that has, thus far, produced an MLB player is Colombia.)

He has reached the postseason with the 1997 Astros, the 2006 and '07 Yankees, and the 2009 Angels, just missing with the 2005 Phillies.  In postseason play, he has a .284 batting average, with 1 home run and 9 RBIs.  But he has never played on a Pennant winner (coming closest with the '09 Angels, who lost the AL Championship Series to the Yankees), and doesn't have a World Series ring.

Baseball Reference has a Hall of Fame Monitor, on which a "Likely HOFer" is at 100; Abreu is at 94, meaning he falls a little short.  They also have a Hall of Fame Standards, which is weighted more toward career stats, on which the "Average HOFer" is at 50; Abreu is at 54, which means he gets in.

Their top 10 players on their Similarity Scores are: Our old friend Bernie Williams, Luis Gonzalez, Garret Anderson, Dwight Evans, Dave Parker, Carlos Beltran, our old friend Chili Davis, Steve Finley, our old friend Paul O'Neill, and John Olerud.  None of those players are in the Hall, although Beltran is still active and could make it.  As for the others, I'm genuinely sorry for Bernie and Paulie, but I don't think any of them deserve to make it.

If you believe that character counts, Abreu was involved in many events in the Philadelphia and Delaware Valley communities. In 2001, he was the Honorary Chairman for the American Red Cross Blood Drive.  He bought $10,000 worth of tickets to most Friday night games for children in his "Abreu's Amigos" organization during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. In this program, the children got jerseys, coupons for concessions, and chances to meet Abreu on the field during batting practice.  He was the 2004 recipient of the Phillies Community Service award.  In New York, in 2008, Abreu made a contribution to the Police Athletic League of New York City through his Abreu's Finest charity wine to provide boys and girls with recreational, educational, cultural and social programs.

He has never been involved in a personal scandal, has never been publicly accused of being a bad teammate, and has never been publicly, seriously or otherwise, accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.

My original conclusion stands: While he was a very good hitter for a long time, and a good guy, Bobby Abreu just doesn't make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Assuming he doesn't play again, he will be eligible in the election of January 2018, but don't get your hopes up.


Michael Solimine said...

Great article. I'm betting he comes back, he sure wants to. Check out his Winter ball stats:

Michael Solimine said...
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