A Case for Bobby Abreu
Happy hall of fame season! Writers are posting their columns explaining their ballots, statisticians are fighting for their favorite candidates, and old school writers are disagreeing with said analysts.
One new candidate in particular deserves a deeper look than many are giving him right now. That would be former Yankees’ outfield Bobby Abreu. He is on 7.3% of the 151 ballots revealed on Ryan Thibodaux’s Ballot Tracker, putting him on the bubble to fall off. He would not be the biggest snub, but Abreu had an incredibly consistent career based on quality at-bats that deserves more recognition than this year’s committee is giving him.
In terms of traditional statistics, Abreu does not have the hall of fame statistics most voters are looking for, with 2,470 hits, 288 home runs, and 1,363 RBIs. Also, he only has two all-star appearances and no top-10 MVP finishes.
Once you look further, Abreu’s candidacy starts to look better. His has a solid slash line with a .291 batting average, .395 on-base percentage, and a .475 slugging to go along with an OPS+ of 128. That career line gives Abreu a 60.0 career WAR and a 50.8 career JAWS, ranked 20th all time amongst right fielders. Of the 19 in front of him, only six are not in the hall, and two (Larry Walker, and Ichrio Suzuki) will likely get in sooner rather than later while Dwight Evans is on the fence and Sammy Sosa and Shoeless Joe Jackson are not getting in for other reasons. To put that number in perspective, Vladimir Guerrero had a career WAR of 59.1 and was elected on his second ballot (this is not a direct comparison, as Guerrero had a superior slash line to Abreu.
How did Abreu get on the same level as those legends? Consistency. From 1998 to 2010, a span of 13 seasons, Abreu had a .297/.402/.492 slash-line. Yes, he had an on-base percentage above .400 for more than a decade while hitting for power. That comes with solid performances in traditional stats (he averaged 103 runs per seasons and 95 RBIs per year during that span) along with a great slash line.
So, why is Abreu getting little support? One would think that Abreu would be getting more support given the comparatively smaller ballot in terms of guaranteed candidates on the ballot (Thibodaux’s ballot tracker lists the average ballot of having 7.5 vote per ballot, down from 8.25 on public ballots last year, 8.74 in 2018, and 8.43 in 2017).
Personally, I think that Hall of Fame voters are still looking at those baseline stats and judging Abreu for not getting to 3,000 hits. The lack of major milestones did not stop Edgar Martinez or Guerrero from getting in but said candidates had more elite slash lines compared to Abreu’s extremely good one.
Also, Abreu had little opportunities to excel in the playoffs, as the Yankees’ teams he was on from 2006-07 never made it past the Divisional Round. Meanwhile, his previous employers, the Phillies, won a World Championship in 2008 after he left. Even then, his playoff batting line in 20 games of .284/.392/.418 is solid, but he never reached a World Series and only advanced to one Championship Series, where his Angels lost to another one of his former teams in the eventual World Champion Yankees.
Abreu had a fantastic career and deserves the type of discussions that players like Martinez and Guerrero and Walker have gotten over recent years. Slamming Abreu for not getting voted into all-star games is a poor way to choose a candidate (in my opinion) and even awards voting can lead to great players getting overlooked. Yes, our editor in chief said that Abreu is not a hall of famer, but I feel like there’s more to Abreu’s story than just a quick look at his stats. BBWAA, give Abreu a chance next year when you submit your ballots for the fantastic everyman in baseball.