Sunday, February 25, 2007

How Good is Bobby Abreu?

Back in 2004, Bobby Abreu was one of the major's best players. He did everything. He hit .301/.428/.544, with 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases, only being caught 5 times. In terms of a power/speed/patience combination, Abreu was the major's best.

When the Yankees traded for him last season, Abreu wasn't the same player he was in 2004. Abreu was still a great hitter, but had seen much of his power dissolve despite the favorable ballpark that he played in. He won the Home Run Derby in 2005, he hit just 24 home runs that year, and only 15 in 2006. His on base skills were retained, but Abreu clearly had left his prime.

The Phillies were eager to get rid of the contract, and the Yankees needed a right fielder. He was hitting just .277/.427/.434 on the season with only 8 home runs in 98 games. He was one of the Yankee's best hitters after the trade, hitting .330/.419/.507 with 7 HR in 58 games.

Was it Yankee Stadium? Abreu was moving from Citizens Bank park (where he hit just .267/.419/.426), so I can't see Yankee Stadium (where he hit .299/.349/.474) making a huge difference. In reality, Abreu was probably profiting from the unfamiliarity of American League pitchers. He might have been reinvigorated by a new team, but I'm more inclined for the former explanation. It should be noted that outside of Citizens Bank park, Abreu had to play a lot of games in Florida, Washington, and Shea, all major pitchers parks.

Abreu has a lot of value for a lot of reasons. First off, he should age well. Power and patience are traditionally the last skills to decline, and athletic players age better than others. Abreu still has his speed, and hasn't slowed in taking walks with age. Not to mention that I don't think he has ever been on the DL. We can probably expect his HR power to return to about 20, although we should remember that he averaged less than 25 per year during his career. His ability to get on base is his primary skill, and he's as good as anyone in that regard. His career OBP is .412, and he hasn't ever been below .393 for a full season.

He's sure make a good #1/2 hitter, but Abreu will likely bat 3rd. This isn't a terrible idea, because Giambi and Alex Rodriguez will have a lot of runners to hit in. The protection both in front and behind him should help Abreu hit a little more comfortably.

What do the projection systems say?

CHONE: .279/.406/.439, 17 HR
ZiPS: .287/.414/.466, 20 HR
Marcel: .289/.417/.480, 19 HR
PECOTA: Averaged in
Average: .282/.407/.459, 17 HR

Again, hat tip to RLYW for the technique.

I think that CHONE and PECOTA are too pessimistic. Abreu isn't going to slug .450 for a full season. I really like that ZiPS line. All the systems seem to agree that Abreu will suffer some inevitable decline in batting average, due to age. They seem to believe that his power decline in 2006 will not become the norm, and they seem to agree that he's a .400 OBP guy still. Beyond that, we're just talking about small differences.

It should also be noted that Abreu is fighting for another contract. He has an option for 2008, which the Yankees would probably want to pick up (unless Melky breaks out in a big way, or Abreu flops), but he may find himself a free agent. I don't like to underestimate what a contract year can do to the player.

I am going to take that Marcel line and cross my fingers. I predict .289/.417/.480.

I've decided that I will continue to both maintain this blog (where I will write about the MLB Yankees and my general baseball thoughts) while I write for Pending Pinstripes. Stay tuned! I plan on writing my lineup analysis tonight, and we have a fantasy draft at 8:30!