Monday, May 22, 2006

What To Do About Bobby

Tom Goyne of the always informative and entertaining Balls, Sticks, & Stuff has an interesting piece today on PrOPS, or predicted OPS, a measure devised by JC Bradbury that attempts “to create a way to determine just which players were the victims of bad luck and which players had come down with a touch of Midas.”

It makes for interesting reading including the surprising “scary” conclusion. What most caught my attention, however, was that Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins all showed up in a list of the 50 unluckiest players thus far this season. From my distinctly non-sabremetric perspective none of these guys looked particularly unlucky to me. Shows what I know…I guess.

Much has been made of Abreu’s statistical “anomalies” this season prior to the last five games. Until then, Abreu was struggling for base hits, power and rbi’s after a good start in all those departments, yet he was among the NL leaders in OBP due to his league-leading number of bases on balls. In the last five games Abreu has turned things around, going 9 for 18 with six walks and eight rbi’s, five of them in the 10 – 5 win over Boston yesterday. Particularly harsh critics will also have to acknowledge that he went back to the wall on a long fly ball Saturday night and made a very good catch, something heretofore not part of his repertoire, last year’s Gold Glove notwithstanding.

Abreu’s up and down season is a microcosm of his struggles since the home run derby extravaganza at the All-Star game last July in Detroit. Ever since putting on an awesome power display there, the always consistent Bobby has struggled at the plate. Between July and October of 2005 his batting average dropped roughly fifty points. After starting off well this season, he went through quite a long stretch that again saw his average drop precipitously before starting to turn it around in the last five games.

It’s no secret the Phillies shopped Abreu during the off-season despite a career .303 average with a .412 OBP. Abreu has also been a consistent rbi man, knocking in more than 100 runs in four of the last five seasons. What he hasn’t been is a fan favorite. The locals want more intensity, not just consistency. Give them an Aaron Rowand every time. Despite Abreu’s overall career numbers, the local blogosphere has joined the debate with some arguing Abreu’s value will never be higher than it is now at age 32.

Recently, the injury to centerfielder Rowand and his stellar replacement thus far by Shane Victorino has underscored the dilemma the Phils face going forward. No team wants to give up a player with Abreu’s offensive history, but the time may be ripe to consider such a move again with the apparent emergence of Victorino. The Phils still have pressing needs in the starting rotation and bullpen and could also use an outstanding young catcher in the Brian McCann mold should the Carlos Ruiz experiment fizzle.

A few things are certain: the Phillies are not going to give Abreu away though they wouldn’t mind shedding some of his salary. Management also recognizes no one on the current roster is likely to bring more in return than Abreu. Unfortunately, no one is more likely to bring such consistency in return.

21 Comments:

Blogger Rev. Smokin Steve said...

Bobby Abreu suffers from Mike Schmidt disease.

He is so talented that he makes the game look easy sometimes. I wish we could appreciate what he does bring because he does do so much for the team offensively. I am a fan of his.

However, I do agree with the lack of focus issues. Schmitty never lacked focus in the field, and all those gold gloves of his were legit.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Tom Goodman said...

I, too, am a big fan of Abreu, but the only fan who counts these days is Pat Gillick, and he has already made it clear he is willing to deal Abreu under the right circumstances.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous J. Weitzel said...

I'm going to post something, and I will explain why afterward. Here it goes:

Jimmy Rollins (d)

First season of a 5-year, $40 million contract extension. 2006 salary includes $4 million base and $1 million prorated portion of signing bonus to be paid in July of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Base salaries of $7 million in 2007, $7 million in 2008, $7.5 million in 2009 and $7.5 million in 2010. Club option for $8.5 million in 2011 or $2 million buyout.

The Phillies have more money wrapped up in Jimmy Rollins than any player on this team, including four more seasons after this.

I have seen nothing to indicate J-Roll is among the five-best shortstops in baseball. In fact, he may not crack the top 10.

I write this to stress the importance of one area that must be covered if the Phillies deal Bobby Abreu: they must get a premium infield prospect in return. In fact, that player should probably be the centerpiece in what the Phils get back.

If you read my post today, you will see that the farm system is completely decimated with position players. Unless they can afford to keep Chase Utley, who will become the highest-paid second baseman when he becomes a free agent, the Phillies are looking at a problem at middle infield.

Have we seen all that we're going to see out of Jimmy Rollins? I think we have. Give it one more season, and I believe the Phillies will be ready to move on. His contract will become too much of a burden.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Tom Goodman said...

I cannot figure out why I haven't given up on Jimmy yet. I guess those flashes of brilliance keep blinding me. He certainly lacks any consistency as both a hitter and lead-off man but the Phillies refuse to drop him lower in the order. That might be one of the reasons they will trade Abreu, namely, because they are beginning to see Victorino as an alternative. I doubt Victorino is going to put up Bobby's numbers over time, but he will outfield Abreu and provide a much better lead-off man than J-Roll. So, on balance he may represent the best option going forward.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous J. Weitzel said...

Realistically, Rollins isn't producing much more than a replacement-level player this season.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Nat said...

I keep reading that Abreu's problems began after his home run derby display last year, but my recollection is that he was already struggling before the all star break. In fact, I remember watching him hit all those derby home runs and thinking, "Maybe this will get him started again." As we all know now, it didn't.

Anyway, this slump, if you can call it that, is closing in on one year now. He's still a fine player in my book, but he's also 32 years old and is showing signs of tailing off from his previous levels of production. Considering that Gillick has been unable to trade him for the kind of value he wants indicates that his trade value maybe isn't what we would like to think.

With that in mind, I think Weitzel's comment is food for thought. No, the Phillies probably can't get a front of the rotation starter for Abreu, which I gather is what Gillick has been looking for, but a deal that includes an up and coming infield prospect might be the ticket.

On the other hand, another year or two of Abreu in right wouldn't be the worst thing, either, imo.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous RickSchuBlues said...

Jimmy Rollins may not be among the top five or ten shortstops based on his performance so far this season, but there is no doubt he ranks among the top ten in terms of overall skills; furthermore, there is no doubt that he has the ability to be among the top five for the remainder of his career. Many preseason rankings had him at no. 2 or 3 for the position. Everyone is frustrated that he keeps relapsing into bad habits every time he appears on the verge of great things, but to me keeping it at a level of greatness is still impending - it's a matter of time before he puts it together over a full season. I don't think we've seen the best there is out of Jimmy Rollins, by a long stretch. As one of the very few personalities on the team who brings discernible energy (and a few actual smiles) to every game, I for one am very glad he'll be around for years to come.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Tom Goodman said...

RSB: You put your finger on it for me. Those flashes of brilliance and the appearance that he is enjoying himself are enough for me to hang in there. No matter how frustrating Jimmy can be (and everyone knows I've had my complaints about him), shortstop is not one of the holes on this club. Starting pitching, the bullpen and catcher are far bigger problems. Notice I omitted third base. It's a problem, but not as much as those other areas.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Oisín/Wizlah said...

RSB, I'll almost, probably agree. Trying to put aside the fact that J-roll has been my favourite phillies player since he started playing, Tom Goyne's analysis of the numbers suggest that Rollins was changing his habits, and the numbers on Pitches Per Plate Appearance this year suggest that he is continuing some of these good habits, and maybe trying to work on adapting to a different problem right now. The reason I don't totally agree? I'm a phillies fan, plus I've been (stupidly) hoping he'll turn into the second coming of Tony Gwynn for years now. One more thing to say - has anyone been to more 'batting clinics' with specialists than J roll? Surely its sinking in!

As for Jason's point about premium value - I agree totally - but would put in my usual caveat - I think its a rare team that values abreu's consistency throughout a season and would offer up more to it, especially when every team seems to have a great outfielder. I've yet to see a team say they would build around a player like bobby, even though his consistency suggests they probably could. So I'm sceptical that we'll ever get proper value, just market value.

And the people who dictate this market can be extraordinarily dumb.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Goodman said...

Nat: Here is a link to a breakdown for Abreu from 2005 pre and post All Star game (these specific stats are in the middle of the page):

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/players/5698/splits;_ylt=AgnWZVdypfvGNXhWjBbJzreFCLcF?year=2005&type=Batting

5:05 PM  
Anonymous RickSchuBlues said...

There are four players on the roster I would trade immediately: Rheal Cormier, Abraham Nunez, Gavin Floyd, and Ryan Madson.

Cormier's presence is pointless, especially on a team with two other lefies in the 'pen. Nunez is a decent player, but like Gonzalez, he is ineffective in purely a bench role. Surely he wouldn't have signed here if he'd known how little he'd play, and the same for Gonzalez. My feelings on Floyd are already known: I believe he has no major-league future. And Madson deserves a chance with an organization that knows what it's doing with him.

I would hold off on trading David Dellucci because he is the only semblance of a decent bat off the bench, at least until Victorino is back in that role.

There are two others I would absolutely trade at the end of the season: Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell.

Abreu and Burrell don't fit into the future of this team, but they are valuable as it shapes up right now; in Burrell's case, he is only valuable because he is a right-handed hitter.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Tom Goodman said...

They sure did screw up with Nunez. I have to imagine they told him he would see considerable time at third. Why else would he have signed here after playing so much in St. Louis. Yes, he filled in for an injured Rollen, but he played regularly and must have expected to see plenty of action here. Otherwise, why not stay in St. Louis where his chances of making the post-season were sure to be better??!! He should sue for breach of contract.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous RickSchuBlues said...

The handling of Nunez and Gonzalez, among other things, makes me wonder if Gillick and Manuel are on the same page.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Tom G said...

I think Nunez was signed more for 2007 than 2006. I think CM is merely going with the "hot" [I'm using that term liberally] hand right now. Does anyone really think that Abe, even at his best, can out do the 271/336/406 that DavidBell is putting up? If/when Bell cools, Abe will be used more, and when Bell is gone next year, Nunez will be used a lot more.

As for JRoll, he is only 27, so I don't think we have seen the best from him. Look at Andruw Jones, it took him years and years to hit his stride at the plate, and when he did, he was still only in his late 20's. Sometimes when these players come up young, we lose track of their age. I don't think we have seen the best of JRoll. I don't think the best will be Miggy Tejada-ish, but it will be good.

Pitching is what is needed, and that is the only reason to trade Abreu.

6:29 PM  
Anonymous RickSchuBlues said...

I hope we have more to look forward to than Nunez at third base next year...although I still argue that despite David Bell being somewhat more productive so far this season, Nunez would give them a better contact hitter in the lineup; I still think it would be an effective platoon.

However.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous George S said...

The Phillies will be clearing up some payroll this offseason (Lieberthal, Bell, Lieber?, Lidle?), so moving Abreu doesn't really make much sense unless you get some great value back. The team will not need to clear payroll. Abreu is an all-star outfielder and consistent producer. He is NOT overpaid. Why insist on moving a solid player like that if you don't have to, unless the offer is so sweet you cannot refuse?

The player I would shop now would be Victorino, who would be very attractive to many more teams than Abreu. He plays a good CF, he has shown so far that he can hit well enough to play everyday, he's young and most importantly, he's affordable. The Phillies have no place to play him when Rowand comes back. Many smaller market teams are looking for players exactly like Victorino.
Packaged with a Floyd or Madson, you might be able to pry a Dontrelle Willis loose from the Marlins, for example.

As for Nunez, I would also like to seem him get more PT, but he was basically signed as an insurance policy for 2006 in case Bell stunk, or for when his back inevitably tightens up. It would be a good idea, hwr, to see what he's got before the season is out so you know if you need to acquire a 3B for 2007.

9:37 PM  
Anonymous RickSchuBlues said...

I think Victorino is a guy who absolutely needs to stay on the team. He's proving invaluable while Rowand's out, and with all three OFers prone to injury, a strong alternative like Victorino is an essential commodity on the Phillies. Besides that, he's clearly a gamer and a guy with a variety of skills who looks like he's emerging as a legitimate major league talent. If he isn't quite starting material, he could be a top-notch fourth outfielder for years to come.

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Nat said...

Tom...

To put to rest the notion that Abreu's home run derby display was the centerpiece of some kind of separation between a good first half and not so good second half, look a little beyond the pre- and post-break numbers.

The link you provided shows him hitting .307 at the break. But the high water mark of his 2006 season came in the first week of June -- June 4 to be exact -- when his BA was .340, his OBP was .461 and his slugging was at .609. Thereon began a steady slide that was well in progress by the time of the all-star break and the fateful home run derby contest.

The decline continued through July, finally leveling off at about 290/400/500 where it basically settled in for the rest of the year, with the exception of slugging, which fell a bit more, finishing at .474.

Compared to where he finished last year, his average so far this year is about the same and his OBP and slugging are actually up a bit.

Compared to his career numbers, his average so far this year is off a bit, his OBP is up and his slugging is pretty much right on his career average.

(Stats courtesy of retrosheet.org.)

12:40 AM  
Blogger Tom Goodman said...

Nat: Thanks for the info. I assume the "2006" should read "2005".

George: I am with RSB on Victorino. I see no good reason to trade him when he represents the future and the farm system does not have a single outfielder who looks like he will make the big club anytime in the future. As for Dontrelle Willis, he will never sign here. Not a big enough market for his talent and ego and probably not a place high on the list for most lefties. As for Nunez, my understanding (not based on any inside information, of course) was that he was signed to play against right-handers. I maintain he never would have signed here if he believed he would be used so seldom as a starter.

Finally, I think Tom Goyne has made some very good points about Jimmy.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous nat said...

Yeah, right, that should be 2005.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Tom Goodman said...

Brian Peoples of Philling Station http://www.nj.com/weblogs/phillies has an excellent piece on Bobby Abreu. He also takes the shrill ones (Cataldi and Morganti) at WIP to task for knowing nothing and spouting off anyway. Where is it written that just because someone knows something about one sport he becomes an expert in all sports?

12:09 PM  

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