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.