When the Yankees acquired Bobby Abreu in 2006 in part to cover for an injury to right fielder Gary Sheffield, I said to my father and fellow Yankee fan:
“Yankee fans are going to love this dude. Somehow he’s flown under the radar but he’s good for a run scored or RBI every day – both on many days.” And like any teenager who read Bill James in the early 80s could tell you, baseball is about scoring runs, and the way you help your team do it is by a) getting on base, or b) driving in the guys on base. If you do one or the other, you’re good. If you do both, you’re great.
Well, I was right about Bobby Abreu. He was great. As a Yankee, he went on to score 260 runs and drive in 243 in 372 games. 260 plus 243 divided by 372 is 1.35 runs produced per game on average. When Abreu’s name was in the lineup, you could bank on him putting at least one run on the board for you, every day.
Of course, runs scored and RBI are dependent upon many other factors such as your teammates and randomness (especially for RBI) so we measure such production better in terms of OBP and SLG (and further with OPS+ and wRC+ among other measuring tools). In fact, as a Yankee, his adjusted OPS (OPS+) was better than every Yankee except for A-Rod during that stretch, and those teams were offensive juggernauts.
Abreu was well above average in getting on base, in driving the ball with power to score his teammates, and in baserunning for a very long time using any metric you’d like to use. Far better than most people realize and far better than all but the elite of the elite of right fielders.
He is therefore, my friends, a Hall of Famer.
Of course, I tend to begin everything from a perspective of a Yankee fan, but Abreu only played 372 of his career 2,425 games as a Yankee. Over 18 years, here are some things you need to know about Abreu:
From 1990 through today, among right fielders with at least 8,000 plate appearances, Abreu is…
- First in WAR with 60, ahead of Ichiro 59.4, Vlad 59.4 and Sammy Sosa 59.
- First in OBP.
- Third in adjusted OPS at 128, behind only Vlad (140) and Sosa (129). Yes, Sammy Sosa and everything we know about him and what he did was only one percentage point better than Abreu in OPS+.
Since integration, here’s the list of right fielders with at least 60 WAR, 128 OPS+, .395 OBP, .475 SLG, and 10,000 PA:
Here are all the players ever to have at least 400 stolen bases with a better than 75% success rate who also hit with power (.475 SLG or better):
Abreu, Barry Bonds.
Using Jay Jaffe’s method described in “The Cooperstown Casebook” (link on the side of the page) that factors both career WAR and the peak WAR of the players best seasons, among the 26 right fielders already in the HOF, Abreu would rank 20th – just behind Dave Winfield and just ahead of Vladimir Guerrero, for some modern-day perspective.
Abreu is clearly in the discussion of who was the best right fielder in baseball over the past 30 years, along with Ichiro, Vlad and Sosa. We all agree Ichiro is Cooperstown bound, Vlad is already there and Sosa hit over 600 HR. That’s how good Bobby Abreu was. And his numbers compare favorably to Hall of Fame players from previous generations as well.
If you’re thinking he isn’t Hall of Famer because of only 288 HR, let me remind you hitting a ton of doubles and triples and having a .475 SLG drives in many runs too.
If you’re thinking he isn’t a Hall of Famer because he got a lot of walks and had good teammates hitting behind him let me remind you of his baserunning – 400 SB at a 76% success rate.
And if you didn’t like his defense let me remind you he was a right fielder, not a center fielder or a shortstop – most RF in the Hall have negative career defensive WAR.
I used to think Abreu was a very underrated player who was borderline Hall material.
I was wrong. He needs a plaque in Cooperstown no question about it.
Not sure if that plaque will have him wearing a Yankee cap though…
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