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Entries in Bobby Abreu (3)


Bobby Abreu's Lefty Woes

While's he's not a happy spring camper, Bobby Abreu seems now seems resigned to a more limited role with the Angels in 2012. Abreu said last week that he would rather be traded than become a part-time player, but there's not much of a market for a soon-to-be-38-year-old owed $9 million who shouldn't go near a glove or step in the batter's box against lefty pitching.

Once one of the game's chronically underappreciated superstars, Abreu has racked up about as much career value (59 Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement) as Mike Piazza, Vlad Guerrero, Dave Winfield and Sammy Sosa. The current version of Abreu, however, isn't near as potent. He still has his trademark patience, swinging at the third-lowest rate of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone among MLB hitters in 2011, but his power is kaput. And that's especially the case against fellow left-handers:

Abreu's 2009-11 platoon splits

Pitcher HandAVGOBPSLUGPlate Appearances
Vs Left .245 .321 .339 574
Vs Right .278 .384 .447 1345


He's still able to inflict some damage against righties, but he's bullied by lefties. The major problem for Abreu versus lefties is ground balls. He hit a grounder 44% of the time against right-handers over the past three years, but 56% versus southpaws. Take a look at Abreu's ground ball rate by pitch location against lefties, compared to the average lefty hitter. He's an automatic ground out on low pitches, but he also chops high offerings into the grass:

Abreu's ground ball rate by pitch location vs. left-handed pitching, 2009-11

Average ground ball rate by pitch location for left-handed hitters vs. left-handed pitchers, 2009-11

Considering that the Angels have Mike Trout near ready in the outfield and DH options like Kendrys Morales (if his ankle is healed) and Mark Trumbo, there's little reason for Abreu to see much time against lefties. Four-hundred plate appearances might not be what he wants, but that's what he should get at this late point in his excellent career.


Bobby Abreu's Option Vests, But Should It Have?

For better or worse, Bobby Abreu is now under contract with the Angels for the 2012 season. Abreu signed a two-year, $19 million extension with L.A. two offseasons ago that included a $9 million option for 2012 that vested with 1,100 total plate appearances over the 2010-2011 seasons.

Abreu, 37, once had a sublime blend of patience and power. But his days of popping 20-30 homers per season are well over, and that $9 million may well be an overpay.

The former Phillie and Yankee still works the count like few others. Abreu has chased only 17.4 percent of pitches thrown out of the strike zone, which is the second-lowest rate among MLB hitters (Kosuke Fukudome has the lowest chase rate). As a result, Abreu has worked a walk in 15.3 percent of his plate appearances. Only Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Lance Berkman, Joey Votto and Prince Fielder have taken ball four more often.

In the power department, though, Abreu falls flat. The left-handed hitter has just four home runs this season. His .090 Isolated Power is a full 50 points below the league average and places him in the same company as banjo-hitters like Mark Ellis and Cliff Pennington.  

Abreu hit for modest power during his first two years with the Angels (.161 ISO), at least remaining somewhat dangerous on inside and high pitches:

 Abreu's in-play slugging percentage by location, 2009-2010

In 2011, though, his heat map is ice-cold except for a single spot up and in:

Abreu's in-play slugging percentage by location, 2011

He has yet to hit a homer off a lefty and has a .051 ISO against same-handed pitching.

If Abreu played a premium position on the diamond or was a defensive standout, then his patient, punchless bat would be valuable. But in reality, he's a DH who occasionally plays a poor corner outfield. That means he has to been an offensive standout, not merely an above-average hitter like he has been in 2011, to earn his paycheck.

Most of the other DH-types who hit the free agent market last winter -- Johnny Damon, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Hideki Matsui -- signed deals worth $2 million to $5 million. And Fangraphs shows that Abreu's performance this season has been worth less than $2 million. Unless the Angels have reason to believe that Abreu's power will return, they might have been better off letting him take some nights off against lefties and keeping his plate appearance total under that vesting option. It would be hard to the Players Union to cry foul when it's not clear whether Abreu should be playing every day at this point.


Abreu's Dropping OBP

Bobby Abreu invigorated the 2009 Angels with his high OBP.  His .390 mark that season not only helped the Angels offense, but inspired other hitters on the team to be more selective at the plate.  Bobby was a perennial .400 OBP hitter during the peak of his career, but that stat started falling in 2007, and 2009 may have been his last hurrah as he dropped to .353 in 2010, the lowest level he ever posted in a full season.

The following graph shows Bobby's ball and strike rates over 2009 and 2010 (click graph for a larger version):

Bobby Abreu ball and strike rate, 2009-2010.Note that in 2009, Bobby played two stretches in which his ball rate (the green line) was much higher than his strike rate (the blue line).  In 2010 that reversed, with two periods of much higher strike rates than ball rates.  Since walks are a part of Bobby's OBP, fewer balls meant fewer walks, and he drew seven fewer in 2010 than in 2009.

The drop in ball rate was attributable to two changes.  Bobby was putting more balls in play outside the strike zone, and getting fewer balls called in the strike zone:


Number of Pitches20092010
Called balls in zone 124 106
Strikes outside zone 364 364
In play outside zone 80 98


The umpires were less forgiving, but it also seems that Bobby was fishing outside the zone more.  It's tough to say if one caused the other.  From the above graph, it was clear Abreu was not getting ball calls early, which may have caused him to to start swinging at pitches he would normally take.  The change led to 19 fewer hits, and a lower OBP.

Bobby is off to a good start in 2011 with seven hits and four walks in his first three games.  Maybe the calls are going his way again.