2010 was a year to forget for Bobby Abreu and with a move to full-time DH this season, he is hoping to get his groove back and become a quality run producer for the Halos again. Can Abreu bounce back or has old age finally caught up to the Angels' senior statesman?
2010 Stats: 573 AB, .255 AVG, .352 OBP, .435 SLG, 88 R, 20 HR, 78 RBI, 24 SB
2011 ZiPS Projections: 528 AB, .263 AVG, .349 OBP, .428 SLG, 79 R, 17 HR, 79 RBI, 21 SB
2011 Bill James Projections: 600 AB, .268 AVG, .372 OBP, .425 SLG, 96 R, 18 HR, 94 RBI, 23 SB
2011 Marcel Projections: 522 AB, .266 AVG, .353 OBP, .420 SLG, 78 R, 15 HR, 76 RBI, 21 SB
2011 MWaH Projections*: 495 AB, .272 AVG, .361 OBP, .421 SLG, 82 R, 14 HR, 73 RBI, 14 SB
*The MWaH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research
2010 in Review: Abreu had a real down 2010 and so did the rest of the Angel lineup. I don't consider this a coincidence. Bobby set the pace for the strong Angel offensive attack in 2009, so it should be no surprise that the team followed his lead again last year. Too bad it wasn't a good lead. Bobby still took plenty of walks and even stepped up his power over recent years, but his average of .255 was the worst of his career and went a long way towards minimizing his overall impact on the team.
Three Lingering Questions for 2011:
- How much does Abreu have left in the tank? Abreu had agruably the worst offensive season of his career last year, batting just .255 with a .787 OPS, both career-lows (excluding his abbreviated 1997 rookie campaign). Seeing how Bobby is now 36, one has to wonder if Father Time is finally catching up with him. However, it could also have just been a case of bad luck since Abreu's BABIP was .296 in 2010, which is well below his career norms. That statistical anomaly needs to be explained for sure, and if it isn't just bad luck, then the only other reasonable explanation has to be that his bat got a lot slower from one season to the next, which obviously doesn't bode well for Abreu this year.
- Where in the order will Bobby hit? As of right now, Scioscia has Bob Kelly penciled in as his regular two-hole hitter, which seems like a pretty good idea. Abreu draws a lot of walks, takes a lot of pitches, can still run the bases well, is a base-stealing threat and has decent power. However, the Angels are devoid of anything resembling a reliable leadoff hitter, other than Bobby that is. But if Abreu is hitting first instead of second, then the Halos need to find a quality two-hole hitter, which is only going to prove to be slightly easier than finding a leadoff man. And there is always the possibility that Scioscia resorts to his old bag of trick and slides Abreu down to third so he can put two "action" guys at the top of the order.
- Will Bobby's vesting option come into play? Like it or not, baseball is a business and sometimes those decisions affect how players are utlized. Barring a big bounceback season in 2011, the Angels are likely eager to part ways with Bobby Abreu after this season. That won't happen though if Bob gets 433 plate appearances this year though, because then his $9 million vesting option kicks in. However, Abreu has been and could be an important part of the Angels offensive attack, seeing how he is the only guy who can consistently get on base at a good rate. Pulling him from the lineup for about a third of all games just to prevent his option from vesting could do a lot more harm this season than having him clog up a roster spot next season could do.
What to Expect in 2011: We really should just go ahead and put all this talk of the Angels cutting back Abreu's playing time to avoid his option from vesting, because it isn't going to happen. First off, Abreu is incredibly durable, logging 667 plate appearances or more in every season of this century while never being placed on the disabled list. Plus, the Angels have no viable platoon partner to replace Abreu at DH when lefties are on the mound. Not to mention that Abreu is likely going to be the first guy off the bench whenever one of the regular outfielders needs a day off.
That being said, Abreu is going to play a good bit less than previous seasons. A big reason for that is the health status of Kendry Morales, who the Angels are being very careful with. As a result, Morales is ticketed to start a fair amount of games at designated hitter, taking a big bite out of Abreu's regularly scheduled at-bats.
As for Abreu's actual performance, I'm expecting a bit or a rebound in 2011 and I base that mostly on his mysteriously low BABIP the season before. I don't think you can chalk up a 40+ point drop in BABIP to just luck or even to just getting old, so he has to regress to his normal performance at least a little bit. But don't get too excited, there are real signs that he is no longer making the same quality contact as before. His strikeout percentage jumped from 20.1% in 2009 to 23% in 2010 and his runs above average against fastball plummeted from 22+ the previous two season to 10.7 last year, suggesting the he is having trouble getting around on heaters.
If there is one hope I have for Abreu maybe returning to his former glory it is that he will be a full-time DH now. Not only does that save us from watching him bumble around in the field everyday, but it saves his aging body from the wear and tear of regular fielding. And I'm pretty sure I'm not just engaging in wishful thinking here. Abreu may not have missed many games as an Angels, but I remember a lot of talk about him nursing a sore back the last two seasons, something he can hopefully avoid whilst limiting himself to DH-duty.
There is one final note I want to make about Abreu. A lot of people have suggested he could be trade bait if things don't go well for the Halos this season. That isn't going to happen. Nobody wanted Abreu at last year's trade deadline and I don't think interest is going to pique in him this year. Not only do few teams need aging DH-types that badly, but if Abreu's vesting option is anywhere close to vesting, it is going to scare off almost every single suitor for the same reasons the Angels probably prefer that it not vest.