Abreu Overload

Jon Heyman’s drew the ire of many a blog in the past, including numerous times this off-season alone, but his latest column features this nugget about Bobby Abreu:

Abreu is getting a bad rap by executives who are overemphasizing his defensive slippage. He’s still an adequate right fielder, but his fear of the wall got so much airtime in New York that he has become over-criticized. Abreu, in fact, is fifth in assists among right fielders over the last three years and third in fielding percentage, and while he’s 16th of 27 in range factor, Yankees pitchers had the second highest ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio in the AL. Meanwhile, Raul Ibanez, a below average left fielder who was a chic pick this winter, probably benefited by being hidden in Seattle and signed for $31.5 million over three years with Abreu’s former Phillies team. Any way you compare these two players, Abreu looks better … at least from here.

All righty then, let’s break this down piece by piece.

Abreu is getting a bad rap by executives who are overemphasizing his defensive slippage

I’m not entirely sure how anyone can overemphasize his defensive “slippage”. The truth is, Bobby Abreu is going to hurt you if he plays the field, and when you weigh his total value, yeah his defense hurts him.

He’s still an adequate right fielder, but his fear of the wall got so much airtime in New York that he has become over-criticized.

No he’s not, at least not defensively. Abreu has been a negative defender since 2004, whether or not he crashes into walls is largely irrelevant. Carl Crawford rarely runs into the wall and he still rates as one of the best defenders in the game. Plus, how many plays is Abreu going to be required to make that involve running smack into a wall?

Abreu, in fact, is fifth in assists among right fielders over the last three years

Having a good arm is only one of the defensive tools, but since 2004, The Hardball Times has valued Abreu’s arm at: 4.4, 0.2, -1, and 3.6 runs per 200 opportunities. That’s an average of 1.8 runs, we’ll be generous and say Abreu will prevent 2 runs with his arm next season, that still doesn’t make him any less of an awful fielder.

and third in fielding percentage, and while he’s 16th of 27 in range factor, Yankees pitchers had the second highest ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio in the AL

This contradicts itself. Abreu’s pitching staff gives him fewer chances, so therefore we should hardly take a high fielding percentage as an indication of Abreu’s defensive wizardry. Plus, the criticism is not that Abreu’s glove disallows him from making catches, but that his range doesn’t allow him to reach balls that average right fielders do.

Meanwhile, Raul Ibanez, a below average left fielder who was a chic pick this winter, probably benefited by being hidden in Seattle and signed for $31.5 million over three years with Abreu’s former Phillies team. Any way you compare these two players, Abreu looks better … at least from here.

UZR takes park factors into account, so sure, even if you grant that it’s easer to field left in SafeCo than right in Yankee Stadium, we should still be able to compare these two with park biased stripped from the equation. Over the last three years Dewan has Abreu at -14 (32nd), -14 (32nd), and -24 (34th) while Ibanez was at +2 (16th), -25 (33rd), -18 (33rd). UZR puts Abreu worth -15.3, -4.2, and -25.2, and Ibanez worth -5.6, -20.8, and -12.6. Average that out, and factor in the arms ratings and Abreu is worth about eight runs less than Ibanez.

Offensively Abreu has been 19 (park adjusted) runs better over the last three years, which means about 11 runs better overall, or one win. So yeah, Abreu is the better player, but the Ibanez move was ridiculous on its own, that does not mean some team should sign Abreu and throw him in the outfield. If we use the poor moves to judge all players then we should go ahead and campaign Juan Uribe in for a multiple year deal, after all, Willie Bloomquist and Aaron Miles got one apiece.

Look, Bobby Abreu is a decent enough player who can help a team. By all means, someone should sign him as a DH type if the money is right, but playing him in the field is devaluing him.

We hoped you liked reading Abreu Overload by R.J. Anderson!

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Scappy
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Scappy

Do I smell a little FireJoeMorgan?

Just because Amaro suffered a brain cramp and inked Ibanez to a poor deal does not mean another team should do the same with Abreau. Two wrongs do not make a right.