New Dodger Bobby Abreu can still Swing it
By Scott Andes
The Baseball season can take unexpected twists and turns like a roller-coaster, in ways you can never predict. Case in point, the Dodger’s signing of veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu. If you had told me several weeks ago that not only would the Dodgers sign Bobby Abreu, but that he would be the Dodgers starting left fielder, I would have said no way Jose.
That is exactly what has happened, and it may turn out just fine for the Dodgers. Bobby Abreu is 38-years old, and has played for four teams over the course of his 18-year major league career. Abreu was signed as a free agent in 1990 out of his native country of Venezuela. Originally signed by the Astros, Bobby was a force to be reckoned with at the plate back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Bobby played in the Venezuelan league, and even back in those days was a good hitter, leading the league in triples with 17. Bobby was eventually the Astros minor league player of the year before being called up to the big leagues for the first time. Needless to say the accomplished veteran can still swing it.
The left-handed hitting corner outfielder made his MLB debut in 1996 with the Houston Astros. His first official at-bat was as a pinch-hitter, and his first home run was hit off of current Dodger Jamey Wright on April 28, 1997. He played in 59 games for Houston that season hitting .250 with three home runs. That winter he was left unprotected in the expansion draft, and he was chosen by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Only hours later he was traded to the Phillies for shortstop Kevin Stocker.
Abreu played with Philadelphia from 1998-2006, and he was considered one of the better hitters in the National League. He had six seasons where he batted .300 or better, nine seasons of a .400 OBP or higher, seven seasons of a .900 OPS or higher, and nine seasons of 20 or more home runs. Abreu hit 30 or more home runs twice, and had eight seasons of 100 or more RBI. Bobby has racked up 284 career home runs, 1,330 RBI, 1,416 runs scored, 2,394 hits, and a career .293 batting average, .397 OBP, and. 877 OPS. Abreu is one of only six players in major league history to have 250 home runs, 2000 hits, 1,000 runs scored, 1,000 RBIs, 1,000 walks, and 300 stolen bases. Which brings me to the next impressive stat about Abreu-which is his speed. This guy can swipe some bags! Holy crap, he has 393 stolen bases including 14 straight years with at least 20, six seasons of over 30 swipes, and one season where he stole 40. Even as a 37-year old in 2011, he still stole 21 bases for the Angels.
Abreu has won a gold glove and a silver slugger to go along with two all-star selections. In 2006, Abreu was traded to the Yankees where he played from 2006-2008. Then in 2009, Bobby signed with the Angels, playing there up through this season. Honestly Bobby started to decline around 2009-2010, but he still put up respectable slugging numbers. Last winter he was rumored to be traded to the Yankees for starter A.J.Burnett, but Burnett vetoed the trade. There was another rumor early this year of Abreu being traded to the Indians, but that trade fell through as well. Abreu became annoyed with the Angels, telling them to either play him as a DH or trade him. Finally on April 27 of this season, the Angels released him.
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
So if not for the Angels basement dwelling ways this year, foolishly letting him go we might not have a decent veteran bat in the middle of the lineup. So thanks Angels! Two thumbs up! I was skeptical at first, wondering why we were signing decrepit former Angel outfielders again. We already have one on the roster already in Juan Rivera, and I think we all can remember the number three LA Dodger Bum of all time Garrett Anderson, also known as Auto Out. Not to worry, Bobby Abreu is nothing like Auto Out. He is much much more durable than Rivera. As a matter of fact, Bobby has normally been able to stay fairly healthy up until now (knock on wood). Looking at his numbers, he has never had a season where he played in less than 142 games since his second season in 1997. His 142 games for the Angels last season was the fewest games he has played in since that second year.
With the glove, he is not the greatest defensive wizard. Although he is the current active leader in outfield assists with 134, so he has a good arm. Just don’t expect him to be any kind of defensive gem. If you are complaining about his defense, then you might be missing the point. What Abreu does provide the Dodgers is a veteran bat with a league average on base percentage. His line last season with the Angels was .253/.353./.365. His .353 OBP is respectable, as was his eight home runs and 60 RBIs last year. Before being released, Bobby only had 24 at-bats with the Angels in 2012 with only five hits and a .208 average. Since joining the Dodgers in only 14 at-bats he already has as many hits, as he did in his at-bats with the Angels.
It hasn’t hurt that Bobby has made a good first impression. Since joining the Dodgers he has five hits in 14 at-bats for a .357 average and a slash line of .357/.400/.571 including three doubles and a couple of well timed hits. Of course Abreu isn’t going to bat .357 all year or slug over .500, but that OBP should remain pretty high as will his walks. Did I forget to mention, Abreu had eight seasons, yes eight, of 100 or more walks? He is also one of the leaders in most pitches per at-bat seen. Abreu has always shown amazing plate discipline throughout his long career.
Have you noticed how Vin Scully loves to talk about Bobby Abreu? He is always bringing him up. It is because Abreu is such an accomplished Major Leaguer, and Vin recognizes his goodness. Of course any player Vin likes, I like too. When the Dodgers signed Abreu, they expected him to pinch-hit, and occassionally play some left field. Now with recent injuries to the oufield, the Dodgers need Abreu, and they need his bat.
With the injury to Juan Rivera sidelining him for several weeks, and Jerry Hairston likely to be disabled with the exact same left hamstring strain, the Dodgers would have been left with no one to play left field save for Tony Gwynn Jr. We are going to need Newbie Scott Van Slyke to spend a lot of time at first base, because Loney has been so bad, he is almost unplayable these days. The Dodgers were smart to pick up Bobby, who should see plenty of time in left field over the next few weeks until whenever Rivera comes back. If Hairston comes back sooner than later Abreu could see his playing time decreased in a platoon scenario, which would work ok since Abreu bats left and Hairston bats right. Until those two come back, Abreu is it in left field, big red glove and all (I actually don’t care what color his glove is, as long as he catches the ball). Keep on swingin’ Bobby!
I gotta thank the Angels for letting him go. If it weren’t for their horrendous play and roster incompetence, we would be short handed. With Rivera and Hairston sidelined for several weeks at least, Bobby Abreu could help ease the Dodger’s sting of losing two of their outfield bats. Also note that right field is Bobby’s natural position, but he has also played left field through most of his career. I know Abreu is 38 and in the twilight of his career, but he can still get on base, and he can still swing it.