Bobby Abreu Feels Like A Hall Of Very Good Player
Time and again, we see feelings get in the way of what should largely be an objective Hall of Fame voting process. We see Kirby Puckett be a first ballot player while Kenny Lofton failing to garner the requisite 5% to stay on the ballot despite Lofton having a significantly higher WAR.
Much of the reason for that disparity in the voting was how voters felt about the players. Puckett felt like a Hall of Famer while apparently the vast majority felt Lofton didn’t.
That’s partially the hurdle Bobby Abreu is facing right now.
In Abreu’s 18 year career, he was an All-Star just two times. He was never in the top 10 in MVP voting, and he only received MVP votes in just seven seasons. He won just Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. Abreu had just two 30 home run seasons, and he batted over .300 six times.
Abreu was a player exposed in the expansion draft. He was obtained from the Tampa Bay Rays for Kevin Stocker. A rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies team basically just contract dumped his salary on the New York Yankees. Late in his career, he was released by the Los Angeles Angels in the midst of a contract most felt was a gross overpay at its inception.
Much of Abreu’s career was spent talking about what he wasn’t more than what he was. There was more talk about his purported fear of fielding balls by the wall than his range. There was talk of his not having the prototypical home run totals for a right fielder while ignoring his doubles and OBP. Fair or not, these were all factors which worked against Abreu in how he was perceived during his playing career. Fair or not, it is something which has seemingly worked against him in Hall of Fame voting.
We see that disparity in how he was perceived against a contemporary player in Vladimir Guerrero. Guerreo was a player who felt like a great player and a Hall of Famer. He had a cannon in right field. He could hit the ball no matter where it was pitched. He was an All-Star nine times, and he was an eight time Silver Slugger.
Guerrero was the 2002 AL MVP, and he had received MVP votes in 11 different seasons finishing in the top 10 five different times. He had eight 30 home run seasons and two 40 home run seasons. He hit over .300 in 13 different seasons. Overall, in his playing days, Guerrero not only felt like a great player, but he also had the aura of a future Hall of Famer. That came to fruition when he was inducted on the second ballot.
During their playing days and even know, Guerrero was seen as the better player. The interesting thing is when you actually break it down, Abreu might’ve been the better player.
Looking at the two players, Abreu’s 60.2 WAR is higher than Guerrero’s 59.5. Abreu has more runs, doubles, triples, walks, and stolen bases while having a higher OBP. Abreu was arguably a better defensive player and base runner than Guerrero. Looking at the expanded Hall of Fame stats, Abreu’s 41.6 WAR7 and 50.9 JAWS were better than Guerrero’s 41.2 and 50.3
So, again, when we are looking at contemporary players with a similar electorate far and away the disparity we are seeing between the two players is how we feel about each player. In the end, Guerrero did the things to reach his WAR totals which felt more comforting to the Hall of Fame voter. By and large more homers and a higher OPS+ or wRC+ were of more importance to get to a smaller WAR number than Abreu’s which was fueled by better on-base skills, base running, and defense.
Beyond this, there is an interesting debate to be had about Abreu’s Hall of Fame case. His WAR fells fairly well short of the 71.9 average for Hall of Fame right fielders. He didn’t crack 300 homers, but he did have 574 doubles which is fourth most all-time at the position. He’s in the top 20 in OBP at the position. He is very clearly one of the best right fielders in MLB history, but the question for him right now is whether he is truly in that upper echelon who belongs in the Hall of Fame.
For Guerrero, the answer was a resounding yes, but for Abreu, so far, that has been a fairly decided no. When you break it down, the real reason is more because of how people felt about his career while he played and not and not so much because of how he really stacks up against players of his generation and other Hall of Famers.