Bobby Abreu Hall of Fame Case

Bobby Abreu is one of the most underrated players in baseball history. One could argue that is not the case because he is on the Hall of Fame ballot. Abreu is currently tracking at 19.5% on all public ballots so far based on the 2023 Hall of Fame ballot tracker in his fourth year on the ballot. With no higher than 8.7% of the vote (2021 ballot), it is clear Abreu has a long way to go to reach baseball immortality. As a player with 60.2 career WAR, nearly 300 home runs, exactly 400 stolen bases, and a career .870 OPS, Abreu deserves better than this. With only two All-Star selections and zero top-10 MVP finishes, it is clear that his all-around talent was not appreciated during his day.

With some hindsight, there is a good case to be made that Abreu belongs in Cooperstown. In today’s day in age, baseball players are evaluated differently than in the past. Scott Rolen is the best test case for this as someone who was historically overlooked but is appreciated now more than ever. His career was not quite on the same level, but Abreu did so many things well on the field and deserves recognition for that.

Sabermetric Darling

Bobby Abreu played during the days when home runs, RBI, and batting average were stats that reigned king. Abreu only hit 30 or more home runs in a season twice. He never put up multiple 130-140+ RBI seasons that other outfielders were posting. He only batted .330 once, only stole 40 bases once, and never had a 200-hit season. Bobby Abreu blended in as a very good player but never did anything that people viewed as outstanding. However, this is what makes him great. Abreu did everything well, even as a slightly below-average defender. His biggest asset was his plate discipline as he walked 100+ times in a season for eight consecutive seasons. Between 1996 and 2014, Abreu’s .395 on-base percentage and 14.6% walk rate, ranked 7th and 4th in baseball, respectively (min. 8,000 PA).

Abreu’s .378 wOBA during this span ranked 11th in the sport, ahead of notable players (and Hall of Famers) such as Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, Craig Biggio, and Scott Rolen. With a career slash line of .291/.395/.475 which amounts to a .870 OPS and 129 wRC+, Abreu was an All-Star caliber hitter during his entire career. His 129 wRC+ is the 11th-best figure in the sport and 2nd among primary right fielders. It wasn’t just the offense, but also the speed. Abreu’s 400 stolen bases rank 7th in history among right fielders. Per Fangraphs’ baserunning runs (BsR), Abreu’s figure of 34.9 also ranks 7th during his career from 1996 to 2014. What makes Abreu a sabermetric darling is that he stacks up so well against his peers when evaluating him beyond just traditional statistics.

Counting Stats and Run Producer

Even when looking at just counting stats, Bobby Abreu’s career was a great one. There is not a long list of players with 300 home runs and 400 stolen bases. Well, Bobby Abreu finished his career with 288 home runs. He also finished his career with nearly 2,500 hits and 574 doubles. When it came to slugging, Abreu was a model of consistency. He hit at least 20 home runs and 35 doubles in the same year, nine separate times. Two other times he hit more than 40 doubles with at least 15 home runs. While never the best power hitter in his day, Abreu was an extra-base machine.

A speedster, an extra-base machine, and now a run-producer. Despite sharing his career with numerous big-time power hitters, Abreu’s 1,363 career runs batted in ranked 14th in the sport from 1996 to 2014. Abreu drove in 100 runs or more eight times in his career, including seven straight from 2003 to 2009. As stated previously, he was a beacon of consistency. Whether it is runs batted in or runs scored, Abreu was one of the best during his day. His 1,453 runs scored was 5th in the sport and also scored 100 or more runs eight times in his career. Another form of counting stat and reflection of consistency for Abreu is games played. From 1998 to 2010, Abreu never played fewer than 152 games, which is remarkable when comparing it to games played by today’s generation.

Peak Performance

Finally, we get to peak performance. By this measure, Abreu’s hall of fame candidacy is much better than most realize. Abreu’s peak can reasonably be considered from 1998 to 2006, his time with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was one of the very best players in the sport during this period, not just among outfielders. His 48.9 fWAR was 4th-best in the sport, ahead of many Hall of Fame players (min. 5,000 PA). During this span, he hit .305/.416/.513, good for a .928 OPS and 140 wRC+. This was also the peak of the steroid era, so his 202 home runs only rank 26th in the sport. His 140 wRC+ and .928 OPS both rank 13th during this span. His 16% walk rate and .416 OBP also rank 4th and his .305 batting average ranked 8th. By wOBA, Abreu’s .398 ranked 13th and his 29.7 BsR ranked 4th. By other counting stats, Abreu ranked 2nd in doubles, 2nd in stolen bases, and 5th in runs scored. What all of this means is that Bobby Abreu was inarguably one of the ten best players in the sport during his peak.

Final Thoughts

As a player with no steroid suspicions, the fact that he ranks so highly in so many offensive categories during his peak definitely helps his Hall of Fame candidacy. Despite not being one of the best power hitters of his generation, he should not go overlooked. His numbers reflect someone who was one of the best all-around players of his generation. Despite never having a few otherworldly seasons, Abreu’s consistency is what sets him apart. With seven seasons of 5+ WAR and four of 6+ WAR, Abreu was able to perform at a consistently high level for a good portion of his career. Unfortunately, Bobby Abreu has virtually no shot to gain induction this turn on the ballot. However, already having gained +11 votes from returning voters in 2023, Abreu’s chances at induction look to be improving.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images

Players mentioned:

Bobby Abreu, Scott Rolen, Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, Craig Biggio