A familiar August for Jose Abreu, with hopefully a better ending

A trip to Minneapolis in August spelled the beginning of the end for Jose Abreu’s 2018 season.

Exactly one year ago, Abreu went 2-for-5 with a double and his 77th and 78th RBIs in a victory over the Twins at Target Field. It was a night characteristic of his second half, as he raised his post-All-Star-break line to .330/.394/.652. His season as a whole still lagged behind his career standards due to an ugly six weeks before said break, but one could see a path to his usual benchmarks of 25 homers and 100 RBIs.

Then he went to the hospital for surgery to remedy testicular torsion, the first of two intimate procedures that put him on the shelf for all but six games the rest of the way.

Hopefully Abreu will leave Minnesota in better shape this time around, because he entered this series in the Twin Cities laboring under similar circumstances, and he’s doing all he can to correct past wrongs. He raised his August line to .325/.384/.584 with this detonation against Kyle Gibson on Monday:

That’s the kind of Abreu swing that so many White Sox fans have named their children after, and they’ve been in steadier supply as of late. That said, he’s going to need many more of them, because he’s lagging behind last year’s production by and large.

Here’s how his 2019 line stacks up against what he was doing before his business became atwist:

PA2B3BHRRBIBB%K%BAOBPSLG
201852636122786.819.4.272.331.491
201953327027924.922.3.273.313.491


These lines are jarringly similar. Some doubles have turned into homers in accordance with 2019 rules and regulations, and the guys in front of him have been on base more, but the biggest difference is in the plate discipline column. Abreu refused to take ball four for a solid third of the season, drawing just four walks total across June and July while striking out 43 times. He’s since rebounded in this department with six walks alone this month, primarily because he stopped jumping at every fastball he sees.

That midseason chasm will be just about impossible to backfill, but his efforts to rectify it will loom large the rest of the way, especially if you believe a contract extension is but a mere formality. The White Sox have the worst strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball, and just about every team to make a jump from also-ran to contender conquered this category.

James Fegan wrote about Tim Anderson following Avisaíl García’s path to glory, finding success with the best version of himself:

The forces of regression don’t have enough time left in the season to drag Anderson down from his career bests, and while he can’t maintain a .390 BABIP for the next 10 years, he’s at least doing the things someone who is average-dependent and never walks needs to do. While he’s swinging out of the zone a career-high 44.4 percent of the time, he’s also swinging in the zone at a career-high 89.1 percent of the time and making more contact across the board. His 13.2 percent swinging strike rate is, again, his best ever. It is a reminder of Avisaíl García’s breakout in 2017: Don’t make the aggressive hitter less aggressive. Make him better at being aggressive.

Anderson’s being the best at being aggressive in August, hitting .403/.425/.545 with just 12 strikeouts over 18 games and doing his damndest to make me eat my headline. Abreu’s license plate frame also reads “I’D RATHER BE SWINGING” — and he’s also confused by the nameless phone numbers pinned under his windshield wipers — but he’s at least drawing some walks when he’s right, because he’s filtering out some of the pitches he stands no chance of damaging.

When Anderson and Abreu are both on top of their games, the optimism is more than athletespeak. It’s just going to be a hard needle to thread until they get more support given their shortcomings, so if Abreu’s going to hang around no matter what, hopefully it can be the August version, in both senses of the word.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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roke1960

If Abreu had a major leaguer (Machado or Harper) hitting behind him, he would definitely have more walks. When you have men on base and you know the guy behind you sucks, you’re going to try to drive the runs in yourself.

karkovice squad

Eh. Abreu’s situational and component stats don’t really bear out that theory.

He’s going through a combination of decline and variance around true talent. While Jim drew attention to the monthly changes in his approach on fastballs, what’s more evident year over year is that he’s struggling with breaking balls out of the zone and offspeed in the zone.

karkovice squad

For what it’s worth, his elite exit velocity says his problem isn’t a decline in bat speed.

His granular chase, whiff, and groundball rates point towards pitch recognition, pitch selection, and swing plane. While the approach issues might just be age-related decline, the change in groundball rates and average launch angle say he might benefit from buying into the flyball revolution with some more uppercut on his swing. It might also have a side benefit of solving some of the whiff rate issues.

texag10

Abreu has averaged about 40 walks a year (buoyed by a 51 walk campaign his rookie year) and he’s at 26 walks this season. I don’t think the lineup matters, he’s just not one to take walks.

roke1960

If you’re a pitcher and have men on base, are you going to give Abreu pitches to hit, or take your chances with McCann, Alonso, Jay or Castillo? Yes, Jose is not one to take walks, but they are not going to give him good pitches to hit, with that slop hitting behind him. I agree it’s up to him to be more selective at the plate, but if he knows the guys behind him are not going to produce, then he’s going to be even more aggressive than before.

karkovice squad

We have data on how he’s been pitched and what he’s done with those pitches so we can test that theory. You should go look at that data and make your case instead of just speculating.

roke1960

So you think he would have similar numbers if he had Harper or Machado hitting behind him vs. Jay, Alonso, Castillo or McCann? I’m just curious.

karkovice squad

The difference in his stats would be miniscule. There would be a bigger difference in the lineup’s total run production from having more good hitters versus fewer.

PauliePaulie

1/$10mil.

roke1960

That sounds good, with a team option for 2021 if Vaughn isn’t ready.

dwjm3

sounds fair

As Cirensica

I see nothing wrong with that

knoxfire30

Thats reasonable, I fear this recent surge is giving the sox the stupid idea of making him a 2 or 3 year offer for more money than that though.

shaggy65

No way the Sox are that prudent. If the contract is anything less than 2yr/$24mil I’ll be shocked.

lil jimmy

you guys slay me. They are cheap and not prudent at the same time.

Trooper Galactus

You do realize this is the same team that UNDERBID the Angels for Konerko after 2005, right?

lil jimmy

That’s a hard ball number. There is no indication hard ball will be played. LaRoche got 25 million over two years in 2015. It won’t be less than that. I know it and so do you.

PauliePaulie

I believe it’s a very fair #, and more than he’ll be offered by any other team.
The earning power of non-elite bat, poor defensive 1B’s over the age of 30 has changed a lot since 2015.

I hope the Sox understand the market and spend intelligently.

Instead of a downvote, how about an amount thought to be more “fair” or realistic.

lil jimmy

You’re pulling it out of your ass. You don’t know that, and saying it, does not make it so.
You throw a low ball number out and want to argue it’s correct? The market decides.
You are living in a fantasy world, where you are the smartest person. 10 mil. for one year, please.

PauliePaulie

Wow.
OK then.

Amar

But Jimmy, didnt Abreu say he would play for free?

marquettepark

Agreed – 2 year deal with an option on a third. 25 plus million seems probable. All this talk about regression is fools gold especially when he surpasses career highs in rbi’s (oh I forgot so old school) and hr’s by the end of September. The focus on what Abreu is or isn’t worth is ridiculous – when compared to all the real holes that need to be filled on this roster.

Trooper Galactus

Wait, you think he’s going to hit ten more home runs before the end of the season? Seems like a bit of a tall order, though if he stays on this hot streak a little longer he’ll close that gap very quickly.

burning-phoneix

I think that’s pretty reasonable. 2 years at 10 Million AAV with an option for a third year.

Patrick Nolan

Another former White Sox with less-than-stellar post-career activities.

As Cirensica

…the league of extraordinary gentlemen?

Trooper Galactus

I’ve never watched the movie, but I find it amusing that the only reason Sean Connery agreed to be in it was because he turned down the role of Gandalf in the LOTR series. He just didn’t understand Tolkien’s work, and after it became an epic hit he decided to take a chance on another franchise he didn’t have a clue about, much to his financial detriment (reportedly a cut of the films’ proceeds worth around $400 million). Not like he needed the money, but that would have put even him in a whole new stratosphere.

As Cirensica

Don’t watch it. It ain’t a good movie. And it is looooooong (or feels like it is 3 hours long)

Trooper Galactus

Oh, I have absolutely no intention of ever wasting any time on LXG.

asinwreck

If only he had ever had a stable home. Let us hope Edwin Jackson and Mike Morgan can avoid such troubles.

tommytwonines

And Colon… although his troubles will probably involve Popeye’s chicken. 

dwjm3

40 million in career earnings…No reason to head down this path

As Cirensica

…you think that way with a non-criminal mind. However, they don’t have that mentality. Pablo Escobar once was one of the richest men in the world….did he stopped being a criminal? Did he stop drug dealing? No. There is a point when it is for money until it becomes its perk. Like in the last episode of Breaking Bad, when Walter confesses to his wife that it wasn’t for the money, it wasn’t for his kids… it was because he liked doing that.

Yolmer's gatorade

Walter’s life was never exciting before meth, and he was filling that hole in himself by dealing drugs. You would think someone who played major league baseball wouldn’t need any more challenges in their life. Some people are just selfish though.

As Cirensica

We don’t know what life Dotel carried while being a baseball player. I think that believing he was a hard working baseball player, then he retired from baseball, then become a criminal (allegedly) is an incorrect approach.

If Dotel (and Loaiza) were caught in criminal enterprises, very likely, they had criminal minds before and during their baseball careers.

Yolmer's gatorade

I think the term ‘criminal mind” is a very loaded term. People commit crimes for various reasons. There isn’t a define pathology that separates the “criminal mind” from the “normal mind.”

As Cirensica

OK… I meant “criminal mind” as if to say someone who does not blink twice to break the law for personal gains or enjoyment or someone with low ethical values.

tommytwonines

Spoiler Alert! How does Game of Thrones end? Actually, I don’t care.

BTW, Rosebud’s a sled, the Planet of the Apes is Earth, Murder on the Orient Express, they all did it!
And the death of Bobby Ewing – it was all a dream. 

Try binge-watching Dallas now. 

ImmortalTimeTravelMan

Soylent Green is people!

Josh Nelson

I’m looking forward to the season of Narcos with guest appearances from Loazia and Dotel

asinwreck

Apparently the cast includes ex-Marlins 2B Luis Castillo:

Authorities in the Dominican Republic arrest former MLB pitcher Octavio Dotel, look for ex-infielder Luis Castillo for their alleged links to a drug-trafficking and money-laundering ring.https://t.co/rd1Q5f8oSl

— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) August 20, 2019

As Cirensica

I am just afraid Big Papi’s name will show up and that somehow being connected with his murder attempt which has never been explained.

Trooper Galactus

I thought they explained it as he was wrongfully targeted. Dunno that I bought that explanation, though I did hear it.