Jose Abreu hasn’t had a stretch like this in the major leagues, maybe ever.
The White Sox first baseman entered Friday night’s game against the Texas Rangers hitting .190 with a .646 OPS, cringe-worthy numbers for a guy who’s made a living mashing baseballs since arriving in the United Stated two and a half years ago. It’s hard to find a stretch nearly this bad in his major league game log; his slumps are often shorter than and not as pronounced as this 16-game malaise.
There was a 26-game stretch from April 26 through May 26 of 2015 that’s probably the worst he’s had, in which he hit .248/.315/.356 with three home runs. But that turned out to be nothing to worry about, as Abreu finished last season with 30 home runs and an .850 OPS.
The White Sox, though, are hardly concerned with Abreu’s slow start to the 2016 season. It’s just 16 games, after all, which represents 5 percent of the major league games in which he’s played. But more importantly, manager Robin Ventura said the 29-year-old Cuban hasn’t changed who he is during this slump.
“I think guys look at it as an anomaly of him going through this,” Ventura said. “I think he's handled it well. You wouldn't really know from day to day because of the way he handles it. He works, he's an over-worker almost, of going in the cage and tinkering with stuff and being able to try and find that feeling.
“Right now, he doesn't have that feeling. but when he gets it he can go on a tear.”
Abreu was seen in the White Sox clubhouse long after Thursday's loss to the Los Angeles Angels dripping with sweat, having taken extra batting practice following his second consecutive 0-4 day at the plate. Ventura said Abreu’s been chasing too many bad pitches lately, though it hasn’t resulted in a noticeable drop in his contact rate. What has dropped, though, is his hard contact percentage, which sits about 7 percent lower than it was last year.
“Is he better than that? Do we expect more of him? Absolutely,” Ventura said, “and we have confidence he's going to do that. As soon as he stops chasing it he's going to be just fine.”
More than likely, Abreu’s April struggles will become a non-story chalked up to a small sample size. The 66 home runs and .904 OPS he compiled in 2014 and 2015 are better indicators than what he’s done — or hasn’t — in 2016.
And too, Ventura hasn’t seen anything mentally from Abreu that makes him think this’ll turn into a larger problem.
“His attitude has always been great and that's the thing that's going to carry him, whether he goes through a slump or whether he doesn’t,” Ventura said. “He's been through a slump, not like this part, but he's been through stuff where he's been able to bounce out of it.”