Bobby Abreu has a better Hall of Fame case than you think
The 2020 Hall of Fame ballot was revealed earlier today. Derek Jeter, of course, headlined the group, but also found on the list was outfielder Bobby Abreu. As Craig mentioned, Abreu spent much of his career being underrated and though baseball fans and writers have become a lot more stats-savvy since his retirement, it is hard to see him getting the groundswell of support necessary to earn induction in Cooperstown.
Abreu, now 45 years old, retired with exactly 60 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference. Among Hall of Famers who played at least 50 percent of their games in the outfield, Abreu is in the same neighborhood as Andre Dawson (64.8 WAR), Dave Winfield (64.2), Vladimir Guerrero (59.4), Willie Stargell (57.5), and is substantially ahead of Kirby Puckett (51.1).
During his prime, 1998-2004, Abreu accrued 41.5 WAR, per FanGraphs. The only outfielders with more WAR in that span of time were Barry Bonds (66.8) and Andruw Jones (43.4). He should have been a perennial All-Star but, through no fault of his own, he wouldn’t get his first All-Star nod until 2004. He would repeat in 2005. Similarly, Abreu won just one Gold Glove and one Silver Slugger, again through no fault of his own.
Abreu retired with terrific counting stats as well. He racked up 2,470 hits including 574 doubles, 59 triples, and 288 home runs. He stole 400 bases and drew 1,476 walks. There are 28 players in baseball history who have drawn 1,400-plus walks. The 500-doubles club is similarly exclusive, boasting only 63 members. Of those 63 players, 12 -- including Abreu, of course -- also stole 400-plus bases. Of those 12 players, four swatted at least 250 homers additionally: Abreu, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, and Rickey Henderson. Abreu had a very unique and elite offensive skillset, one matched by a handful of legendary players throughout baseball history.
Abreu’s candidacy is hurt by a few factors. The lack of hardware, as mentioned, which isn’t his fault. Secondly, Abreu he didn’t get a real shot in the postseason until 2006 with the Yankees and while his overall playoff numbers are solid, he didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy like, say, Jack Morris. For some people, the postseason résumé matters. Abreu rarely led the league in any one category, doing so only in 1999 with 11 triples and in 2002 when he led the NL with 50 doubles. Lastly, Abreu didn’t have a particularly high peak. His best year was 2004, when he posted 6.6 WAR. He actually had seven seasons of at least five WAR. His former teammate Scott Rolen, by comparison, peaked at 9.2 WAR in ’04. Abreu was extremely consistent but he never had a year in the forefront of the MVP Award conversation; his highest finish was 12th place in ’09 with the Angels when he was given two of 30 fifth-place votes.
There are more deserving players on the ballot, for sure. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Manny Ramírez would be slam dunk Hall of Famers if not for the specter of performance-enhancing drugs surrounding them. Larry Walker has been more criminally underrated than Abreu, and one could say the same of Rolen. Curt Schilling has some extracurricular activities hurting his candidacy, otherwise he’d be a shoo-in. Abreu is right up there in that second tier of players on the ballot. Voters who are being stingy with their votes ought to consider Abreu’s case deeply.