StrategyJanuary 18, 2006

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Which Version of Mr Abreu Will You Be Drafting in 2006?

By Ryan Thwaites

Going into the 2005 season, many people had relatively high expectations for Bobby Abreu, and rightly so. For the past six seasons he had hit 20 or more home runs, played in at least 150 games, and stolen 19 or more bases while never posting a batting average lower than .289. In 2005 Abreu had another year that fit in within the years prior:

162 games
24 HR
102 RBI
31 SB
104 R
.286 Avg

Coming off what is arguably his best year thus far, Abreu posted numbers right in line with the six seasons prior. So, with this in mind we can pencil in Abreu for another campaign like this for 2006, right?

The main area that I am focussing this discussion on is Abreu’s power. Abreu debuted in 1996 at the age of 22 with the Astros, and had his breakout season in 1998 with a .312 batting average, .409 on-base percentage, and .497 slugging percentage. Since he broke into the big leagues, his isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) improved steadily each year until it reached 0.254 in 2001 at the age of 27. Below are his isolated power numbers leading up to that point:

AgeYearIsolated Power (ISO)

The following year Abreu posted an ISO of 0.213, and 0.168 the year after that. At this point, it appeared that Abreu had peaked in the power department at the age of 27, and signs of decline were beginning to emerge.

Then, prior to the 2004 season, the Phillies were shifted from Veterans Stadium into the newly built Citizens Bank Park. In the same season, Abreu’s ISO spiked back up to 0.243 and almost matched he his previous home run record with 30. Is it possible that the stadium move could be responsible for his increase in power?

Below are the offensive park factors for Veterans Stadium year by year, leading up to when the Phillies were relocated:

YearPark Factor

Then, for Ciitzens Bank Park:

YearPark Factor

Park factors indicate whether or not a stadium favored hitters or pitchers for a given season. If a park factor exceeds 100, it indicates that the stadium is an environment that is advantageous to hitters. Veterans Stadium played as a hitters’ park from 1998-2000, however played as a pitchers’ park the following three years. Citizens Bank, on the other hand, in its two years of play has played as a hitters’ park. Last year in particular, it was a hitters’ paradise. For comparison, in the same year Colorado’s Coors Field’s park factor was 113, and Ameriquest Field (Texas) was 104 – both notorious parks for aiding hitters. Therefore, it probably would be fair to say that in 2005 Abreu had a very good chance to put up his biggest year of his career, power-wise, but he didn’t. Why? Because his power is in decline.

AgeYearIsolated Power (ISO)

The jump in ISO in 2004 can most likely be attributed to the move to a new stadium. Last year (2005), he continued to decline in isolated power. The case for Abreu’s power looks even worse when you look at his splits from 2005:

Home: 0.535 slugging percentage (15 home runs)
Away: 0.417 slugging percentage (9 home runs)

If it weren’t for the fact that his home field was such a fantastic hitters’ park, his power might have been even worse. If you are a big believer in pre- and post-All-Star break performances (which I am to a degree, but not entirely in this case), then the following split may tip you over the edge:

1st half 2005: 0.526 slugging percentage (18 home runs, 11 in the month of May alone)
2nd half 2005: 0.411 slugging percentage (6 home runs)

So what does this mean for fantasy owners? If you want to heavily invest in last year’s month-by-month splits, then you probably would not feel comfortable using a first-round pick on Abreu in a head-to-head league. As far as Abreu’s runs and RBIs are concerned, they are lineup-dependent so they are more difficult to predict. His on-base percentage and speed have held constant the past few years, and coupled with a very similar lineup behind him, he should post similar run totals. His RBIs may feel the effect of a decline in power, and may hover around the 100 mark depending on how well the table will be set by players like Jimmy Rollins. As for his stolen bases and batting average, they are very difficult to predict; however it would be reasonable to expect typical Bobby Abreu figures in those areas (20-30 SBs, .285-.310 BA).

So before you head into your draft, consider the apparent decline in Abreu’s power and factor in some protection in that category from other positions. It’s no longer reasonable to come to expect 25-30 home runs from him, unless you are of the belief that ageing speedsters develop power late in their career. For me, however, the figures are just too linear to deny. If you are expecting to draft the Home Run Derby 2005 version of Bobby Abreu in 2006, you may be disappointed.

Ryan Thwaites has to go the extra mile to follow all things baseball from his home in Australia. You can find him posting in the Cafe's forums as RynMan.
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