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Thursday, September 15, 2005

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Do heroics include things like hitting a game-tying, 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th inning against Houston, only to have others lose the game and obscure the moment? How about breaking the momentum of Atlanta with a sliding catch of a bloop last night? How about getting the clutch hit in the bottom of the 9th that led to breaking a scoreless tie against Washington in July, and started one of the team's many renaissances this year? How about playing every single inning of every single game for years on end, without losing consistency or production? How about keeping that consistency going despite being the hitter for whom every opponent saves his best left-handed reliever? How about smiling through reams of unfair, uninformed criticism, despite being the best player on your team, never pausing to denigrate or fail to support your teammates? Does any of that count?

Let me refer you to a passage from a pretty good read: The Witches of Eastwick. I do not have the book open to me right here, but in it, one of the ladies is playing tennis, and her game is describes like this. "When she was a young girl, she was complimented on a good 'get' as she reached for a tough ball. From then on, she deliberately stretched for points she didn't really need to in order to have a 'good get.'" Bobby Abreu is, in my humble opinion, one of the top ten players in baseball each year. However, he makes it look effortless, as if he's not really trying. Thus, he attracts much criticism for his accomplishments, with fans always assuming he is holding back on them. They want to see the 'good get' on the baseball field, not the seemingly effortless smooth stroke of a professional. What does it matter to them that Bobby hit a three run homer in the third in a game the Phillies put away early? There's no drama in that! What does it matter that he drew a walk with two outs and a man on second and third, loading the bases for Pat B, even though all players hit better with the bases loaded than otherwise? What does it matter that when the Phils were down by 5 in the fifth, he hit a two run double, then came around to score to narrow the gap when the Phils ended up winning in extra innings? He neither scored nor drove in the go ahead runs, so they are ignored. The fan looks at Bobby's huge frame and thinks "Of course he can hit HRs. He's a big guy." Meanwhile they look at a scrawny kid like Utley and think "No way can he hit the ball out." This subjective perception allows the fan the believe that it is more of an accomplishment when Utley knocks one out than when Bobby does the same. I am not sure why Bobby doesn't get similar acclaim for all of his SBs, but those aren't acclaimed as HRs anyway. I look at Abreu, and see a player who has a value of 64 WARP over his carreer (and still going strong). Compare this to a player universally acclaimed, Chipper Jones. Despite being 2 years younger, Bobby trails Chipper by only 5 WARP. He should easily pass Chipper next year. I understand the struggle is between what your eyes tell you and what your head tells you. My thinking is the whole point of looking at numbers is because we know that our eyes can deceive us. That's the beauty of baseball. From the days where they only recorded batting average and RBIs, it has always been a numbers driven sport. We cannot simply look as a player running and know that he's a great player. We certainly cannot look at a realtively few at bats and proclaim one player's greatness or another's failure. Will Abreu be in the HOF? Maybe. He's not a Shoo-in, but he's building a case, certainly. I'm way sold out for Abreu. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If we had 8 of him in the everyday lineup, we'd win 110 games, and complain that we should have won 120. He's just that kind of player.

Great post, PK. The "need to get dirty" reflex is a powerful element in the sports culture of this town, and it leads to serious misperceptions. Its socio-psychological roots would occupy an entire blog.

Well said commentmakers! When its all said and done Abreu will go down as the greatest Phillie offensive player of all time.

Mike, let's not get hyperbolic here. I looked up a certain third baseman, who at his age was head and shoulders above Abreu. Abreu is a great player, maybe the best on the Phillies right now, and possibly the best outfielder not names Bonds in the past fiver or six years, but the greatest of all time? It isn't close.

Great points and I'm not surprised by the good responses. Seriously. I don't mean to paint this site as being anti-bobby, and I hope to never get that kind of tag. I will stand by my hero point. I don't view him as a hero.

Pawnking, you've been around this site enough to know I pull very hard for him to deliver the big one. Maybe that is the proper question ... is it fair for me, for any fan, to wait for the big one from Bobby? After all, we haven't seen him in October yet ... he could do what Carlos Beltran did ...

i'd trade him for a six pack..

just kidding

he's a terrific player..he hit what 3 million homeruns in the all star contest?? how many since? he is the most talented player on this team, maybe one of the 5 top talents in the nl..(a jones, pujols, d lee, cabrera..)

anyhoo...if i could pick from phils lineup who i'd like to see batting with the pennant on the line?? thome(w/o injury of course), utley, burrell, howard(against righty), all before bobby a... and bobby a. is the most talented player of that bunch in my mind so thats my reason for ragging him..

if he comes up tonite, i will root for him...just like i did the other nite when he stared at 4 pitches and walked back to the dugout in the 8th of a 1 run game..

-ken

Ken, you are guilty of a faulty perception on reality. Did you bring up his game winning GS in Arizona? His game-winning doubles against SF? His ability to get on base late in teh game? No, you mentioned when he failed(as all players do).

As I commented the other day, Bobby's consistently good offensive numbers over his entire career may have lulled a portion of the local citizenry to sleep but his teammates appreciate his presence and accomplishments. The other night Jim Thome was a guest in the broadcast booth for an inning or two and his comments about Bobby's discipline, knowledge of the strike zone, and year-in and year-out offensive numbers were enumerated with considerable admiration and affection.

I also remain convinced Bobby's problems stem mostly from the dissenting public's perception of his defense. When he was a little younger Bobby seemed less timid about going back to the wall/fence than he appears now. He still comes in well, has a good arm and rarely throws to the wrong base. I would describe him as a good not great outfielder, i.e., there are a lot worse guys patrolling the outfield.

It is also to his great credit that he can steal a base as well as draw a walk and hit a home run. That combination of skills is still rare enough for people to celebrate a 30-30 guy as unusual.

Abreu's demeanor, to which someone referred eloquently in one of the earlier comments, is also to be valued. He never seems to get down or angry and always seems upbeat. When he reaches base he is likely to smile and have a few words for the infielder. That quality is also to be admired.

He has been one of the best overall players in the history of this franchise.

This is a great discussion.

Didn't Barry Bonds get tagged for not delivering in the clutch early in his career? Maybe Bobby just needs the moment. I hoped, probably like most of you, that the HR derby would be it. Now I am hoping that the next three weeks are it.

Yeah, he has had lots of moments (as some of you have listed above) but we expect greatness out of him. If I'm watching a game and Bobby strikes out to end it or grounds out weakly to the pitcher, I am totally disappointed. If Utley or Howard do, I say "they are young".

Utley and Howard are new - we weren't expecting them to carry the team. We expect Bobby to do it every night. He is the guy who is supposed to do it. Ramon Martinez? Never in a million years.

Just imagine the feeding frenzy from playoff teams around the trading deadline if Bobby was a free agent after the season.

what the hell is WARP?

i don't understand all these new numbers. win shares is probably calculated by some convoluted system only understood by those that enjoy calculus. the only numbers i trust are the ones i used to find on the back of baseball cards. and bobby's got good numbers there. the only problem with looking at numbers to define a player is that sometimes those players see the numbers too and only play for them, not winning or the team, but putting up the best numbers. this was a huge complaint about abreau for years.

as a few of you have said, bobby's bad image most likely stems from his seemingly lacadaisical (sp?) attitude. reminds me of an article bill lyon wrote in the inquirer years ago talking about how rodney peete was always smiling. no matter what happened, fumble, interception, overthrow, rodney was always walking back to the huddle and sideline with a smile on his face. it's just the way he was. (well, that and the fact that he was going home to holly robinson every night.) now bobby is a much better baseball talent than rodney was a football talent but the comparison seems to ring true in that bobby gives the impression that he's not trying. he makes it look effortless. what we forget is that even though it doesn't look like bobby is running as fast as he can, he's still running pretty damn fast. would we rather him like willy mays and wear hats too big so that when he starts to run they come flying off?

i'm with the rest of you. i'd like to see him in some big games before i would consider passing final judgement.

I just arrived back from the game. During the ride down, I spent an hour thinking about my post and your comments. This has been the best thread on Beerleaguer in a long time and I knew it would be.

If there was ever a time to talk about Bobby Abreu and the idea of "perception" and "misperception," it was tonight.

Bobby had the best night at the plate of any Phillie by a longshot, going 3-4 with a two-run homer, a double, a single, a walk, and two runs scored.

However, his brilliant night at the dish will be overshadowed by many by his play on Langerhans' hit to right field, which was extended to a double when Bobby strolled up to it and looped it to second. The play ended up having no baring on the outcome of the game, but spotting a half-ass effort when they see it, the fans let him know about it.

There's no way of knowing about that play by reading a box score, just as the box score scrubs away hustle, laziness, heckling, cheering and lists numeric countribution only: 3-4, 1 HR, 2 RBI - a superb night of numbers.

That's Bobby. The debate continues ...

It's late in the day to add to the string, but I wanted to add this point. Generally when a manager says 'his approach to the game is exceptional' we take it with a pinch of salt because the journeyman we're looking at doesn't seem to get great results from said 'approach'.

Bobby does. I'm always expecting something from an abreu at-bat. Seems to me you can't have bobby's numbers without having a plan when you go to the plate every damn time. I would put money on it that bobby is one of those players who skew the strike zone for umps - I know when I see him look at a close pitch, I always assume he's right. He knows what a pitcher might do and how he should respond. He makes the at bat work for him - how many times have we seen him take a strike because it suits his plan? But the drama of that aspect of baseball's game, of bluff and counter-bluff between pitcher and hitter, only really plays out when the at-bat goes to a full count with a lot of foul-balls. So we don't see that aspect of his game. And what the eejits don't see, they won't cheer.

that was a typical 9th inning abreu abat last nite...no???

this is terrific debate..except for the people calling names..i'm being accused of a faulty perception..not the case (in my opinion!)

i'm saying stats are not the only imporant thing in baseball., they tell a story, but that half-ass play on the double and his weak half swings in last nites ninth also tell a story.. i'm aware he takes alot of pitches..i'm aware he's a .300 hitter with high OBP

i never ever said he can't hit in the clutch.
if you looked at my other posts you saw i mentioned his clutch hits. i watch most of every game so i see what he does every day.

what i see is a selfish, stats oriented player with incredible baseball talent. He should be MUCH better, and that drives me nuts.. You can not use "stats" to change my opinion. last nite was perfect example.. a key hit, a lazy outfield play and chavez-like at bat in the 9th inning.. that (to me) sums up his game..

so i get called an "eejit"
well i may be an "eejit" but i'm no fool - and if you get that reference i'm pretty impressed

Okay, here's my final thought on Abreu. I read time and again "If I wanted to pick a player to come up with 2 out, bottom of the ninth... etc., etc. it wouldn't be Abreu." My main beef with this line of thinking is twofold: 1) Baseball is not all about the bottom of the ninth with two outs, down by two with a man on first and second. It's also about scoring runs early, late and often. It's about drawing walks to continue a rally. It's about winning a game early as well as winning a game late. The only thing I ever hear bad about Abreu is "he can't deliver in the clutch." Even if that were true, it doens't at all take away from his awesome ability as a ballplayer. You don't get to choose who comes up with two out in the bottom of the ninth. But if I could choose my starting right fielder on my dream team, Bobby would probably be the one I picked. 2) While everyone seems to have a anecdote about how Bobby let them down late in the game, they seem to forget that the vast majority of all hitters fail in any situation, clutch or otherwise. If you define failure as getting an out more than you drive in the winning run, then even Barry Bonds is a failure. There is absolutely no ballplayer alive who will always deliver with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. This leads to a tremendous subjective opinions due to limited personal observation of how a player performs, and the hazy definition of "clutch" allows individuals to put the label "clutch" or "choker" on anyone they like with no consequenses. By any measurable statistic, Bobby is just as clutch a player as any on the Phillies. in fact, one measure shows him as one of the top 10 "clutch" players in the NL this year. There are other measures, but I defy anyone to make any convincing arguements that Bobby is a "Choker" based on statistically signifigant numbers. Ok, that's it. I'm done.

I'm not done. Pawnking makes a crucial point and last night's game confirms it. Delivering, at whatever point during the game, is what matters. It doesn't have to be at the most dramatic moment (two outs, bottom of the ninth, etc.); conversely, giving up three runs early in the game also matters. Abreu did deliver prior to the last inning last night and Myers stumbled early.

pawnking: ever notice how many years schmidty hit .250? back in little league, when i got out, my coach used to try and calm me down by saying "now remember: how many times out of 10 can mike schmidt get out and still hit .300?" to which my answer should have been "7" but it always ended up being "since when does that bum hit .300?"

gr, that's the funniest line I've heard in a while.

Wow, so gr was a wiseass even in little league. Very interesting thread guys. It is a topic that can go 'round and 'round. And yet still....no consensus...That's Bobby for you, "Polarizing and Perplexing".

Not to beat on the Abreu vs. Schmidt comparisons (I'm a long time fan of Schmidt's and I've followed the Phillies since 1964 when I was 8 years old.) but offensively, I'd take Abreu over Schmidt any time for my lineup. There is no comparison between Schmidt and Abreu defensively, Schmidt being one of the finest 3rd baseman of all time, Abreu vastly overrated as an outfielder.
I can remember Schmidt being attacked as not being a clutch hitter, striking out too much, only hitting homers when the didn't matter,etc.
Lets enjoy watching Abreu play now while he's active. Who wouldn't like to go back in time to say '78 and watch Schmidt and the Phils take on the Pirates in an early September game at the Vet?

Mike: that's not a phrase you often hear: 'Abreu vastly overrated as an outfielder'. You make him sound like the marlon anderson of right field . . .

gr:

absolutely worth the price of admission.

Vastly overrated is indeed an overstatement. It's a result of following the Phils mostly on MLBTV (normally the opposition's feed), ESPN, TBS & Florida's TV affiliate and hearing over and over the same player stories. Abreu's is all about the Stocker trade and then that he's a five tool player, a great fielder with a great arm.

He is more than adequate as a rightfielder, however not one of the greatest fielding outfielders of all time.

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