Jose Abreu providing Sox with big-time value
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media April 28, 2014 9:58PM
Updated: April 29, 2014 10:35AM
As his record-setting April draws to a close, the White Sox’ Jose Abreu stands at 7.2 runs created per 27 outs, as listed at Baseball-Reference.com. That was second among American League first basemen through Sunday, behind the Red Sox’ Mike Napoli (7.5) and ahead of the Angels’ Albert Pujols (6.6).
Runs created is a Bill James formula that takes into account everything a hitter does: hits, extra bases, walks, hit by pitches, stolen bases, caught stealing, outs, sacrifice bunts, sacrifice flies and double plays. By prorating runs created per 27 outs, it tells us a lineup of nine Abreus would score about seven runs a game.
That’s largely built on his major-league-leading 10 home runs through Sunday, one more than Pujols. Before Abreu’s big month, the most homers a major-league rookie had hit before May 1 was eight, and Pujols figures in there, too. He hit eight for the Cardinals by the end of April in 2001 and shared the record with Kent Hrbek of the 1982 Twins and Carlos Delgado of the 1994 Blue Jays.
Pujols had an even faster start in 2006, when he slugged 14 homers before May 1, a major-league record tied by the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez the next season.
The previous rookie record-holders did it when they were younger than Abreu, who came to the Sox from Cuba in his prime at 27. Pujols was 21 when he tied the rookie homer record, and Hrbek and Delgado were 22.
Their rookie seasons took different directions. Pujols kept slugging, finishing with 37 homers, a .329 batting average and a 1.013 OPS. Hrbek’s homer pace slowed on his way to 23 for the season, but he had a solid season with a .301 batting average and an .848 OPS. Delgado slumped badly in May. His only homer after May 1 came on May 30, he was sent to the minors in early June and he wound up hitting .215 with a .791 OPS.
All went on to long, productive careers. When they were 27 — Abreu’s age but with major-league experience — Pujols hit 32 homers with a .327 batting average and a .997 OPS, Hrbek hit 34 homers with a .285 batting average and a .934 OPS and Delgado hit 44 homers with a .272 batting average and a .948 OPS.
Abreu had a .262 batting average and a .962 OPS through Sunday. He had drawn eight walks and had struck out 25 times. Add in his 10 homers, and 43 of his 115 plate appearances had resulted in ‘‘true outcomes,’’ in which defense is no factor.
The 37.4 percent of his plate appearances ending in true outcomes fits right in on the Sox. Overall, 31 percent of American League plate appearances have ended in homers, walks or strikeouts. On the Sox, that number is 33.3 percent.
Strikeouts make up the largest share, but as long as the other outcomes — especially homers — keep coming, Abreu is providing big value.