White Sox By Position: First Base

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to put Jose Abreu’s 2016 season into proper context. In April, as the Sox broke camp and headed for Oakland, Abreu was one of two players in history to start his career with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Albert Pujols is the other. Counting stats what they are, Abreu also had a few other metrics supporting his potential as a top 10 first baseman.

Then, for two months, Jose Abreu simply did not hit.

After a while it became fairly evident that the book was was out on Jose. He was being pitched in. Hard in. He was seeing the usual breaking stuff away but this was different. Abreu was swinging at pitches up near his throat. He had expanded the zone and made himself a far too easy out.

Or had he?

I’ll ask that you keep these next few sentences in context of a very good hitter suddenly turning. Despite a lack of power (six home runs in April and May) Abreu was still getting on base at a .304 clip. His batting average (.242) was actually survivable in light of his .282 BABIP. Abreu wasn’t making great contact, to be sure, but by some measurements, he was also a bit… unlucky.

I had conversations with broadcasters, front office people, players and fans. At points, members of every group would essentially confirm two things: 1) He’d dangerously widened his strike zone. 2) It was remarkable that he was able to get the ball on the bat given he was swinging at everything. The turnaround came, albeit strangely. June saw Abreu hit five home runs and slash .306/.355/.531. In the heat of July his power melt away. Zero home runs but a .340 OBP. From the start of August to the end of the season, Abreu hit like… well, Abreu. He mashed 14 home runs, hit .338 and held a .969 OPS.

Baseball has an endless amount of cliche. It’s been around 150 years and with the advent of Sabermetrics, new cliche is getting added to the lexicon. Take these two:

“Don’t tell me what you hit, tell me when you hit.”

April 4th – May 31st

White Sox: 27-25

Abreu: .242/.304/.382

“There’s no such thing as clutch.”

June 1st – October 2nd

White Sox: 49-58

Abreu: .319/.376/.511

By no means am I insinuating causation. That kind of math would need to be done by someone much, much smarter. I only offer those two pieces to point out how damn weird baseball can be.

Baring massive change, of course, Abreu is part of the Sox core for the foreseeable future. Further, he’s the solution at least one offensive variable for the 2017 White Sox. Well, the guy from the last four months is, anyway.