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Astros: Will Jose Abreu Get Better?

I hate writing this. I feel like I went through this with a First Baseman LAST YEAR. Now I am reliving that same disappointment.


When the Astros signed Jose Abreu I wrote this


I want to be clear. I did not include Abreu in my targets intentionally. I did NOT want a 36-yr old who is a marginal fielder. We have been living through that for the past three years, but let me be clear. Abreu is a much better hitter with MASSIVELY more power than Gurriel. My concern is how will this hold up in his age 36, 37, and 38 year old years.


I wanted Josh Bell. He was cheaper. He is younger. He WANTED to play in Texas.


Then I gave you a bunch of reasons to get excited about how the Abreu signing COULD work. Then I wrote this.


The 2022 Iso number (0.141) down ~33% from 2021 (0.219) and career (0.215)- is this the early warning sign? Was something causing the power drop? Was it due to a lack of protection? Inquiring minds want to know.


I then gave reasons to worry about his power as premature. I think those that know this site and what I write will testify that I am rarely wishy washy in my assessments. Looking back on my Abreu signing article. I was. I remember why. I was tired of ripping the Astros for every dumb thing the champions had done in the offseason. I was TRYING to find why this might work.


I am now going to show you why it is now time to be VERY concerned. I will monitor this data and I hope it improves rapidly because this is BAD folks.



We have heard that Abreu ALWAYS starts slowly. What did that MEAN last year? How would it compare to the same period this year and is this start just the same as last year? Will he get better?

Last year's start was bad. This year's start is SIGNIFICANTLY WORSE.

  • While the wOBAs may actually be in the same universe, last year one could look at the data and say Jose Abreu has been horribly unlucky.

  • His wOBA gap was almost TWICE what it is now.

  • His BABIP was an unsustainably low 0.221 (vs. career 0.326)

  • His Iso was bad last year. His Iso is 177th of 178 qualified batters this year. I want to know who stole Jose Abreu's ability to hit with some power. This is not Jose Abreu,

Let's compare four groups of time and you are going to see what I mean

  • The four years BEFORE last year- good years

  • Last Year- even better than the average of those four years

  • The START last year

  • The start this year

Iso


wOBA/ xwOBA

Yes, there is a sizable wOBA gap right now. EVEN if Abreu was hitting his xwOBA, it would be a bad year.


BABIP


Adamant White Sox fans had the terrible BABIP last year to point at and say "he has been unlucky!" This year Abreu's 0.290 BABIP means he has kind of been unlucky- a little.


Launch Speed

Now you should get worried. Losing 5 mph in exit velocity in a year is TERRIBLE.


I got more. Let's look at these other batted ball data by year.

Percent of Balls being Pulled

Even more shocking is to look at Abreu's 2022 Spray Chart

This is his spray chart in 2023

It is almost like Abreu is scared of the Crawford Boxes.


Weak Contact %

Who stole Jose Abreu?


Barrel %


Also, in Baseball Savant you can get data by pitch types. This is important as you will see here. I am going to show you xwOBA and Exit Velocity by pitch type.


The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Fastballs: 4 Seam, 2 Seam, Cutter, Sinker. I would have assumed that the 36-year-old was having the most trouble here. Nope.

Abreu's xwOBA is down 9.5% from 2015-2022 average.

Abreu's Exit Velocity is down 4.5% from 2015-2022 average.

This is GOOD compared to the rest.


Breaking: Slider, Curve, Knuckle, Sweeper, Slurve, Other


The scales on the y-axis of these graphs are the same so it is easy to compare.

Abreu's xwOBA is down 40.5% from 2015-2022 average.

Abreu's Exit Velocity is down 4.5% from 2015-2022 average.

This is BAD.


Offspeed: Split, Change, Fork, Screw.

Abreu's xwOBA is down 77.9% from 2015-2022 average.

Abreu's Exit Velocity is down 21.1% from 2015-2022 average.

This is Horrible, Ugly, and any other word you can use to describe it.


Why is Abreu SO BAD vs. Off-Speed pitches?

- It is a small sample size

- Does he have a vision issue and is not picking up pitches?

- I put him in a cage and tell him not to come out until he is hitting changeups.


What does it all mean?


SOMETHING is WRONG. I do not believe it is just a bad start. It is a horrible start and the ONLY thing that looks like Abreu is him hitting fastballs.


Work drills to get Abreu to pull.


You all tell me what can be done. This is the data.


I am hoping against hope that he will get better quickly and make this article look dumb. My eyes don't see it and the data does not give me hope.


I THINK he will get better. I am not sure he will get as good as we expect.


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