Should You Buy or Sell Jose Abreu?
You see, I'm an idiot. If you haven't realized this yet, you're probably new to the site. My predictions are really freaking bad. I slotted Abreu fifth in the Rookie of the Year race. That column was posted on the morning of April 22nd. Since then, the White Sox have played 12 games. Abreu has hit seven home runs and driven in 16 runs. He's a bad, bad man.
So, I'm sorry, Jose. I feel pretty bad about underestimating you, but you've gotten your vengeance on the baseballs, so hopefully you can spare my melon. Please?
Well, since I'm already in a hole, I might as well keep digging. I, like many of you, want to know if Abreu's start is something he can keep up. Should you be buying this guy before he explodes even more, or should you sell while the getting is good?
One of the most commonly cited stats when it comes to regression is BABIP. Good news for Jose. His BABIP is at .256, which is actually lower than the league average and a little bit lower than what you would expect given his line-drive percentage. Zippidee doo dah, streamers for everybody!
And here come the party poopers. As we dig further into some of Abreu's batted ball stats, there are some signs that his power - while still great - isn't quite what it has looked like so far.
Through his first 141 plate appearances, Abreu has hit 33 fly balls resulting in 12 home runs. That's a home run per fly ball ratio of 36.4 percent, which is bizarro world-esque. In this case, that's not a good thing. Ideally, that ratio would be lower, hinting that Abreu had been stricken with bad luck. Not the case here.
Let's try to give this number some perspective. Right now, Abreu's home run to flyball ratio is the highest in the league. Second highest is Michael Morse at 30.8%, almost a full six percentage points lower than Abreu. Giancarlo Stanton is at 30.3%, Troy Tulowitzki is 25.9, Albert Pujols is 24.4%, and Jose Bautista is 23.1%. Abreu is 10 percentage points higher than some of the best power hiters in the league. That's unsustainable.
Over the last five years, no player has had a home run per flyball ratio higher than 30.0%. The last person to do so was Ryan Howard in 2008. FanGraphs has data on this going back to the 2002 season. In that time, only Howard, Jack Cust, Jim Thome, Travis Hafner, Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez have ever had home run to flyball ratios over 30.0 percent. Howard's 2006 season is the only one with a higher ratio than than Abreu's current mark.
It seems pretty unrealistic to think Abreu will keep cranking jacks the way he has so far this year. But where can we expect him to settle? I honestly have no idea. We can have some fun with this, though, and show that Abreu is still pretty good, even if he's not as good as he is right now.
This is not a realistic comparison, but let's pretend that that Abreu ends up with the same home run to flyball ratio that Barry Bonds had when he hit 46 mammos in 2002. Humor me here.
In that season, Bonds had a home run to flyball ratio of 27.1 percent. Still an excellent mark, even though it's a bunch lower than Abreu's clip right now. Let's apply that to Abreu's next 450 at-bats.
By doing this, we're assuming that Abreu ends up with 578 at-bats. That seems like a realistic number given Abreu's 6.4 walk percentage. For the sake of projection, we'll keep his strikeout percentage at 24.8 percent. This means he would either put a ball in play or hit it out of the park 338.4 more times this year.
Also for the sake of this argument, let's keep his flyball ratio at 35.1 percent. That means that, of his 338.4 at bats that aren't strikeouts, roughly 118.78 will be flyballs. With his home run to flyball ratio at Bonds's mark of 27.1, that would be 32 home runs over the rest of the season. That would be the second-highest total for a rookie ever after you add in the 12 he already has.
What does this mean? Abreu, even if his numbers are inflated right now, is still a pretty freaking good player. He'd currently be on pace for 54 bombs, assuming the same number of at-bats as the previous example. Regression would be expected for anybody in that position. But this dude is for real, and you need to buy buy buy before it's too late.