In high school, I was the king. I was Elvis. I was The Pope. I was the song “Come Sail Away.” I was the Iron Chef Michael Symon. I had close to seven hundred friends trying to gain my approval every day. I wore sunglasses during first period…on rainy days. I charmed all the teachers and the supervision ladies gave me hugs. I wore tank tops and flip flops regardless of the weather. I drank Moutain Dew Code Red straight from the bottle while using AOL Instant Messenger to talk to my prom queen girlfriend.
Who am I kidding? None of that can even be twisted enough to become true at all (although my girlfriend probably should have won prom queen). Literally zero parts of that opening paragraph is based on anything remotely resembling factual evidence. I was not Elvis, I was an awful Kid Rock meets William Hung meets Kelly Osbourne hybrid. I was not The Pope, I was the Popemobile’s hub cap manufacturer. I was not “Come Sail Away,” I was every Miley Cyrus vocal performance ever. I was not the Iron Chef Michael Symon, I was (and still am) the guy who consistently burns Hamburger Helper. I stood in a group of six friends telling bad jokes to one another while women had us hold their textbooks with bedazzled book covers.
What these four humbling years of life taught me, however, was to appreciate things that other people did not. Instead of longing and lusting over becoming the next high school Freddie Prinze, I longed and lusted over developing a Michael Cera-esque slightly creepy, yet lovable, awkwardness. Instead of campaigning to win the “Most Likely to…” awards, I was very good at the games on my TI-84 graphing calculator. Yes, it was the blue edition. His name was Muhammad.
Basically, for me to be a successful high school student, I had to be cool in my own unique way. It was definitely not the prototypical “How to Survive High School” outline, but I did what I did and I did it fairly well. I made a varsity team, graduated and met some amazing friends along the way. I was not exactly McLovin, but I was no Don from Napoelon Dynamite either.
Bobby Abreu’s career is a lot like me in high school. Just with about four times the longevity and about 244363546 times more money (No Muhammad though!). Throughout his no doubt Hall of Fame career, he has been perennially undervalued. Abreu rattled off a streak 8 out of 9 years in which he had 100 or more RBI’s. He has stolen 19 or more bases for 14 consecutive years. He has a lifetime batting average near .300 with almost 2400 hits and almost 560 doubles. Yet, absurdly, Abreu has been voted an All Star just twice. He has been instrumental to the success of the Angels every year since his arrival in 2009, including 2011.
Yet, with the arrival of Albert Pujols, the emergence of Mark Trumbo, and the return of Kendrys Morales, Abreu is now being undervalued by the Angels. The still productive Abreu is now out of a regular starting job in either left field or at designated hitter. In fact, not only is he out of a job, but he has fallen completely out of favor with Angels fans. Upon hearing news that Abreu demanded a trade, Angel fans have flooded Twitter with calls for a bounty on his sheer presence on the Angels roster. While, it is clear that Abreu is not the player he once was when he hit 31 homeruns and stole 36 bases as he did with the Phillies more than ten years ago, but to argue that he is no longer a valuable, contributing part to a winning team is borderline idiotic.
The Abreu scorning began to take shape last year, when Abreu had his worst statistical season. Yet, Abreu was still as valuable as some recent Angel heroes. The table below compares Abreu’s 2011 campaign with an anonymous slugger’s best season.
PLAYER A HITS WALKS PITCHES DOUBLES HOMERS
173 46 2499 43 34
Singles OBP SB
94 .355 3
ABREU HITS WALKS PITCHES DOUBLES HOMERS
127 78 2549 30 8
Singles OBP SB
88 .353 21
The stark difference between the two players is, clearly, the power numbers. The 26 homerun discrepancy between Player A and Abreu is undeniable. Homeruns are uniquely valuable in and of themselves because they create a run without needing to string together multiple base runners.
One could argue the 13 double disparity is also a very important factor because it automatically puts a runner in scoring position. However, the difference in doubles can be offset by Abreu’s difference in stolen bases that got him into scoring position. Taking into account the difference in stolen bases, Abreu reached second base five more times by himself, without having to be moved over by the hitter. Both players reached base at virtually the same percentage, so the variation in walks and hits cancels out when evaluating individual value. However, Abreu worked fifty more pitches in thirty five less plate appearances than Player A, which has value all by itself. It gets a pitcher’s pitch counts up earlier than normal. Combining this with Abreu’s place in the batting order last year, usually 2nd or 3rd and with an imposing player on deck, a pitcher’s pitch count could very well mean whether or not he stays in the game. Player A made an out 401 times, while Abreu made an out 379 times in only thirty five less plate appearances. Aside from the homeruns, these players had roughly the same effect on the offense because they both got on base and into scoring position by themselves at the same clip. So, who is the coveted and revered Player A?
Player A is none other than Kendrys Morales during his breakout 2009 season. Although he was only one Kendry at the time, it is the same now-pluralized Kendrys Morales Angels fans have waited two years to return from an exuberant home plate celebration injury. The same Kendrys Morales who has taken Bobby Abreu out of a job. The same Kendrys Morales who has Angels fans calling for Bobby Abreu’s release.
This purpose of the article is not to villainize Kendrys Morales. I am just as excited as the next Halo fan to see him performing at a high level once again. His bat is essential to the Angel lineup as it adds another strong hitter. The sole intent of this article to shed light on the value that Abreu brings to the lineup as well. Even in Abreu’s worst year, 2011, he still got on base the same amount of times as Kendrys Morales did during his “magical” 2009 season. Another objective of this article is to compare how idolized and sought after Morales has been, and how scorned and disgraced Abreu has been. Fans love the homerun, and this I understand. Bobby Abreu can no longer hit 31 homeruns like he did all those years ago. But, is anybody sold on the fact that Kendrys Morales can hit 34 homeruns like he did only three years ago? In fact, would anybody even bet that Morales can hit 43 doubles again? It would be nothing short of a miracle if Morales can repeat what he did pre-injury again this year. It is not hard, however, to expect Abreu to do the same thing he has done his whole career: get on base and put himself in scoring position. Runs cannot be scored without somebody reaching base, which Abreu still does very well.
Kendrys Morales is the popular kid in high school, while Bobby Abreu names his calculator. They are both valuable to the high school, they just have different ways of getting recognized. Let’s just not shove Bobby Abreu into a locker just yet.