Something is plaguing the Angel offense. After a breakout 2009 season, the Angel line-up seems to have regressed to the mediocrity of previous seasons. At the center of the slump is none other than the man largely credited with leading last year’s hitting renaissance in Anaheim: Bobby Abreu.
Don’t stare at you bat, Bob. It isn’t the reason you can’t hit right now.
Last year, the Angel players and coaching staff wouldn’t shut up about how great it was to have a professional hitter like Abreu around teaching all the younger hitters about the fine art of hitting (since, you know, their real hitting coach is fairly incompetent). His commitment to pitch selection and patience are the whole reason the Angels handed Bobby a brand new contract literally seconds after free agency began. Now it is the Angels who need patience because Abreu is mired in a deep funk at the plate and bringing down the rest of the line-up with him.
In his 12 games played this season, Abreu is hitting a paltry .231 with an even more paltry .663 OPS. How could this possibly be? Bobby has five extra-base hits in his twelve total hits on the season, so he is hitting the ball with decent power. The real issue for Abreu is he has just two walks in 50 at-bats. Yes, that’s right, the Prince of Patience, the Pope of Plate Discipline has walked just two times all season long. Before you know it cats will be sleeping with dogs and Republicans and Democrats will actually be passing bipartisan legislation. I think we need to get to the bottom of this impending disaster and fast.
The answer, it turns out, is pretty simple. Abreu is swinging too much. I’m not sure, but that might be the first time that sentence has ever been written. After all, we are talking about a guy who has never seen a first-pitch he didn’t want to take, even if it was right down the middle, but the numbers speak for themselves.
Thus far in 2010, Abreu has swung at 22.3% of pitches outside the strike zone. For his career he has swung at just 14.2% of such pitches. Overall, he now has swung at a career-high 38.8% of pitches seen. The end result is Abreu doing a fine job of getting himself out rather than his usual practice of forcing pitchers to even get him to offer at a pitch.
Because of his poor choice in pitches, Abreu has been burned by an uncanny rate of pop-ups. A staggering 18.8% of his at-bats have ended with Bobby hitting an infield fly ball which is miles above his standard rate of 3.2%. What this tells us is that not only is Abreu swinging at bad pitches, but he is actually making contact with them and poor contact at that.
There is good news though. These stats are all screaming anomalies. Abreu has over 12 seasons of being one of the most patient and disciplined on earth. Unless he had a lobotomy or some other procedure in the off-season that caused his brain chemistry to change, Bobby isn’t going to continue chasing bad balls all season long. He is simply too smart to not realize the errors of his ways and adjust accordingly. Nor can he continue to pop-ups so frequently because, well, nobody can pop-up almost once every five at-bats even if they tried.
As much as it sucks to have such an offensive black hole batting second in the order right now, things look like they should work themselves out before long. All we need to do is just do like Bobby Abreu normally does and be patient.