I have a weekly mailbag colum in which I answer a bunch of emails each week, but today I thought I would address two emails that came my way because I think the analysis of the two questions is pertinent.
At the beginning of the year I was loving Bobby Abreu but he has been struggling lately. Which Abreu should I expect to see for the rest of the year?
– Ryan, Ukiah
A good one. Here are the facts.
(1) Abreu is hitting .303 overall but just .204 over his last 54 at-bats. Has he struggled here of late? Absolutely. But overall his 303 mark is nearly identical to his career .300 mark. In addition, his BABIP of .344 is right along his career lines as he owns a .352 mark in that category. Nothing to worry about here.
(2) Abreu has gone 173 plate appearances without a home run, a shocking run of ineffectiveness for a player who has hit at least 15 home runs in each of the last 11 years. His power has declined the past few years, but this level of failure makes no sense at all. It should, let me repeat should, even out moving forward. However, it is concerning that his FB-rate has dipped to 29.5% this season which would be a three year low, but still, it’s not that far off his 31.2% career mark. The real change in his work at the dish is the fact that his GB-rate is up to 52%, a career-high, while his LD-rate of 19% is an eight year low, far below his 23% career level.
(3) Despite the lack of pop, Abreu is walking at the same rate as always (15.2 percent BB-rate), while his K-rate has plummeted to 11.7%, an almost 50% reduction in his career rate (21.4%).
So what do we have? We have a man who has been putting the bat on ball more frequently than ever before, and one who is producing hits at the same rate as he always has despite a recent slump. Add in the fact that he is 15-for-15 in steals and you have to be positive about Abreu’s outlook moving forward. It’s not his fault that he has only 18 runs scored in 41 games with a .410 OBP, and with Vlad Guerrero now back in the lineup that rate could change shortly. Sooner or later the home runs will come, and when they do Abreu’s production will likely turn back to “normal.”
Is it worth dropping the slumping Bengie Molina to pick up Wieters for the anticipated June call-up?
– Tyler, Toronto
Molina has eight home runs with 30 RBI in 43 games for the Giants, but he has been awful of late hitting just .200 over his last 50 at-bats. The Giants depend on his bat so much in their run-deprived offense that one has to figure that he will play pretty much every day even when he struggles. Speaking of those issues at the dish, Molina’s approach was bound to catch up to him sooner or later. Molina has walked all of two times in 171 plate appearances this season leading to a miniscule 1.2% BB-rate. Combine that career worst rate with a 8-year high in his K-rate (12.7%), and it’s clear that a change in his approach are needed. Still, Molina has hit at least 15 home runs in each of the past four seasons, no other catcher has done that, and his total of 176 RBI the past two years are the second most amongst all backstops (Brian McCann had 179). The bottom line is that Bengie is a run producer.
As for Wieters, we are still awaiting his long anticipated debut – though late news is that he will likely make his first appearance on Friday. Wieters has hit .285 with five home runs and 26 RBI in 38 games at Triple-A this season, and he has knocked in nine runs the past 10 games during which time he is hitting .286. He has a Hall of Fame bat and his defense is solid, but the bottom line with Wieters is that he has struggled with some ineffectiveness and injury this season, and though his potential is off the charts, he doesn’t have a single at-bat in the majors to fall back on. Given those facts, combined with the top flight production that Molina has offered the past couple of seasons, I would recommend holding on to Molina for now if all you can do is a 1-for-1 swap. The upside with Wieters is massive, but at the same time sometimes slow and steady wins the race.
By Ray Flowers