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“That’s Amore!” Explaining The Historically Slow Starts of Jose Abreu

What if I told you a player that started the first two months of the baseball season with an average slash line of .258/.317/.477 would finish the season with a slash line of .300/.361/.517? Would you want to roster a player like this? If you knew who it was would you buy-low within the first two months of the season? In case you were wondering these statistics are the career two-month starts, and end-of-season finishes, for White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu. There’s no question he’s been a historically slow starter. However, he’s finished three seasons with an average of .300 with 30 home runs and 102 RBI. There are numerous players that have similar starts to his. Being a Cubs fan, there was nothing more frustrating than watching the production of Aramis Ramirez through the first few months. After May, he would go on a tear and end up with some of the best statistics in all of baseball. Yet, I have a feeling we are only a few weeks away from Jose Abreu righting the ship. This week, I bring you “That’s Amore!” Explaining the Historically Slow Starts of Jose Abreu.

As a fantasy owner, of fan of your favorite baseball team, it’s extremely frustrating seeing players struggle. In fantasy, there’s nothing more irritating than limping through the first few weeks of the season. Your pitchers get hammered, injuries rack up, and the batters you depend on most barely hit their weight. Naturally, you won’t be releasing any of your top players, especially the ones you spent high draft picks on or kept. However, there comes a time of reckoning when an owner must decide to release a player, off to a slow start, for a waiver wire gem that is on fire from the start. I was having a casual fantasy conversation a few days ago. I recalled releasing Cliff Lee after about four bad starts. He was quickly scooped off of waivers and went on to win the Cy Young. This is an example of jumping the gun and trying to ease the pain of slows starts. Last week, I wrote about Mitch Haniger. He’s torched pitchers since Spring Training and he’s seen his stock rise, being ranked as one of the top outfielders throughout fantasy baseball. One of the hardest questions for me to answer is whether or to buy-low, or sell-high, on a player. Questions that come to mind are: What is his worth? Will I get a fair return? Will the trade being vetoed by jealous owners? These are fair questions, however I’m a firm believer that most trades that happen are due to team needs. Naturally, in real life many trades would be unrealistic. However, in fantasy baseball we see trades that may not make logical sense in MLB, but in the fantasy realm they fill voids left by team needs. Through three weeks, Jose Abreu is my top candidate for a buy-low player.

Entering Sunday, through the first three weeks, Abreu has slashed .183/.234/.233 with zero home runs, six RBI, 15 strikeouts (60 at-bat), and only three extra-base hits being all doubles. He’s been extremely frustrating for many fantasy owners. In one league (I play in a total of five) Abreu was dropped for a catcher. This is absolutely mind boggling, and there’s zero chance I drop the struggling star. However, I hopped on the waiver wire and won the claim. I’ve already sent trade requests, and I’m hoping I can land the slugger at a buy-low price. As I mentioned earlier, through his first three seasons, Abreu has managed to hit .300 with 30 home runs, and 102 RBI. At 30, there’s no reason to believe he’s starting his decline. Playing his home games on the Southside of Chicago is one of the strengths to rebounding quickly. The short left porch at Comiskey (Only people not from Chicago refer to the ballpark by it’s current name(s). Just as no one from the Chicagoland area refers to Sears Tower by any other name.) will eventually allow Abreu to get back on track and push for 30+ home runs in 2017.

Many questions arise when trying to dissect Abreu’s slow start. Are his strikeouts piling up? Is he having issues repeating his solid swing? Both of these questions are fair, however neither are the case. He’s not making solid contact. When he is, he’s hitting the ball right at fielders. I guarantee it’s even more frustrating for the hitter himself. Averaging 130 strikeouts shows he’s no stranger to the “K”, but as I’ve mentioned numerous times, he’s managed to attain a .300 batting average. Guys that rack up strikeouts rarely hit .300.

Abreu’s Z-Contact% (contact at pitches in the zone) has always been around 90%. 2017 hasn’t been any different, as he’s currently at a career-high of 94.0%. Again, swinging and missing isn’t the case. His O-Contact% is also at a career-high (64.9%) compared to his career average of 60.2%. If his outside the zone career percentage was at a career-low this would bring major cause for concern. To wrap up the fact his contact percentages are at a career-high, the slugger’s overall Contact% currently sits at 80.7% which is 4.8% higher than his career average.

After examining Abreu’s contact percentages, it’s safe to say he’s above his career averages. He’s making contact, but there’s still something missing. Now, I want to focus on the batted ball aspect. Abreu’s career batted ball percentages are as follows: 18.06 Soft%, 47.5 Med%, and 34.43 Hard%. Through the first month of the season, Abreu has produced 15.6 Soft%, 57.8 Med%, and 26.7 Hard%. Voila! Here we have it. Early on, his batted ball percentages tell the true story. While his Med% is 10.3% higher than his career average, his Hard% is 7.73% lower than his career-average. That being said, he’s not making the hard contact he’s been accustomed to. Another factor could be balls being hit right at batters. This has been the early going case for numerous hitters across the league. It’s only a matter of time before flares start to drop, line drives start to find gaps, and hard-hit balls find the stands. Another factor will be the increase of Abreu’s BABIP. His career BABIP is .338. Currently, he’s at .244. Again, over time we will see Abreu rise to prominence at the summer arrives. One last split I want to focus on is lefty/righty. Through his first three seasons, Abreu has slashed .282/.362/.502 against lefties, and .305/.360/.518 against righties. Those stats are nearly identical. Through the first three weeks of 2017 Abreu has slashed .083/.083/.083 against lefties (12 at-bats), and .208/.269/.271 (48 at-bats) versus righties. He’s had 36 more at-bats against righties, but the struggle can be seen versus both types of pitchers. How does Abreu bounce back? After May, Abreu has historically bounced back from early-season slumps. I’d like to see Abreu jump on pitchers when ahead in the count. When ahead in the count, Abreu has hit better than .300, but thus far he’s found himself hitting from behind. This could be from taking a fair share of pitches, while trying to lure pitchers into making the pitch he wants. Again, this has been the case through his first three seasons.

Overall, April and May slumps have been familiar to Abreu. Starting his career slashing .258/.317/.477 during the months of April and May, the White Sox first baseman has seen each slash statistics rising nearly 60 points slashing .317/.377/.533 during the months of June, July, August, and September. Abreu could use a little luck as many of his hits have been at fielders, or to the warning track. This won’t be the case as the season progresses. If you’re looking for an early buy-low candidate, it’s hard to find a better player to target than Jose Abreu. Right now, his price tag is at an all-time low. I’d take a shot on the first baseman because as history suggests, as the weather gets hotter, so does Jose Abreu.

 

Last Week’s Article: “That’s Amore!” The Mitch Haniger Files

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

 

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 23rd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #84 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guests this week are Andy Macuga and Ron Shandler. Andy is the head football and baseball coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in southern California. Ron is a FSTA Hall of Famer and a fantasy baseball pioneer.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join guest host Andrea Lamont, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 30th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #85 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will be previewing the coming week’s key matchups and discussing key fantasy information.

Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com, a 5 year veteran in MLFB leagues, and a really handsome guy. His articles publish every Sunday. He helps “Pick Your Spots” for the coming week.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

I'm a former collegiate and semi-pro baseball player. Chicago sports are the love of my life [Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls] as well as European football. I promise Cubs fans that if Theo can't bring a World Series, I will knock down all doors until I work my way up to GM and bring home a World Series to the Northside of Chicago!

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