Angels gain patience with Abreu

February, 12, 2009
The Los Angeles Angels typically prefer players who provide more speed and defense than Bobby Abreu does at this point in his career, but he brings them a skill they have sorely lacked the past few years: patience.

Abreu runs deep counts and sees a ton of pitches (ranking fourth in the majors in pitches seen per PA in 2008), which translates into high on-base percentages and high pitch counts for opposing pitchers.

By contrast, the Angels had only one qualifying hitter, Chone Figgins, in the top 120 players in the majors in pitches per PA last year. Abreu's power has slipped from its peak, even though he spent the past two years in a ballpark that's friendly to left-handed power hitters.

The Angels need the OBP boost so badly -- they finished 11th in the AL last year in OBP, which includes two insane months from Mark Teixeira -- that even a moderate-power Abreu is a substantial upgrade. They can also mitigate his defensive issues by having him share the right field and DH jobs with Vladimir Guerrero. Guerrero, no defensive whiz himself these days (although he's better than Abreu), may see his offensive output improve if he's given more frequent days off from playing the field, as he has been trying to hit without using his lower half for the past year-plus.

For some reason, it's become popular to run the Angels down this winter, relying heavily on the fact that their underlying player performances did not support their win-loss record.

While it's true that, in terms of quality, they weren't a 100-win team, their simple Pythagorean record was 88-74, and they're not substantially worse off in any area this year relative to last year except at first base.

They also have several opportunities for improvement between Howie Kendrick (who hits when he's healthy but can't seem to stay that way), Brandon Wood (low-contact power hitter in a lineup that, again, doesn't have much power) and, perhaps, Kendry Morales (good minor league performances and solid approach but poor results in sporadic major league time). The Angels probably aren't as good of a team as the average fan looking at last year's standings would think, but they're better than a .500 team and right now remain the favorites to win the division.

Keith Law

ESPN Senior Writer


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