Last night during the White Sox game, I was in attendance at Notre Dame’s game against Georgia. I was receiving news of a much better outcome elsewhere – and in a different sport – from friends who alerted me to the fact that José Abreu had hit for the cycle in a 13-1 dismantling of the Giants – and former White Sox hurler (and ND grad) Jeff Samardzija. When I finally got the chance to look back at the highlights and watch Abreu’s at-bats as well, it became clear to me that this cycle was really just another example of José Abreu being José Abreu.
The Cycle Itself
By completing the cycle, Abreu because the 6th player in White Sox history to hit for the cycle, and the first since a fellow “José”: José Valentín. Let’s start by taking a look at the results of each at-bat in which Abreu recorded a hit (he was 4-5):
Images from MLB.com At-Bat Gameday
Each of these results is a perfect example of the type of player Abreu has proven himself to be since he came into the league: he has good at-bats, lays off tough pitches, and, most importantly, takes advantage of mistakes. His outstanding bat control allowed him to flare a single into left on a pitcher’s pitch for his third hit of the night and rope his triple into the wide open right-enter gap on an 0-2 pitch to complete the cycle. Perhaps just as impressive about Abreu’s triple in his final at-bat was his ability to set a new personal top sprint speed of 27.9 ft/sec (per Statcast) after fouling the previous pitch off of his shin. In Abreu’s words:
“My legs weren’t responding, but I’m a warrior. I have to fight through that and I did it.”
José Abreu, The Player
I truly believe José Abreu is one of the most under-appreciated players in baseball today. Like his predecessor at 1B, Paul Konerko, Abreu has continued to be the consummate professional ballplayer in 2017 that we have seen him compete as throughout his time on the White Sox. In a season filled with losses and growing pains, Abreu has been a model of consistency, as he aims for his fourth consecutive season of 25 home runs and 100 RBI’s (currently sits at 28 HR, 87 RBI with 21 games to play). There are 29 other MLB teams who could use that sort of consistency out of their 1B/DH, as he is the key instrument behind the fact that at the first base position, the White Sox rank 11th in OPS and 8th in WAR among all MLB teams.
Throughout the season, the narrative has centered around Abreu’s role in the future of the White Sox. He is in his age 30 season, meaning he would be 32-33 when the White Sox are ready to compete for the World Series title. Yet, throughout this season, Abreu has continued to make the decision easier for the White Sox to keep him around for the rebuild and into the future. He’s a mentor for all the prospects, a good friend for Yoan Moncada in particular, and, once again, a perfect example of how to conduct oneself as a ballplayer for prospects and veterans alike. I mean, you don’t have to believe any of this simply because I say it, here’s what James Shields had to say about Abreu last night (per Scott Merkin):
“He’s unbelievable. He’s unreal. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve been around. He comes to the park to play every day. A lot of people, they don’t realize, they don’t realize how hard that guy works, man. He works his butt off. He’s in here at noon working out every day when nobody’s even in here. He has a lot of fun. He’s starting to have fun with the guys in the clubhouse. He brings a great attitude every single day, and I love it.”
Hearing about Abreu’s work ethic makes me feel even more confident about Abreu’s ability to maintain a level of consistent production, even as he gets a little older. This White Sox team is going to be very young in 2019-2020. There will be days when the prospects struggle and the team finds itself mired in a slump on its way to ultimate success. A clubhouse veteran like Abreu will be – and currently is – invaluable to this team of young guys, despite how often I cite his value through WAR. If the writers who vote for MVP were to include more guys who didn’t play on winning teams, Abreu, in this season more than ever, would deserve at least a few votes for MVP. If, through all this, that point still seems outrageous to you, I’ll make one last effort to convince you, thanks to Chris Kuc’s tweet:
Thanks for reading, and as always, #TrustTheProspects.