Active, Not Passive, Stupidity

Jayson Stark, apparently has figured out what’s wrong with Bobby Abreu (.241/.313/.297 after last night’s game):

Here’s the take of one AL exec, who hadn’t seen a lot of Bobby Abreu in the NL, on the half-dozen games he has seen Abreu play this year: "Last year, after he came to the Yankees, he really looked energized. But this year, he’s a very passive guy. To see him come up there twice in big situations (against the Red Sox) and try to bunt, I thought, ‘That’s amazing.’ Even in RBI situations, he’s just very content to take his ball four and go to first. Look, I believe in the value of walks as much as anybody. But these were passive walks. They weren’t active walks, if you know what I mean. I think I’m starting to understand why the Phillies traded him."

Emphasis mine. The letters after my name do not include a Y (thank God), so I therefore have not seen many Abreu at-bats. But I will say this:

That sounds like a lot of crap.

I did see Abreu’s botched bunt attempts, which looked to me like he was trying to snap his slump by any means possible, a la Coco Crisp recently. This strikes me as the opposite of passive. Likewise, the anonymous AL exec (who must be affiliated with the Royals or the Mariners) seems to believe that pitchers are simply incapable of throwing strikes when Abreu’s at bat. I mean, he just sits there with the bat on his shoulder, all passive-like, and just takes all these gosh-darn walks! Apparently the nameless exec would be less upset were Abreu actually swinging at these pitches outside the strike zone.

I’m not going to crunch Abreu’s numbers and try to divine what’s wrong with him because, really, I don’t care as long as it continues through at least June 3. But I’m just gonna guess that since his OPS is 250 points below even what he put up in Philadelphia last year (when that .427 OBP was apparently so awful), it’s something — anything — other than not taking walks aggressively enough.

25 comments… add one
  • I think this is a bit unfair to Stark and the exec here. Abreu has appeared timid/pasive at the plate. The bunts may be construed as “attempts to break the slide,” but the truth is that they were bad baseball (of course, it’s very difficult to determine a player’s mindset just from watching them). I think there is something about Abreu’s that “seems” passive. At the plate, he does not appear as aggressive as players like Alex or Derek, also high-walk players. When things aren’t going well it’s easy to interpret that negatively. But I’m hoping Yankee fans will take a lesson from Giambi’s history–which often includes long slumps followed by immensely productive periods. Bobby’s due.
    I’m also not sure I understand why Jayson Stark should be pilloried as “actively stupid,” even if he’s wrong.

    YF May 13, 2007, 9:03 am
  • Paul, you and I usually see eye-to-eye on most things, but I have to kind of agree with YF. A guy from Philadelphia just started working at the same place I do, and he said that this is exactly why the Phillies’ fans wanted to get rid of Abreu. Always willing to let someone else “be the hero”, or just plain willing to let someone or anyone else hit. He’s also been kind of lackluster in the field, in terms of effort. All of this being the polar opposite of how he was at the end of last season.
    With this Yankee team, he can still be valuable, and perhaps he should spend the rest of the season setting the table, batting 2nd (or leadoff if Damon needs a day off). He’s going to get on base and he’s going to run well. And he’s talented enough that just writing him off as a run producer doesn’t make sense, but as long as he’s just focused on walking and getting down to 1st, it should be in situations where the big boys (Jeter and A-Rod, not the ridiculously nicknamed Giambino) can drive him in.
    Another way to get some value out of the millions the Yankees are paying him? His arm. We all know he has a good arm in RF, why not (when his fellow OFers are healthy), let him pitch some of these mop-up innings when the Yanks have either teed off on some poor soul, or when their own poor soul has been teed off upon. When there’s a blowout game, no more Mike Myers pitching 4 or Proctor seeing his 14th appearance in a row. Just bring Abreu in and put Melky Cabrera out in RF. It sounds ridiculous, and yet for the LT health of the Yankee pen, could be a neccessity.

    QuoSF May 13, 2007, 10:24 am
  • I have to agree with Paul SF. How can any YF complain when Abreu takes a walk? It means that Alex Rodriguez gets to bat with another man on base. He could be batting with his eyes closed and draw a walk and it would still benefit his team.
    Abreu’s not swinging the bat very well right now, but he’s only 33, and I fully expect him to put up good numbers by the end of the season.

    Andrew F May 13, 2007, 11:25 am
  • I don’t know. I have to agree with Stark to a certain degree, only because, it’s one thing to bunt for a hit, it’s another when like, there’s a dude on base, and you know, it’s the #3 hitter, one of the (supposedly) best pure hitters in the game. The least he can do is get a productive out (or try) instead of bunting it away.
    You just don’t pay 14 mil (?) to bunt. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just slightly disappointed.

    Lar May 13, 2007, 11:33 am
  • I’m not criticizing Stark, who just reported what he was toild — though I would have liked to have seen something more than just repeating what the exec told him. But that’s what he does, and it’s interesting, so whatever.
    I think timidity at the plate manifests itself in ways other than taking a walk. If he’s taking walks, then he has a good batting eye, and pitchers aren’t throwing him strikes. I would argue that taking a lot of called third strikes is a greater sign of timidity than swinging at non-strikes. I don’t know if Abreu’s doing that as well, but if he is, that would seem to indicate he is afraid to swing the bat in every situation, which would be problematic. I just think it’s silly to say that because someone is walking a lot, that means he’s being timid, and I fail to see how one can be passive or aggressive in taking walks.

    Paul SF May 13, 2007, 2:01 pm
  • The problem with Abreu right now is that he is NOT taking or getting walks. At the point 9a little over 2 weeks ago0 when Torre decided to bat Giambi in the 3 spot and move Abreu back to the 6th or 7th spot Abreu for that pervious week had been batting at or above .300 (while Giambi at that point was batting just above .100). The problem is that his OBP during that same time was BELOW .300. The problem with Abreu, besides not hitting up to the level he usually does is that he’s obviously not seeing the ball and the subsequent ‘confidence’ factor.
    His strength (pitch selection) has disappeared on him.
    His strikeout rate isn’t much different than it usually is (he strikes out well over 100 times a season). However, he hasn’t had a walk in something like 35 at bats.

    walein May 13, 2007, 2:50 pm
  • The other thing to keep in mind…Abreu has had at least 1 if not 2 terrible months every season for the last 7 years. About five of those months have been named April and May.

    walein May 13, 2007, 2:54 pm
  • and one was named March.

    walein May 13, 2007, 2:54 pm
  • One was named Tricia.

    QuoSF May 13, 2007, 3:16 pm
  • phillie traded abreau because he stopped trying to hit homers and seemed content just reaching base…that’s a bad thing?…he is in a slump right now…probably won’t last the season…if it does, oh well, yanks have no commitment…he’s an established professional, so the likelihood is that he’ll battle his way through it and begin to contribute…

    dc May 13, 2007, 3:27 pm
  • Also…
    Abreu is 6 games removed from the end of a 7 game hitting streak (4 multi hit games).
    HE”S ON MY FANTASY BASEBALL TEAM!!!! HE MUST COME BACK!!!

    walein May 13, 2007, 3:27 pm
  • Whether rational or not, dc, the Phillies’ fans expected more out of him than what they got, and his lowered HR rate might’ve had them thinking “decline”.
    And the “stop trying” extended to the field in Philadelphia, and there’s really no getting around that one. And after a month or two break from that in NY last season, he seems back to being that way thusfar for the Yanks. Lackluster despite his above-average tools.
    And to be clear, because I was the first time but you chose not to pay attention, Phillies’ fans wanted him out because of that, because he didn’t seem to be the player he’d been just a couple of years previous. The Phillies organization wanted out from under his salary.

    QuoSF May 13, 2007, 3:32 pm
  • i’m rooting for you walein

    dc May 13, 2007, 3:33 pm
  • DC-
    Abreu wasn’t traded because of some lack of homeruns. He hit the same amount of homeruns he always hit. The fact that he won the homerun derby in a year where he was hitting HRs at a higher clip in the 1st half of the season has changed the baseball world’s perception as to how many homeruns he was actually hitting every year up until that point.
    Phil. traded Abreu for a few reasons:
    Money
    Brutal fanbase
    Money
    Chase Utley
    Jimmy Rollins
    Ryan Howard

    walein May 13, 2007, 3:35 pm
  • ok, quo…i read what you wrote, and for the most part we agreed, so you can cut the not paying attention shit…he’s become a table setter as you suggested…so what? …that’s valuable to the yankees when he’s successful with it…my point was that the phillies wanted him out because he stopped trying to hit homers [and drive in runs], being content to be an on base machine…in their world, it’s not worth the money…sounds like you won’t be happy until i say he sucks…wishful thinking on your part to think it will continue…

    dc May 13, 2007, 3:46 pm
  • Cut out the not pay attention [removed]? How about this?
    With this Yankee team, he can still be valuable, and perhaps he should spend the rest of the season setting the table, batting 2nd (or leadoff if Damon needs a day off). He’s going to get on base and he’s going to run well. And he’s talented enough that just writing him off as a run producer doesn’t make sense, but as long as he’s just focused on walking and getting down to 1st, it should be in situations where the big boys (Jeter and A-Rod, not the ridiculously nicknamed Giambino) can drive him in. -Me. Earlier.
    I didn’t suggest at any point that he isn’t valuable or that he sucks. Just that the talking walks and being a table-setter for the Phillies from the 3-hole was not what they were expecting or paying him for.

    QuoSF May 13, 2007, 3:51 pm
  • how ’bout this:
    “…i read what you wrote, and for the most part we agreed…”
    not sure why you always feel the need to pick a fight with me, but i won’t get bent out of shape over it…bad case of “sox-sensitivity” i guess…

    dc May 13, 2007, 3:54 pm
  • Now you’re selectively quoting yourself? How about this?
    sounds like you won’t be happy until i say he sucks…wishful thinking on your part to think it will continue…
    At what point in any of what I’ve written have I intimated that I think he sucks, that you should say he sucks, or that I think he’ll continue to suck, if I did in fact say that he sucks (which I didn’t)? Find it. Please. Give yourself plenty of time to comb through.

    QuoSF May 13, 2007, 3:58 pm
  • back from getting a snack…
    “…Find it….”…didn’t take long:
    quo at 10:24am:
    “…Always willing to let someone else “be the hero”, or just plain willing to let someone or anyone else hit. He’s also been kind of lackluster in the field, in terms of effort. All of this being the polar opposite of how he was at the end of last season….”
    quo at 3:32pm:
    “…And the “stop trying” extended to the field in Philadelphia, and there’s really no getting around that one. And after a month or two break from that in NY last season, he seems back to being that way thusfar for the Yanks. Lackluster despite his above-average tools….”
    …i think the difference is that i’m willing to concede that it’s a slump, while you seem intent to call it a lack of effort…

    dc May 13, 2007, 4:15 pm
  • The fielding is a lack of effort for sure. And you really didn’t prove anything in terms of me saying he sucks. I’ve commented on his talent a couple different times, you even quoted me as mentioning his above-average tools. And yes, he’s willing to let someone else be the hero, and if he were being paid and being hit in a spot as a table-setter, there’d be nothing wrong with that. But he’s being paid and has the talent to do more.
    It might be a slump, and it probably is, and I didn’t say it wasn’t, as evidenced when I said this: And he’s talented enough that just writing him off as a run producer doesn’t make sense,
    Either way, it’s still putting words in my mouth, which 90% of the time is the thing you do that incenses people the most, including myself. Nothing to do with “sox-sensitivity”, which I know you know was a weak statement to make.

    QuoSF May 13, 2007, 4:23 pm
  • actually quo, i haven’t incensed anyone around here in quite some time…take a poll…you seem a bit chippy again today…you started the debate when you reacted to my rather innocent comment [not addressed to you, or anyone in particular, by the way, just my opinion on the topic] at 3:27pm, by apparently taking it personally with your shot at me about not paying attention…if you want to drop it here, and have a more productive discussion, that’s fine with me…

    dc May 13, 2007, 4:30 pm
  • by the way in my mind “lack of effort” is just one way to define that a player “sucks”…not just lack of talent…ok, i’m done…i’ll give you the last word…

    dc May 13, 2007, 4:33 pm
  • All right. I’ll concede the point as far as his plate presence goes. And I wasn’t really trying to prove anything with it. If he gets on base for Jeter/A-Rod/Posada/Matsui, then who cares what else he does there. But I think it’s pretty easy to tell that he’s not putting the effort in in the field for the most part.
    And I guess the lack of effort = sucks is a definition discrepency between us. I’ll give you an example of how I look at it:
    Wil Nieves at the plate = sucks, but is trying despite the nearly indisputable fact that he sucks.
    And leave it at that.

    QuoSF May 13, 2007, 4:38 pm
  • fair enough quo…
    but i didn’t say that lack of effort “equals” sucks, just that it’s one of the ways to define it…i agree with the notion that abreau looks lost out there [comment made by a sportscaster yesterday]…i don’t know if that’s affecting his effort or not, but even last year it seemed to me that he played in slow motion…the difference: things were going well…naturally, i’d prefer to say that he’s suffering from a slump and not a lack of effort…i’m guilty of defending one of my own…

    dc May 13, 2007, 4:46 pm
  • Not guilty of anything. Defending your own is what you’re supposed to do.
    …unless it’s Wil Nieves.

    QuoSF May 13, 2007, 5:30 pm

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