The Astros didn’t make many outside additions over the winter. They were content to generally run things back with last year’s World Series roster minus Justin Verlander and deadline rentals Christian Vázquez and Trey Mancini. The only significant upgrade the Astros successfully pursued was at first base. They allowed Yuli Gurriel to depart and signed longtime White Sox slugger José Abreu to a three-year, $58.5MM deal.
Going to three years at a premium average annual value was not without risk. Abreu is 36 years old and offers limited defensive value. It was a bet on the bat, though it’s easy to see why Houston targeted the former AL MVP as a lineup upgrade. Abreu had hit .289/.366/.489 over the three seasons leading up to free agency. That included a .304/.378/.446 platform showing. He still looked like an impact hitter last November.
One can’t draw definitive conclusions on a move one month into a three-year contract. Yet it’s hard to envision Abreu getting off to a much worse start to his Houston tenure. Entering play Tuesday, the three-time All-Star owns a .235/.266/.269 batting line over 124 trips to the plate. He’s managed only four doubles and zero home runs. Out of 181 qualified hitters, he’s 170th in on-base percentage and 177th in slugging. This April was only the second month in Abreu’s career (July ’16 being the other) in which he played 20+ games and didn’t connect on a single homer.
The drop isn’t power isn’t a completely new development. Last year’s 15 homers and .446 slugging mark each represented the lowest figures of Abreu’s career. He was still a very productive hitter but the offensive profile was more driven by singles and doubles than by home runs.
Last year’s relative power drop was primarily a result of a dip in the frequency with which Abreu got the ball in the air. His hard contact rate was strong as ever, but he’d negated some of its impact by hitting a few more grounders than he had previously. That’s not the case this season. Abreu just isn’t hitting the ball with any kind of authority right now. His 35.9% hard contact rate is down dramatically from last year’s 51.7% figure. He has lost five MPH on his average exit velocity (down from an excellent 92.2 MPH to a pedestrian 87.2 MPH).
Abreu is more frequently chasing pitches outside the strike zone. While he’s never been an especially patient hitter, this year’s 41.2% swing rate on pitches outside the zone and 3.2% walk percentage would be the worst marks of his career. He’s doing a decent job putting balls in play but without any kind of impact.
It’s coincidentally a similar approach to the player whom Abreu replaced in Houston. Gurriel has been an elite hitter at times in his career, including when he secured the 2021 AL batting title. His final season in Houston wasn’t particularly effective, though, as he posted just a .242/.288/.360 line with eight homers and a 5.1% walk rate in 546 plate appearances. Gurriel had a good postseason but the Astros nevertheless let him depart to the Marlins on a minor league contract over the winter in recognition of the middling power and dearth of walks. (Gurriel made Miami’s Opening Day roster and is off to a .306/.358/.449 start through 14 games in a part-time role.)
It’s far too early to write Abreu off. He’s been such an accomplished hitter throughout his career that it wouldn’t be a surprise if he finds his stride over the coming weeks. The Astros have little choice but to count on him to figure things out for now. It’s too soon for any team to make meaningful trades. Houston wouldn’t look to upgrade over their top offseason signee after one bad month anyhow. It could raise an unexpected question mark for the club if Abreu is still floundering in six weeks, particularly since the lineup around him hasn’t picked up a ton of the slack.
The defending champions are tied for 12th in runs, 15th in OBP, and 22nd in slugging as a team. That’s in large part because of Abreu, although they’ve also predictably gotten no offense from their catchers and have been without Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley all season. Mauricio Dubón has stepped up in Altuve’s absence but certainly doesn’t offer the kind of power potential of Houston’s star second baseman.
Altuve seems likely to miss another month as recovers from his late-spring thumb fracture. Houston’s rotation has also taken some injury hits over the past couple days. They’re certainly not in dire straits — they enter play with a 16-13 record and are only a game and a half behind their in-state rivals in the AL West — but they’ll need more out of Abreu to help weather some of their poor health luck thus far.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
Would be shocked to not see him find his groove soon. Especially with a stacked lineup providing him with very few others who can be pitched around.
Abreu’s slash line May 20th, 2022 – .207/.296/.343
I assume his EV stats were similar last year to this period
Abreu’s drop in hr and rbi last season was the end of the line for him with the Sox and he knew it. He hated sitting out a game but pulled himself out of the last game of last season. I was surprised that some people in the media made such a big thing about him when he was a FA and then signed with Houston. They obviously weren’t paying attention.
What’s his Electric Vehicle got to do with this?
Musk you ask?
Growing leery and weary of this experiment. Think mgmt will give him until the AS break to turn it around at which time they’ll look for a replacement. In the meantime Dusty needs to drop him to the 7-8 hole in the lineup. Frustrating seeing him constantly strand Alvarez and/or Tucker.
Age remains undefeated.
I think the beard pony and perpetual tobacco lump is the reason.
Heh heh heh heh…
HEH HEH HEHEHE HEH!
How’s Rodon doing?
Psssh. Yankees just saving him for the summer dog days. Psssh.
– J.J. Flash
I think the Astros might regret not adding more starting pitching depth during the off-season, with Urquidy and Garcia going down. They’ve had tremendous luck on that front and it was due for some regression. Dusty Baker laments that fact too, and pointed to the fact there wasn’t a GM in place for much of the off-season to address the need.
Shame that Jim didn’t Click with Crane.
Abreu has not homered in his last 84 games dating back to last season. That is an astounding stat off a decent sample size. Age has shown.
Where are you getting 84 games from? His last home run was September 13. He’s gone 46 games without a home run. That’s still not good, but a massively different number to 84.
I see that is true. Misread the data. He has 1 HR in his last 84 games (since August 5th). That is something else. Haven’t looked at his savant/fangraphs data, but something is going on
Old, slow, bat weak, quite overpaid….I’m surprised the Yankees haven’t sent four prospects and two heathy bullpen arms to Houston….
Well Abreu was diminishing returns, and with a new club that demands results, whereas the White Sox Org was just happy he showed up to games. However, its early still and Im guessing he’ll hit better as the season goes on (as in the past).
He produced for the Sox… and it seems they wisely decided to let him walk.
Curly Was The Smart Stooge
Is it a slow start to the year or a quick finish to a career?
Maybe if he got rid of the bad luck shrunken head rat beard….
Brian Cashman is seething right now that he didn’t offer Abreu a larger contract contract
One interesting statistic about Abreu from last season was his lack of hitting of high velocity pitches.
The lack of power should be the concerning part playing in a hitters park. I think he’ll come around but he may not be the 25-30 HR threat he used to be
Minute Maid is a neutral park – not a hitters park.
He bagged the last big contract and then knocked off the PEDs. Everyone calm down.
I like Abreu, but if this had to happen, so glad it was when he went to Houston. Makes me smile real big.
Gurriel excelled in the postseason yet he was considered done lol. Abreu and Brantley should be playing elsewhere. The team should have spent money getting younger and more versatile. Nimmo, Josh Bell, Benintendi, Drury, even Conforto were better alternatives then and NOW.
I’m certainly not going to bet against Abreu coming back strong. He was always a bit of a slow starter. Not this slow. No doubt he’s not the slugger he was, But I said at the time that 60 million for 3 years was silly money to pay at the time. If I also remember correctly the owner fired the GM and did this on his own. Am I remembering that correctly?
He didn’t actually fire Click. He insulted him with a one year offer. And yes, the owner is the one who signed Abreu, which made me very happy at the time. Three years for an aging first baseman who only hit 15 home runs last season.
Dumpster Divin Theo
Stick a York in him. No seriously, give him a peppermint patty. He could use the energy boost
Slow is an understatement. Worst hitter in MLB at 1B. More than 50% worse than league average. Below replacement level.
He can’t be worse than Hosmer. Counting the days until Mervis clock runs out. Fingers crossed it’s gotta be close.
Hosmer has a .250/.299/.375/.674 slashline and 83 OPS+.
Abreu a .235/.266/.269/.535 slashline and 50 OPS+
As bad as Hosmer has been, Abreu has been worse.
Hosmer blows chunks. I think if Mervis had been here from the start and batting between Suzuki and Wisdom the Cubs would of won 2 or three more games. In tight games he chokes with runners on and his supposed Gold Glove has looked more rust colored than anything. If you want him back I say please take him.
Oh no. Seidler paid a heavy price just to get rid of him. The Cubs chose to sign him. He is all the theirs. At least he will be cheap for them to jettison.
Well no one is going to throw a pity party for Houston. They only have 2 more years of him. Josh Bell, is around the same stat’s, and Cleveland only has 1 more year of him. The real fiasco is the Tiger’s Javy Baez. His stat’s are looking up at those two, and he’s got another 4 years for 100 million. Oh boy, that movie line, “she’s a duesey judge” comes to mind. No one in their right mind would opt out of that deal, so the Tiger’s carry another Miggyesque type of contract for another 4 years. I did want to see that Jace Jung come up, but well, who knows ?
Baseball seems to be changing again, maybe it’s time to rethink the use of steroids in a way that can help the player’s keep up with the changes ? Not everyone is an Alzedo, so with careful attention it should be allowed into baseball again. I mean if you can approve an experimental injection, why not have something that may help the players ?
Man, I didn’t realize he was struggling so badly this year. A lot of my fellow Orioles fans wanted to make a run at him in free agency but his pronounced power drop off last year really put me off and it seems it wasn’t just smoke.
Trade him to the padres always liked the idea of him with that crew. Regardless, abreu will come around. Expect an above average May from this man, he is consistent af
Jose abreu always is a slow starter, his career April ops is 765 and his career ops is 852, abreu usually does best in late summer.
That being said there are indicators that are pointing in a bad direction, especially his loss of power.
Last year a high batting average and spike in walk rate masked his loss of power but last year his iso was at a career low at 141.
This year the power is even lower and plate discipline regressed too.
Abreu had bad Aprils with OPSes in the 600s before and was fine in the end, but he never was that bad. Maybe this could be the end but I would wait till June before writing him off completely.