As we barrel toward the end of the calendar year, more and more we'll be discussing the Baseball Hall of Fame vote. Ballots from eligible BBWAA voters are to be sent before the turn of the year, which makes the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve the perfect time for lobbying about the 2021 ballot.
Monday morning, the Phillies started their campaign for Bobby Abreu with a press release titled "Bobby Abreu Worthy Of Enshrinement In Cooperstown." What followed was a list of his statistical accomplishments compared to other Hall of Fame right fielders. It was pretty thorough work, so why not take this opportunity to discuss Abreu and his Hall candidacy?
First off, there's nothing wrong with lobbying campaigns, and sometimes it helps increase awareness for players who might have been underrated for whatever reason. Tim Raines started with 24.3 percent of the vote. Larry Walker's low point was 10.2 percent. Edgar Martinez was once at 25.2 percent. All three are now Hall of Famers.
Abreu is facing an even steeper climb. He got just 5.5 percent of the vote last year. There's only so much lobbying can do when another 69.5 percent of voters need to change their mind. Is Abreu worthy of those votes, though? Let's take a look.
In parts of 18 seasons, Abreu hit .291/.395/.475 (128 OPS+). He collected 2,470 hits, 574 doubles, 59 triples, 288 homers, 1,363 RBI, 1,453 runs and 400 steals. He ranks 76th in career on-base percentage, 82nd in runs, 107th in hits, 88th in total bases, 25th in doubles, 89th in RBI, 20th in walks, 74th in stolen bases, 61st in extra-base hits and 49th in times on base.
Given how many players have ever appeared in the majors in history, sitting in or around the top 100 in all those categories is very impressive, especially his ability to both get on base and hit for average while piling up extra bases.
In the Phillies' release, it stuck to comparing Abreu to Hall of Fame right fielders, of which there are 26. He sits seventh in OBP, third in walks, third in steals, 10th in extra-base hits and third in doubles. Another interesting nugget from the release is Abreu is the only player in history to have nine seasons with at least 60 extra-base hits and 20 steals (Barry Bonds is second with eight seasons of the type).
In looking at JAWS, Abreu sits 20th all-time among right fielders. He sits below the average Hall of Fame right fielder by the measure, though he's barely behind Dave Winfield and ahead of Vladimir Guerrero, Enos Slaughter, Willie Keeler and several other Hall of Famers (he's also ahead of Gary Sheffield, who might only be out due to suspected PED ties).
Going by WAR, Abreu is 19th all-time among right fielders. Again, he's short of the average Hall of Fame right fielder. He's also ahead of Ichiro Suzuki, Guerrero, Sammy Sosa and a host of Hall of Famers like Chuck Klein, Sam Rice, Harry Hooper and Harold Baines. Of course, he also trails Dwight Evans and Reggie Smith, who are not Hall of Famers.
In looking at his similarity scores on Baseball-Reference (players with the most statistically similar careers), the top five are Luis Gonzalez, Bernie Williams, Dwight Evans, Garret Anderson and Torii Hunter. All very good to great players, but none Hall of Famers (I'm assuming Hunter falls off this year in his first try).
It can be misleading to use All-Star Games as a hard-and-fast judgment, as it only happens after half the season and the process can produce dubious results. There are snubs and poor selections. Still, I wonder if Abreu only being an All-Star twice moves the needle for some people? I could see some arguing it's just more proof how underrated his all-around game was -- especially with not being a prodigious home run hitter during a homer-heavy era. On the flip-side, if he was truly a Hall of Fame player, how wasn't he picked more often?
Similar points: Abreu has one Gold Glove and one Silver Slugger. He was named on MVP ballots in seven different seasons, though his highest finish was 12th and he was only in the top 15 twice. It's possible this all just isn't enough for voters, notably Small Hall people who need an elite-level peak.
We're left with a player who did some very impressive compiling along with a very good average and excellent OBP while racking up lots of extra-base hits. Something that people need to line up here for themselves is pretty simple: Did Abreu compile enough to combat the notion that he was never really regarded as one of the truly best players in baseball?
I suspect in going through his case, many people will agree with me here that while we probably didn't appreciate Abreu nearly enough for how good he was while he was a player, he still falls shy of the established Hall of Fame standard.
Still, there is certainly a case to be made and the ballot provides plenty of room for those wishing to add their support to Abreu's cause.