As I do every morning, this morning I found myself reading ESPN.com (this article would have been earlier but today was move out day at school), musing over the just released most underrated and overrated lists that the writers had pumped out (big cheers to Rob Neyer for calling out Vizquel, future article to come on that). Steve Phillips, former GM of the Mets, someone I hold in about as high a regard as Jim Bowden, posted the underrated team, and in right field he had Bobby Abreu.
Now I've been an Abreu fan for years (had him in fantasy baseball both times I made the playoffs), and I love that he's a quiet Brian Giles esque superstar (like Brian Giles!).
But I digress. Now I think Abreu is the most underrated player in baseball, but when Phillips claims in his article that I should compare his numbers to Beltran, and that Abreu was better, well I couldn't just take him at his word. He GM'd the Mets for God's sake.
So I took a look at the numbers from 2001-2004, and was absolutely shocked at what I saw.
2004: .267/.367/.548 38 HRs 104 RBI 36 Doubles 42 steals .281 ISOP
VORP 74.5 .306 EQa
2003: .307/.389/.522 26 HRs 100 RBIs 14 Doubles 41 Steals .215 ISOP
64.1 VORP (second best in AL for CF) .310 EQa (3rd among all center fielders)
2002: .273/.346/.501 29 HRs 105 RBI 44 Doubles 35 steals .228 ISOP
VORP 49.3 (5th in AL among CF) .286 EQa (Tied for 6th in AL among center fielders)
2001: .306/.362/.514 24 HRs 101 RBI 32 Doubles 31 Steals .208 ISOP
VORP 63.4 (2nd in AL among CF)
2004: .301/.428/.544 30 HRs 105 RBI, 47 Doubles 40 steals .243 ISOP
VORP 83.8 (Best in NL, second in baseball for RF) .328 EQa
2003: .300/.409/.468 20 HRs 101 RBI 35 Doubles 22 steals
53.3 VORP (second best in NL for RF) .312 EQa (3rd among all right fielders)
2002: .308/.413/.521 20 HRs 85 RBI 50 Doubles 31 Steals .213 ISOP
VORP 70.4 (3rd in NL among right fielders, .1 behind Sosa) .325 EQa (Tied for 2nd in NL among right fielders)
2001: .289/.393/.543 31 HRs 110 RBI 48 Doubles 36 Steals .254 ISOP
VORP 64.9 (4th in NL among RF)
There's only one year (being 2003) where Beltran is even remotely superior to Abreu. In fact, if you look at 2004, Abreu's numbers absolutely blow Beltran's away. As a point, I included doubles to show that unlike Beltran, who it seems just dinks balls over fences, Abreu displays a wide range of power, as he's always among the league leaders in doubles.
In fact, as I look at the career totals, the only category besides HRs in which Beltran is superior to Abreu is SB% (at a ridiculous 88.5% 193/218).
So was Steve Phillips right? Is Abreu better than Beltran? Sabremetrically speaking, the 31 year old Philly right fielder does top Beltran, but in terms of building a franchise, one has to side with the younger Beltran. However, in doing this comparison, I know I gained even more appreciation for by far the most underappreciated superstar in baseball. (If only Eric Neel could give him the Brian Giles award for unheralded greatness).
In the spirit of Rob Neyer, I start the bandwagon now, Bobby Abreu for the hall of fame (Ok, maybe not the hall of fame, but how about an all star game, or maybe a face on a wheaties box, because he clearly deserves it).