José Abreu main Astros offense in MLB playoffs


For the higher a part of 5 months, José Abreu was among the many least productive hitters in baseball. However he has rapidly turned his once-forgettable season right into a presumably unforgettable journey as one of many Astros’ leaders of their cost to a seventh consecutive American League Championship Collection.

Abreu and the Astros appeared like an ideal match when the 2 sides agreed on a three-year deal final offseason. The reigning World Collection champs boasted a top-10 offense final yr and completed second within the American League in homers. Nonetheless, Houston was in dire want of extra from their first basemen, who compiled a .235/.285/.371 slash line with an 87 wRC+ final yr. Their hard-hit charge was 35.5%, the second lowest within the Majors at that place.

The Astros addressed that void with Abreu — a former MVP, three-time Silver Slugger, a participant who had averaged 34 homers by his first 9 years within the massive leagues, and somebody who had completed within the 88th percentile or greater in hard-hit charge by every of the previous six years. Plus, with completed veterans corresponding to Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and others alongside him, Abreu didn’t must be a middle-of-the-order savior like he was typically with the White Sox.

In case you’ve adopted the Astros’ or Abreu’s season in any capability, you most likely have an concept of how tough the vast majority of this season has been for the 36-year-old slugger. So let this function a refresher earlier than we transfer on to what’s working effectively now.

Abreu recorded simply 4 extra-base hits — all doubles — by his first 33 video games. He produced one barrel out of 67 batted balls in Could. One!

Even with a strong June that noticed him submit a .510 slugging share and an .821 OPS, Abreu carried a number of the worst numbers of his profession into August. Coming into Aug. 12, his batting common (.234) and on-base share (.291) had been every about 60 factors beneath his profession norms. His slugging share (.343) was 157 factors off of his profession customary.

And most notably, that loud contact was gone. Abreu had 10 homers in 423 at-bats. His common exit velocity was down a full 3 mph — 91.9 to 88.9 — from his profession common. That arduous-hit charge, which had been north of 45% yearly since 2017, had fallen to 39.9%.

What occurred? There might have been unquantifiable components corresponding to Abreu wilting below the self-applied strain to carry out in his first yr with a brand new membership that has excessive expectations. You might level to his elevated chase charge as an indication that he’s making an attempt to do an excessive amount of by going after dangerous pitches. However Abreu has by no means actually been the paragon of plate self-discipline; that is the seventh time up to now 9 seasons that his chase charge has registered within the twenty fifth percentile or decrease.

Nonetheless, this was notable since Abreu simply doesn’t miss time. He hadn’t been on the IL since 2018 and had sat out solely 18 video games over the previous 4 seasons. He exceeded 150 video games performed in six of his first eight full seasons. It takes greater than a minor ailment to sideline him for an prolonged interval.

Abreu returned to motion on Aug. 23, and it certain looks as if the harm is what was holding him again all alongside as a result of since that date, he has regarded like a special hitter. Or actually, he has regarded just like the one we’re very acquainted with.

Listed below are 3 ways Abreu’s outcomes have modified over the previous seven weeks.

Two weeks after he got here off the IL, Abreu had his greatest recreation of the season, launching two homers and racking up seven RBIs to finish a three-game highway sweep of Houston’s upcoming ALCS opponent, the Rangers. His second homer was a screaming liner that got here off his bat at 113.3 mph, his highest exit velocity this yr.

Abreu has been hitting pitches on the nostril routinely as his hard-hit share since his activation is 46.7%. His anticipated slugging share of .593 is up 231 factors from his pre-IL days. It additionally ranks eleventh greatest amongst all hitters with no less than 100 PAs since Aug. 23, postseason included.

Plus, Abreu’s barrel charge has greater than doubled, from 6.8% to 16.8%. He has collected extra barrels in September and October than he did by the primary three months of the season mixed.

Abreu barrels by June 30: 13 in 229 batted ball occasions
Abreu barrels since Sept. 1: 15 in 89 batted ball occasions

Total, Abreu owns a stellar .891 OPS with 11 house runs throughout his earlier 34 video games.

He’s throughout breaking pitches

Abreu was a high-quality hitter towards breaking pitches from 2020-22. Fifty-four batters accrued no less than 400 plate appearances ending on such pitches throughout that span, and he ranked among the many high 10 in homers (23) and anticipated weighted on-base common (.337). His anticipated slugging throughout this era was .452; the league common was .343.

Doing harm towards these pitches — sliders, curveballs, sweepers, and so forth. — didn’t come simply for Abreu previous to his time on the injured checklist. Afterward, nonetheless, he started pounding these pitches.

Abreu vs. breaking pitches earlier than Aug. 23:
Slash line: .198/.213/.309 in 169 plate appearances
xwOBA: .224
Dwelling runs: 4
Barrels: 6

Abreu vs. breaking pitches since Aug. 23
Slash line: .276/.323/.603 in 62 plate appearances
xwOBA: .401
Dwelling runs: 6
Barrels: 7

Abreu’s longest profession postseason homer got here off a breaking pitch in Recreation 3 of the ALDS as he mashed a sweeper from Twins starter Sonny Grey a projected 442 ft. He would hit a 440-foot dinger later within the victory, making Abreu the primary participant within the Statcast period (since 2015) to report a number of house runs of 440 ft in the identical postseason recreation.

He’s within the zone on pitches within the zone

Abreu’s late-season surge does have its warts. For one, he’s nonetheless increasing his strike zone far too typically. Even together with his current success, he posted a .37.7% chase charge in September and an especially excessive 48.6% charge by 5 video games this month. That’s doing opposing pitchers a favor as a result of, no matter pitch sort, they don’t seem to be discovering a lot success once they land one thing within the zone.

Abreu has swung at 66.5% of in-zone pitches all through his profession, however he logged in-zone swing charges of 65% or much less in all however one of many season’s first 5 full months. That bottomed out at 61.9% in July. Now wholesome, Abreu has gotten extra aggressive, with 67.5% in-zone swing charges in September and October. And if you’re making this sort of contact, why not swing away as typically as doable?

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