Posted by Andy on August 20, 2010
The title of this post is not an attempt at humor; it's a fact. Marcos Grunfled, friend of the Baseball-Reference.com blog and journalist for BeisbolVenezolano.net met with Abreu before yesterday's Angels-Red Sox game and (on my behalf) asked Abreu about WAR. Read on...
Marcos, visiting from Venezuela, had full press access to yesterday's game and has a particular interest in the Venezuelan players. Bobby Abreu is one of the great Venezuelan stars.
We've been discussing stats in other recent threads, but let me sum up my opinion on WAR here. All stats need context. Take a 30-HR season. There was a time (say the 1920s) when 30 HR was absolute super-star performance. There was also a time (say 1998-2001) when 30 HR was good but certainly nothing special. Now factor in differing sizes of ballparks, strength of player's team on offense, strength of opposing pitching, overall run-scoring environment, and a number of other factors, and it gets pretty difficult (even for statheads) to look at basic numbers and get a great feeling for what they really mean. And just like observing a player with your eyes is highly subject to selection bias--you tend to remember the really good and really bad things without keeping an accurate overall tally of performance--it's easy to look at a player's stats and have one's opinion biased by a selected number of good or bad numbers.
This is why I like WAR. Of all the stats we have available, it does the best job of putting each player's performance into perspective and laying it onto the same scale. It also allows us to (by looking at a peak or career WAR value) more accurately judge a player's overall value without getting biased by certain specific numbers or events.
WAR is not perfect, not by a long shot, and it cannot be used as a single all-defining point. However, it's a much better stat than virtually anything else we have available, especially for the purposes of doing quick thumbnail sketches of a player's value.
All of that being said, Bobby Abreu has had an exceptional career when measured by WAR. He's currently 121st all-time among position players. That puts him just ahead of Will Clark, Willie Stargell, Darrell Evans, Billy Williams, Andre Dawson, and Hank Greenberg. If he can tack on 5 more wins before the end of his career (which is quite possible but not a slam dunk) his closest matches would be Jackie Robinson, Mark McGwire, Joe Jackson, Joe Cronin, Ryne Sandberg, and Yogi Berra.
Such a mark would suggest that Abreu is quite deserving of serious Hall of Fame consideration.
I personally would put him in the Hall of Fame. The single biggest thing working against him is having played for the Phillies for years when the team was not particularly good and never made the playoffs.
What do you folks think...should I do a poll?