At the start of the season, the Mets wondered how they were going to find playing time for four outfielders and who would sit among the two Youngs and Juan Lagares, since it seemed a given that big-ticket free agent signing Curtis Granderson would play everyday. But in a turn that no one saw coming, as of the beginning of June, the best hitter among the outfielders is Bobby Abreu.
After Saturday’s two-hit game, Abreu has a .320/.397/.500 line in 58 PA. The sample size is not huge but Abreu has heated up once he’s received more playing time. After having a .644 OPS in his first 12 games, comprised mostly of PH appearances, he’s batting .406 over his last 38 trips to the plate. Additionally, he’s started in five of the last seven games as Terry Collins looks to find the right balance for his productive 40 year old.
The Abreu story is surprisingly similar to the one written by Marlon Byrd a season ago. If you recall, Byrd came to the Mets after a dismal season in 2012. He was given a chance thanks to a strong winter ball campaign and he proceeded to become the team’s best outfielder after virtually no one gave the then 35 year old much of a shot.
But the Abreu story takes it a step further. He saw his OPS drop four consecutive years, from .843 in 2008 to .693 in 257 PA in 2012 at the age of 38. After spending parts of 17 years in the majors, it seemed like his career was over. Abreu did not play at all in 2013. But a strong winter ball season caught the eye of then Mets hitting coach Dave Hudgens.
Abreu actually went to Spring Training with the Phillies but did not make this year’s version of the Wheeze Kids. The Mets signed him to a minor league deal at the beginning of the season. He spent 15 games with Las Vegas before getting the call to the majors.
Essentially, no one took Abreu seriously when the Mets signed him, no one took him seriously when they promoted him and few took him seriously his first two weeks on the roster. Yet it’s hard to argue with the results this baseball senior citizen has delivered.
The easiest thing to do is to wave off the results, especially due to this recent, unsustainable hot streak. Yet for the year, Abreu has a .341 BABIP compared to a lifetime .340 BABIP in 9,984 PA.
Should a 40 year old have the same BABIP as his career average? No, probably not. Can he play on an everyday basis at this point in his career? My Magic 8-ball says, “Don’t count on it.”
Still, at this point we should be looking to get him in the lineup on a semi-regular basis, at least until he turns back into a pumpkin or the other guys start out-hitting him. Here’s how the outfielders on the team have done in their last 58 or so PA:
BA – .897 OPS
CG – .813 OPS (57 PA)
JL – .737 OPS (59 PA)
CY – .585 OPS (59 PA)
EY – .664 OPS (59 PA)
My opinion of Collins is that he’s not the right man for the job as the current Mets manager. Yet even as one of his strongest critics, it’s easy to give him credit for getting the most out of his veteran hitters. In the previous two years, both Scott Hairston and Byrd had seasons way beyond what anyone should have expected under Collins’ guidance, and this year Abreu seems to be following that same pattern.
At this point, no one knows what Abreu can contribute the remainder of 2014. We just know that he’s already exceeded everyone’s expectations. If ever there’s a time to ride the hot hand, it’s with a veteran outfielder on a club filled with fly chasers not quite living up to expectations.
Perhaps he’ll be as productive as Byrd and Hairston before him. It would be hard to be less productive than the Youngs have been recently. Here’s hoping that he’ll be in the starting lineup in at least one of the remaining two games this series against the Phillies.