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White Sox

Lined Up For Success: The Inevitability of Varying Jose Abreu’s Spot in the Order

Jose Abreu’s splits indicate that he should hit in the two-hole against lefties and lower in the lineup against righties.

Ok, this is going to trigger a lot of people. We need to have a serious talk about the White Sox batting order. This has been a hot topic through six games, as Ricky Renteria has continued to show that he isn’t really sure how to fill out a lineup card effectively. We need to talk about one player in particular — Jose Abreu.

Since coming to the White Sox in the 2014 season, Abreu has spent the majority of his time hitting third in the White Sox batting order. During that time, Abreu has been the one true mainstay of some dreadful Sox teams. Now, this isn’t meant to take away from what Jose Abreu has accomplished in a White Sox uniform, but the fact is he’s 33 years old at this point. If the White Sox really want to reward Jose Abreu for his loyalty, they need to put him and the rest of the team in the best position to succeed. That will mean not hitting him third in many instances.

steve brule what GIF

Coming into the season, here’s what Abreu’s slash lines looked like based upon handedness:

  • vs RHP: .287/.339/.503
  • vs LHP: .312/.380/.548

So as we can see, Abreu has historically mashed LHP. The numbers against RHP have been GOOD, but they are trending in the wrong direction. The fact is, as the White Sox are hopefully competing in October for years to come, Abreu is going to need to hit in different spots in the lineup.

Now, Abreu’s numbers against RHP have steeply declined since the All-Star break of 2017. Yes, I’m aware he’s been in the lineup with a collection of junk, but that doesn’t negate where the numbers are going — they’re declining in every scenario.

*WARNING* This is about to get very numbers intensive.

Overall:

vs RHPvs LHP
Pre ASG 2017 .299/.353/.512
135 wRC+
.300/.377/.529
147 wRC+
Post ASG 2017 .268/.318/.488
112 wRC+
.329/.386/.579
155 wRC+

Bases Empty:

vs RHPvs LHP
Pre ASG 2017.288/.333/.510 132 wRC+.298/.352/.502 136 wRC+
Post ASG 2017.259/.304/.470 107 wRC+ .313/.381/.544 150 wRC+

Runners On:

vs RHPvs LHP
Pre ASG 2017.313/.377/.515 139 wRC+.302/.407/.566 161 wRC+
Post ASG 2017.280/.336/.513 119 wRC+.348/.391/.619 161 wRC+

Runners In Scoring Position:

vs RHPvs LHP
Pre ASG 2017.324/.404/.529 147 wRC+.295/.431/.526 149 wRC+
Post ASG 2017.321/.366/.573 137 wRC+.347/.400/.680 168 wRC+

So there are some interesting takeaways from the above data. First, the fact that Abreu’s production against RHP is declining cannot be argued. There isn’t a scenario depicted above where Abreu’s production against RHP has equaled or exceeded what it was prior to ASG 2017.

Now, I will say that I do find it interesting that Abreu is still doing a very solid job against RHP when he comes to the plate with runners on, particularly with men in scoring position. We’ve seen sizable pullbacks in terms of his patience and ability to get on base against RHP, but, and this is a big BUT, Abreu is doing damage against RHP in terms of his slugging. There seems to be something that can’t be quantified about Abreu’s ability to slug with runners on base, especially when they are in scoring position.

With all this being said, I maintain that it is important for the development and success of this TEAM going forward, there are going to be instances when Jose Abreu should hitter lower in the order against, I’ll say select, RHP. One such instance should’ve been last Sunday against Kenta Maeda, who as I previously wrote about, destroys RHH. I know someone is reading this screaming, “THEY LOST THE GAME 14-2, IT DIDN’T MATTER!” The fact is, in October when you have 27 precious outs, it will matter. It will matter that the Sox optimize their lineup so they can score the most runs possible.

I know a lot of people are #MadOnline about what I’ve outlined above because Abreu led the league in RBIs in 2019, but that shouldn’t be your argument. The fact is, the team is going to need to put players in positions to make fewer outs when it matters. And who knows, maybe if he’s hitting lower in the order against RHP, he’ll be in a better position to do what he does really well, which is come to the plate with runners in scoring position and drive in runs.

The other important takeaway from the data above is that Jose Abreu should be hitting second against LHP. While his numbers are trending the wrong way against RHP, he’s actually getting BETTER against LHP. Once again, Ricky Renteria needs to maximize this strength and give Abreu more plate appearances against southpaws. With the addition of Nick Madrigal today and a hopefully soon to be returning Nomar Mazara, the White Sox will finally have a fully complemented lineup. Giving Abreu more plate appearances against lefties will position the team to score more runs.

At the end of the day, the focus of the White Sox going forward needs to be scoring as many runs as possible (galaxy brain stuff there).

That might mean hurting some people’s feelings when it comes to the lineup, but it needs to be done. Jose Abreu is still a very useful player, but the organization and manager, in particular, need to do everything in their power to put him in the best position for success that they possibly can. That should mean hitting him lower against RHP and in the number two spot against LHP. Those changes may not come today, tomorrow, or even the next day, but at some point in the near future, it needs to happen.


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