Here's why Bobby Abreu has HOF credentials

December 9th, 2023

It's not difficult to make the case against Bobby Abreu for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Just a cursory look at his Baseball-Reference page provides you with all the evidence you need. Only two All-Star selections. One Silver Slugger Award. No top-10 finishes in MVP voting. Very little bold type. No playoff success. Abreu hasn't exceeded 20 percent in any of his four years on the BBWAA ballot, and all of those facts make his low support understandable.

But please ponder these rhetorical questions: How is it Abreu's fault that fans and baseball writers completely overlooked his productivity in real time? How is it his fault that he spent much of his career on a bunch of also-ran Phillies teams?

Of course, Abreu had no control over that stuff, but it seems to have overshadowed what he actually did on the field. Take his 2004 season as just one example. He put together a .301/.428/.544 slash line while becoming the only player in AL/NL history to record at least 75 extra-base hits, 100 RBIs, 125 walks and 40 stolen bases in a single season. He finished 23rd in NL MVP voting.

When you view Abreu's career in full context, it's clear that he was one of the best offensive performers of his generation. Here are the reasons why he deserves a spot in Cooperstown.

An on-base machine

Stats such as on-base percentage and walks don't make for the sexiest Hall of Fame arguments, but Abreu's calling card as a player was his incredible ability to reach base. It's a skill that wasn't properly valued by many during Abreu's prime in the late '90s and early 2000s, when crazy home run totals ruled the day, but anyone can now see just how elite Abreu was at getting on base.

Over the course of his career (1996-2014), only Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Chipper Jones reached base more times than Abreu (3,979). He ranks 49th all-time in that category, just ahead of Tim Raines and Tony Gwynn. Of the 45 players ahead of him on the list who have been eligible for election, 38 are in the Hall of Fame.

Abreu led the Majors with 1,396 walks from 1998-2011 and ranks 20th on the all-time list. He recorded at least 100 walks or a .400-plus on-base percentage eight times over a nine-season span from 1998-06. The only players with more 100-walk seasons in the Divisional Era are Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas and Jim Thome. Twelve players during that same period have finished more seasons with at least a .400 on-base percentage. Half of them are in the Hall while the other six are Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Gary Sheffield and Todd Helton, who has his own convincing Hall of Fame case.

A dual threat

Abreu had much more going for him beyond his fantastic eye at the plate. Although most fans likely remember him winning the 2005 Home Run Derby, he didn't put up ridiculous power numbers; his single-season career high in homers was 31. However, Abreu did plenty of damage with his bat and was a terror on the basepaths. He completed nine seasons with at least 60 extra-base hits and at least 20 stolen bases. No one else has done that more often in AL/NL history. The only player with eight such seasons is Bonds.

Let's have some more fun with random endpoints. Abreu tallied 288 home runs and 400 steals during his 18-year career; only four other players in AL/NL history have reached those benchmarks: Craig Biggio, Rickey Henderson, Barry Bonds and his father, Bobby.

Also, Abreu registered 921 extra-base hits in the Majors, making him one of seven players in the Modern Era with at least 900 XBHs and 400 steals, joining Biggio, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker and Paul Molitor. Only Bonds, Cobb and Speaker recorded a higher career on-base percentage than Abreu's .395.

Legendary comparisons

Was Bobby Abreu a better player than Tony Gwynn or Ichiro Suzuki? Perhaps the mere suggestion offends some readers, but he put up loftier numbers than those legends of the game in many categories.

Abreu hit more than twice as many dingers as Gwynn, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and topped him in OBP by seven percentage points. The comparison between those two is probably much closer than you think.

While Ichiro had about 600 more hits in the Major Leagues, Abreu has him beat by significant margins in wOBA (.378 to .328) and wRC+ (129 to 104), among other categories. Ichiro's single-season career high in wRC+ 131, a number that Abreu bested seven times during his career.

There are 27 right fielders in Cooperstown, and Abreu ranks inside the top 10 in OBP, walks, stolen bases, extra-base hits and doubles. His 60.2 bWAR sits 14th among enshrined right fielders and surpasses the likes of Vladimir Guerrero (59.5) and Enos Slaughter (57.6). He also edges out Ichiro in bWAR (60.2 to 60.0).

The best ability is availability

Abreu completed seven seasons with at least 5.0 bWAR -- more than Jeter, Ichiro, Guerrero, Biggio and Gwynn, to name a few -- which really speaks to his plate prowess since he was not a plus fielder for the bulk of his career. Abreu's reputation as a poor fielder was accentuated by complaints from Phillies fans that he didn't hustle a la Lenny Dykstra, who was known for putting his body on the line in the outfield.

But by not sacrificing his physical well-being on defense, Abreu was able to stay in the lineup nearly every day and produce boffo numbers. He appeared in at least 150 games in each season from 1998-2010. The only players who played in that many games in 13 or more seasons during the Divisional Era are Ichiro, Jeter, Rafael Palmeiro, Cal Ripken Jr., Pete Rose and Eddie Murray.

Abreu suited up for more games (2,031) than any other player during that 13-season span while posting a .297 average, a .402 on-base percentage and a 134 wRC+.