Throughout José Abreu’s MLB career, there have been two undeniable truths. The first one, he’s been one of baseball’s most productive and consistent men since his 2014 debut. The second one is that the high production level hasn’t been so visible in March/April or, say, the season's first weeks.
If you’re an Astros fan, maybe you’re panicking about the first baseman whom the Astros handed a three-year, $58.5 million contract this past offseason. After all, he’s hitting for a .239/.280/.282 slash line that is not a sign of either consistency, power, or high-quality hitting.
In simple words, I can say that Abreu is just in a slump to begin his Astros career. But let me take some time to go beyond that and explain why you shouldn’t be panicking just yet.
March/April is the worst period of the season for Abreu, no matter when you read this. This period, compared to the rest of the months, carries Abreu’s worst slash line (.255/.325/.454/.779) of his career, Abreu’s fewest hits (204), fewest doubles (40), and the third-highest strikeout number (191).
Even in his MVP year, 2020, he had a slow start in July – the season was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cuban star posted a .250/.300/.429 in July but then turned into a monster that easily won the MVP award for the White Sox.
However, there are some points we should be concerned about should Abreu’s struggles continue in the long run.
His BABIP –Batting Average on Balls in Play— is a high .327, making us wonder if Abreu’s slump is here to stay. Also, he went from taking 4.02 pitches per appearance in 2022 to taking 3.8 in 2023, which might be a reason why he’s being less selective at the plate and his walk percentage has gone down from 9.1% to 4.2% – his strikeout percentage also climbed from 16.2% to a 25.4% that’s worse than average.
If you go to Abreu’s profile on Baseball Savant, it can make you shed a couple of tears. Not only is his 87.0-mph exit velocity the worst of his career but also is 5.2-mph fewer than last year’s 92.2 mark.
He’s not making good or hard contact, as his expected batting average is a low .206 while his expected slugging percentage sits at .332. Abreu has also lowered his HardHit% from 51.8% to 38.5%.
But again, these stats are not here to make you press the big red button. Even though he’s 36, Abreu is a professional hitter who can carry a team on his shoulders when he gets hot. He already showed some good signs in the first ten games of the season, hitting for a .317 batting average and leading the Astros in hits.
Without going too far, Abreu hit a huge two-run double this Monday to spark the Astros’ seven-run rally in the first inning against the Blue Jays.
Early and often. pic.twitter.com/yFrWblc4o0— Houston Astros (@astros) April 18, 2023
Let’s expect Abreu to find his rhythm again at some point. Of course, for the Astros today is better than tomorrow. But you should be hopeful when it comes to Abreu.