Jose Abreu arrived in the majors surrounded by mystery. Sure, he had hit the way an All Star first baseman would have in Cuba, but the level of competition was so uneven it was unclear how it would translate. Abreu’s rookie year went about as well as anybody could have hoped, as he hit .317/.383/.581 with 36 homers. Beyond the raw production, the hit tool was a revelation, as although even the skeptical conceded he had mammoth power, they weren’t sure how well he’d make contact against major league velocity.
Oddly, several years later, the hit tool was what held up as the power declined. Over 2015 and 2016, Abreu basically held a .290 average with a .350 OBP but the extra base hits ticked downward, and as he started 2016 particularly poorly, one wondered if this was simply the new normal.
And while power is up across the majors, with even Steve Stone not-so-subtly suggesting that the ball is juiced, Abreu’s 2017 still represents a resurgence, even if not all the way back to 2014 levels. After all, it’s one thing to attribute diminished performance to injuries, but if the player never improves upon becoming “healthy” it becomes beside the point.
But now, perhaps 2016 can be attributed largely to injury. Nothing that kept him out for extended periods of time, but enough to hamper him slightly. After an absolutely bonkers three-game stretch where he went 10-for-15 with 7 extra base hits, Abreu’s line is at .306/.358/.564, easily his best year since 2014.
Abreu means a lot more to this franchise than just what he produces on the field, so maybe in that sense it doesn’t matter too much. Still, it’s hard not to enjoy his return to form, which inspires hope that his aging curve will continue more gracefully than the last couple of years suggested.
From a results standpoint, Reynaldo Lopez is pitching well enough to inspire optimism, but not quite well enough to simply sit back and say, “The next frontline starter is here, let’s figure out the others.”
For the fourth time out of five starts with the White Sox this year—the fifth being his outing cut short by a minor injury—Lopez went 6 innings on the nose. As in all of those outings, he was remarkably efficient, throwing 95 pitches, and the most he’s needed to get through 6 is 102. As in his last start, however, his strikeout total was confusingly low, registering only one. Then again, he didn’t walk anyone either, and DRA doesn’t mind, as he can boast a shiny 3.36.
Lopez’ profile of “dynamite stuff but potential control / command / efficiency” issues has not manifested thus far. Instead, his stat line looks like that of a really good sinker baller. There isn’t enough sample here to draw any real conclusions. If the lesson for him for 2017 is “You can pound the zone and get away with it” then he may have secured a safer floor in the rotation than would have been expected, and we can move ahead to see what he can add on top of that.
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