MLB: Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros

South Side Morning 5: Jose Abreu’s big, round number

1. If you’re a regular visitor to Baseball Prospectus, I likely don’t need to explain how RBI are a poor representation of a player’s value. One only need to look at Albert Pujols — at 98 RBI on the season despite being one of the least valuable position players in baseball this year — to understand that a high RBI total does not a good player make.

I bring this up because, as you know, Jose Abreu recorded his 100th RBI of the season over the weekend, becoming just the third player in major league history to record at least 25 home runs and 100 RBI in each of his first four major league seasons, joining the aforementioned Pujols and some guy named Joe DiMaggio.

Big, round numbers are fun, as are arbitrary markers that place your favorite player alone with two all-time greats, but what Abreu hitting that number represents, more than anything, is a reminder of how consistently solid he’s been since donning a White Sox uniform. Abreu joined the White Sox four years ago as the big, slugging first baseman the White Sox craved — a rare free agency splurge, one that sadly remains the largest in franchise history. But he’s the last vestige of that cost controlled core the White Sox embarrassingly failed to build around, and has transformed into a mentor for this new, young club, all while maintaining his excellence at the plate.

As Abreu creeped into the wrong side of 30 at the start of the season, it was worth wondering if the first three years were going to be the best we would ever see out of him. But 2017 will go down as the best since his monumental rookie campaign. And even as the unquantifiable aspects of his game — being a clubhouse leader; mentoring the future stars as they ascended to Chicago — grew in importance, his on-field performance has continued to look like we’ve come to expect over the last four seasons.

There will once again be chatter this offseason about potential trade options, as well as his advancing age, but despite all this, as well as the spotlight shining more brightly on the potential stars of the future, Abreu’s consistent, year-to-year production is worth cherishing for however long it lasts.

2. Just as a hot April isn’t always a precursor to a successful season, a run of strong performance in September isn’t necessarily a sign of things to come. That’s my way of hedging on otherwise glowing reviews for the three important building blocks who have left little doubt in their ability to be successful contributors for years to come.

Lucas Giolito’s outing on Sunday, in which he struck out five and walked zero over seven innings, was his third straight of at least 6 IP and two runs allowed or fewer, and the fifth quality start in his last seven. The peripherals still don’t love him, but at the very least he’s shown to be a smart enough worked to overcome the velocity issues that plagued him during his fall from No. 1 prospect status.

Reynaldo Lopez’s string of late season starts has been a bit more of a mixed bag. After striking out six or more in each of his first three starts and generating a swinging strike on 13 percent of his pitches over that span, he has just four strikeouts against four walks in his last 25 1/3 innings in his last four starts with a 5 percent swinging strike rate. Both of those samples are small, of course, but the latter could be an example of the league having more of a scouting report on him as his innings total creeps upward (it’s still just north of 40). Lopez has run into his share of bad luck, and clearly pitched hurt in one of those seven outings, but he’s also shown the ability to handle major league lineups, and he’ll go into 2018 with a better idea of the adjustments needed to prove he can stick as a starter.

The final of those three, of course, is Yoan Moncada, who has reached base in 23 of his last 24 games and had an OPS+ of 109 before Sunday’s game, where he reached base two more times. I think he’s going to be pretty good.

3. Tim Anderson’s OPS is an even .700 after a 2-for-4 day Sunday that made him 27-for-65 during his current 15-game hitting streak. We’ve written at length about Anderson’s struggles for a large portion of the 2017 season, but we’re now getting a glimpse of him at his best, and this hot finish is going to bring his season averages not too far off from the 2016 season widely viewed as a success.

Anderson’s game will likely always have flaws. The OBP, which still sits below .300, will never be a strength of his, and his defense can lack polish from time to time. But there a lot to like, too. If Anderson can become the type of player who holds his own at a premium defensive position while also providing above-average pop — something we’ve seen pretty consistently since the start of August — that’s undoubtedly a player who can contribute to a contending team.

4. I don’t blame you for paying attention to where the White Sox sit in the standings as it relates to their draft position, even if I don’t recommend rooting for it. We’re inside of one week from the end of the regular season, and the odds of the White Sox picking in the top four next June are high, while the odds of that pick being at exactly No. 4 are also likely high.

The Tigers’ plummet down the standings has been tough to beat from a futility standard, and they’ve been spending their final two weeks almost single handedly helping the Twins wrap up the second wild card spot. The Top 4 in next June’s draft will almost certainly be the Tigers, Giants, Phillies, and White Sox in some order. And while I, again, implore you not to worry if the White Sox pick at No. 4 instead of No 3, etc., it’s worth noting that while the fruits of the rebuild are starting to come to fruition in terms of major league talent, another premium prospect will be joining the already stacked system nine months from now.

5. The most discussed story in sporting world has been the contentious comments made by Donald Trump and the response by professional athletes and teams via social media, as well as protests seen at sporting events across the country.

As you know by now, that story made its way to baseball Saturday when Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell, the son of an Army veteran, took a knee before a game against the Texas Rangers.

James Fegan at The Athletic contributed to a roundup article on how this affected Chicago sports teams Sunday, including tweets from Anderson, the lone African American on the White Sox roster, as well as manager Rick Renteria, which I implore you to check out.

Lead Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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