Here comes a big rambling preface, which may or may not have anything to do with the fact I’m going to write (eventually). I suppose we’ll all be able to figure it out as soon as I get there, so let’s get going…
Anyway, based on some research I did during spring training in 2004, it was determined that the best indicator for the amount of games a team will win is not ERA, strikeouts per 9 innings, batting average or even slugging percentage. The magical statistic? on-base percentage.
Based on that rudimentary research covering the 2001, 2002 and 2003 seasons, it was determined that the teams that ranked at the top of the standings often had the highest on-base percentage. In fact, it was quite uncanny how important doing something as basic as getting on base did for a team’s chances. I was also quite surprised that a pitching statistic like WHIP or ERA was not as telling as the on-base percentage was. In reality, there are often teams with mediocre records that rate toward the top of the charts in team ERA.
So why am I writing this? Because Bobby Abreu is riding a 4-for-27 skid during the Phillies’ last 10 games, yet has reached base safely in 26 consecutive games and has a .444 on-base percentage this season. Despite the .269 batting average, Abreu leads the National League with 36 walks — more than Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols — rates fifth in on-base percentage, and eighth in runs.
In other words, Abreu is the quintessential Moneyball player.
There’s more, too. Close to one-third of all of Abreu’s at-bats come against lefties, while nearly half of his late inning at-bats are against lefties who are specifically in the game to face him. That makes it even tougher for him to produce yet his numbers are always amongst the best in the game. In fact, throughout his career, Abreu’s statistics are consistent throughout the game whether he is facing a lefty in a close game in the latter innings, or whether he’s coming up with two outs in the first inning and no one on base.
Earlier this week I had a chance to ask Abreu about his two divergent streaks to which he said it was just a matter of time before the hits started falling, but that he was going to “be here for the team and do what I can to help us win. That’s it. Just win.”
Getting on base is a pretty good place to start if a player wants to help his team win. At least that’s what the numbers indicate.