Chasing Davenport: José Abreu vs. Everything We Thought We Knew About Everything

Chasing Davenport

The task of projecting any baseball player’s transition to a new league is a difficult one, but for reasons explained here by Eno Sarris, it is especially difficult to do so for Cuban players. No projection system is perfect, but Clay Davenport’s Davenport Translations have probably done the best job at estimating the performance of Cubans transitioning to Major League Baseball. Fortunately for everyone, perhaps the best hitter on the planet recently made this transition, and when Davenport’s translation system met José Abreu’s 2011 season, the results were hilarious.

Here’s the projected line:.364/.481/.792. Such a line suggests a hitter who could reasonably refer to Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds as peers. Matching this projection, or even sort of approaching it, is an unlikely outcome. Still, a player whose performance at any level is cause for a formula to spit out those numbers is a player worth monitoring. In this series, we’ll do just that.

#1 – Chasing Davenport: José Abreu vs. His Supernatural Self

July 2014.

When José Abreu hits his 1,000th career home run sometime in the summer of 2020, we’ll all look back at his performance in this present year’s July and faint in unison.

Some highlights:

  • .374/.432/.667
  • 66(!) total bases
  • 21 game hit streak
  • Safely reached base in 24 of 25 games
  • 675,000 souls devoured via focused gaze

It is worth mentioning here that the whole reason for Chasing Davenport’s existence is the presumed unapproachability of a line so outlandish as .364/.481/.792. Now, a single month is a mostly negligible sample size and .667 isn’t quite .792, but J.A.’s July performance maybe does enough to suggest that perhaps this is all an exercise of occasionally checking in as our protagonist inevitably reaches and nonchalantly passes the 2011 DT and begins mashing at a rate that can only be measured by mathematical systems yet unknown to us measly humans.

Abreu’s 31 home runs lead all of MLB by two. His 86 RBI lead all of MLB by three. He’s batting .307 now, which is good for tenth in the American League. The third jewel of Abreu’s triple crown is being held captive by José Altuve in a castle .032 batting average points away.

In José Abreu vs. His Supernatural Self, I discussed Abreu’s disappointing 5.3% walk rate and the possibility of improvement giving us something to talk about next time. Well, lookit that. The BB% has improved. José walked in 9% of his July plate appearances, and Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projects him to slightly improve on that mark (9.3%) through the rest of the season.

Now, an updated comparison of Abreu’s current 2014 performance vs. the 2011 Davenport Translation:

August 4, 2014: .307/.363/.628, 31 HR, 22.4% K%, 7.1% BB%, .417 wOBA, 166 wRC+

vs. 2011 DT: -.057/-.118/-.164

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