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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

It’s hard to translate Cuban statistics, but Jose Abreu looks good

The Merriam-Webster scouting service nearly nails it: “We seated ourselves on the Davenport while we waited for Abreu to get ready.”

Nonetheless, analyst Clay Davenport long has tracked Cuban baseball at claydavenport.com. He also has worked on translating Cuban stats to MLEs.

That’s of special interest to White Sox fans, with Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu being the biggest offseason acquisition by either Chicago team. Playing for Cienfuegos in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, Abreu had only 136 at-bats in 2013. Short seasons are the norm, and Abreu has had more than 300 at-bats only once in 10 seasons (2006).

Abreu packed a lot of production into those limited chances in 2013, hitting .322 with 13 home runs, 37 walks, a .527 on-base percentage and a .735 slugging percentage.

Davenport calculates that Abreu’s production was the equivalent of hitting .298/.393/.576 against big-league opposition. Add his on-base and slugging percentages, and you get a .969 OPS. Among American League first-base regulars last season, only the Orioles’ Chris Davis (1.004) topped that. It would be a big step up for the Sox, who had Adam Dunn (.762) and Paul Konerko (.669) sharing first-base and designated-hitter duties last season.

...Most analysts are bullish on Abreu. On Davenport’s site, he projects .296/.391/.586, with 39 homers, 75 walks and 158 strikeouts. The Steamer projection at FanGraphs is only slightly less optimistic at .272/.363/.547, with 34 homers, 60 walks and 110 strikeouts in a bit less playing time (544 plate appearances at FanGraphs against something more than 592 at Davenport’s site, which doesn’t list sacrifice flies, hit-by-pitches or other small factors that go into plate appearances).

The least optimistic projection is on BaseballProspectus.com’s Abreu player card, which sees him with a .262 average and 19 homers in 413 plate appearances. Given the difficulties of translating Cuban performance to U.S. equivalents, the surprise isn’t so much that there’s a low-end projection but that the others are so similar.

Repoz Posted: March 05, 2014 at 06:50 AM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, white sox

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: March 05, 2014 at 04:46 PM (#4666848)
Sigh, this guy could have been a member of the Dodger Cuba squad if they hadn't made that panic move for Adrian Gonzalez.
   2. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: March 05, 2014 at 05:05 PM (#4666866)
Davenport calculates that Abreu’s production was the equivalent of hitting .298/.393/.576 against big-league opposition...

... in a .260/.330/.410 environment, which no longer exists.
   3. Ron J2 Posted: March 05, 2014 at 05:17 PM (#4666875)
#2 Sure, but I've been following Clay's translations since the mid-90s and he always includes an EQA. Indeed I'm pretty sure he starts with the EQA and works backwards to get the counter stats. And worries far more about getting the EQA close because league wide offensive context is a tricky little bugger to get right.

I don't blame the article author for playing up the counter stats, but it's not a priority for Clay.

   4. Carlo Paz Posted: March 05, 2014 at 06:47 PM (#4666949)
I'm expecting a very slow start from Abreu. As anyone who has ever been to a Sox game in April knows, it's not so easy to play baseball in the damp and cold of Chicago's lake front in the spring. I suspect Alexi Ramirez' .591 April OPS (against a career .719) and Dayan Viciedo's .610 against career .738 is not coincidental (although for some reason Dayan REALLY sucks in June). Add in the expected additional misery from this years polar vortex and I'm not getting my hopes up...at least to start.

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