Jose Abreu is making a strong push to avoid a disparity between a Rookie of the Year season that saw him finish fourth in American League MVP voting and his second year with the White Sox.
After batting .317 with 36 homers and 107 RBI as a rookie, Abreu did not make the All-Star team this season. While his .295 average, .350 on-base percentage and .519 slugging percentage are all behind last season’s numbers, Abreu (27 homers, 86 RBI) is on pace to top 30 homers and 100 RBI, dismissing whatever concerns were out there that last season was a fluke.
“I don’t think you can call it a sophomore slump,’’ Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson said. “Obviously, parts of his numbers are down but the overall play is still there.’’
At 28, Abreu is trying to join Albert Pujols as the only players to record 30 homers and 100 RBI in his first two seasons. Abreu has 24 games left, starting with the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field Friday, to get it done.
Steverson will be rooting for him. He also joined the Sox last season, and marvels at how the slugging first baseman sticks to his approach.
“He very rarely deviates from his thought process,’’ Steverson said. “He’s able to make adjustments when he knows teams are doing something different to him.’’
One knock on Abreu is that he doesn’t draw enough walks. He walked 51 times last season and has even fewer, 31, this year. Steverson shrugs that off.
“You might say a menacing figure like that should have a few more walks because of how dangerous he is but his thought process is, ‘If you throw me a strike I’m going to hit you,’ so the (lack of walks) goes hand in hand with that.’’
Over his last 48 games, Abreu has 13 homers, 16 doubles and 40 RBI. In typical fashion, he has used the entire field, shooting a single to right field in one at-bat, and as he did against Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin Wednesday, lining a homer to left.
For Steverson, Abreu is one of his more low-maintenance guys. The coach supplies the hitters with video on opposing pitchers, which Abreu studies on his I-pad.
“He came in with a routine and he sticks with a routine,’’ Steverson said. “The main thing we talk about is approach, what the pitcher has, what he’s going to do to you and how will you combat it. I think he trusts me on that level. I do a huge amount of video work to make sure he gets the information he needs.’’
NOTES: Right-hander Erik Johnson, the International League Most Valuable Pitcher at AAA Charlotte, makes his second start Friday. Johnson (1-0) gave up three runs on three homers over six innings in his season debut at Kansas City Sunday. He pitched six scoreless innings and won his only career start against the Twins on Sept. 16, 2013.
*The Sox bullpen’s 2.68 ERA since June 30 is the second lowest in the majors behind the San Francisco Giants. The pen’s ERA since Aug. 5 is 2.45.
*Closer David Robertson has retired 26 consecutive batters, a streak covering eight scoreless appearances, six saves and one win. Robertson (2.44 ERA) has made 12 straight appearances without a walk.
*The Sox are 25-35 in the AL Central and are 218-281 in their division since 2009, with one winning season since then (37-35 in 2012).
*Despite shrinking paid crowds — 14,757 (Labor Day), 11,990 and 11,667 for the Indians this week — the Sox should halt a streak of eight consecutive seasons with declining home attendance. They are averaging 23,083 fans compared to 20,896 in 2014 when they drew 1,650,821 (28th of 30 teams). The Sox rank 26th this year, ahead of Miami, Cleveland, Oakland and Tampa Bay.