The Chicago White Sox are easily one of the hottest teams in all of baseball right now, having won 14 of their last 18. And with a 24-15 record, they've taken first place back over in the AL Central with 21 games left. Only three teams have a better record in all of baseball.
One component that has been really key over that time is veteran slugger José Abreu, who has an 18-game hitting streak and became the first White Sox player to hit six home runs in a three-game series while also hitting homers in four straight plate appearances during that same weekend series.
Abreu has put up the type of numbers that should not only yield him MVP consideration, but also give him a really good shot at actually becoming the first White Sox to win the award since another slugging first baseman, Frank Thomas, did in 1994.
Many may have thought that even with a new contract, Abreu was done and would never produce like he did his first six seasons. But with his scorching hot August, where he finished with a .330/.374/.687 slash to go with 11 home runs, 29 RBIs, 38 hits and 19 extra-base hits. That helped Abreu very deservedly win American League Player of the Month honors.
The veteran has proved he’s still one of the best hitters in all of baseball. His clutch stats are also MVP worthy, with a pretty solid .313/.421/.875 with three home runs and seven RBIs, in Late & Close game situations (per Baseball-Reference, any plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the game tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck).
One of many reasons why even when they’re down, players like Abreu provide the firepower to actually come back and win games. For example, Abreu’s two-out, two-run double to the gap in right-center to tie the game 4-4 in the top of the sixth of the White Sox 8-5 comeback victory this past Monday night. And that's just one good example of the many times Abreu has come through in clutch situations for the team when they have needed it.
MVPs aren’t won on only offense, though. Abreu's defense has vastly improved this year; he's leading not only the American League, but all of baseball in total chances, putouts and double plays. Abreu has improved so much that there has been several times throughout the season, almost daily, where he has made some type of spectacular play at first: A stretch to help complete a double play, some type of adjustment to get outs and/or prevent errors from his fellow infielders, back-handed grabs and hustle plays that don’t always show up in the scorebook. Thus, the play from Abreu at first has helped the White Sox to the top of the leaderboard in all of baseball for most defensive runs saved.
Another key factor that often gets sometimes overlooked in MVP discussions is how much of a leader a player is for their team; it's not only being a factor on the field with their performance, but in the clubhouse and off the field. Abreu has without a doubt been that sort of leader. Luis Robert, among many teammates, praised Abreu recently, saying, “Abreu is the team’s leader, a great teammate. He is always leading us with his example on and off the field. He is by our side. He means a lot for this team because of his experience and daily effort.”
During his first six years in the big leagues, Abreu has been consistent good for the White Sox. Now that the team is finally turning the corner, Abreu has been a huge reason in the team's success. How sweet would it be for him to win the MVP while leading the team to its first playoff appearance in 12 years?