“Not at all,” Abreu said through a team translator before Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Twins. “The most important thing for me is being satisfied with my level of effort and how hard I play and how I’m able to help the team. As far as numbers go, those things take care of themselves. I’m not someone who pays attention to those things.”
Abreu may be the only one not paying attention at this point. Entering Saturday’s game, Abreu is riding a 21-game hitting streak, has hit safely in 39 of his last 40 games and has reached base in his last 10 consecutive plate appearances. Frank Thomas holds the White Sox’s record by reaching base in 15 consecutive plate appearances in 1997.
Abreu’s current hitting streak is the longest in the American League this season, the second longest in the majors this season and his second of at least 18 games this season. He also leads the majors with 31 home runs, 84 RBIs and a .639 slugging percentage. He’s also eighth in the American League with a .310 average.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had an idea Saturday on how to start containing Abreu.
“Well, we're thinking about trying to slip in a few more defenders in the outfield,” Gardenhire said prior to Saturday’s game. “He's on everything, inside, outside. We've tried everything. We've thrown breaking balls; we've bounced balls.
“The young man's a nice hitter. He's comfortable right now. Obviously he's swinging very good and you know what, you've just got to try to keep mixing it up. You can't get into patterns on him. You have to be able to pitch him hard in and you've got to be able to spin some away, but more than anything else, we've been kind of missing over the middle of the plate and every time you do that he whacks it.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura thought part of Abreu’s recent success has been a result of him learning to be more patient at the plate over the course of his first season. Over the last 40 games, Abreu has 60 hits in 159 at-bats for a .377 average. He had 56 hits in 215 at-bats for a .260 average over his first 55 games this season.
“He’s getting better at understanding what people are trying to do to him,” Ventura said. “Not really chasing things either. I think early on he was maybe putting a little more emphasis on doing something instead of letting it happen. Now I think he understands it a bit more of what’s going on and how people are going to approach him instead of the other way around.”
White Sox captain Paul Konerko has witnessed Abreu get more comfortable and expects him to get even more so with time.
“The batter’s box, the pitchers you face, the stadiums, there are so many things he’s never seen before,” Konerko said Friday. “As he gets going around a couple of times through the league, he’s going to keep getting better. It’s not really surprising. At some point, I don’t think, he’s not going to hit .500. But at the same time, I don’t think he’s going to go backwards at all. He still has a lot to give.
“He gave away a lot of at-bats early but now you see more contact, more hits and the average is going up. He’s taking his walks a lot better. So he’s a monster, there’s no two ways about it.”
Abreu has especially displayed that in his 10 plate appearances. Against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, he singled to left field in the first inning, double to right in the third inning, doubled to center in the fifth inning and was intentionally walked in the seventh and eighth innings. On Friday, he walked in the first inning, was hit by a pitch in the third inning, singled to left in the fourth inning, singled to center in the sixth inning and singled to center in the eighth inning.
While Abreu has made hitting look easy lately, he said he’s had to work to get there.
“At first it was difficult,” Abreu said. “We are playing the best baseball in the world -- Major League Baseball. We are playing against the best pitchers in the world. I’ve learned to work through that and that’s through doing my homework, looking at video, getting extra at-bats, lifting, doing all those things. I’ve been able to work at it, but it was difficult at first.
“I never had any doubt or question that I could play and help at this level. I always felt that at the end of the year, whatever numbers would be there, most important whatever numbers and output were going to be there and help this team win.”