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Abreu making case for AL MVP honors

Abreu making case for AL MVP honors

MINNEAPOLIS -- Bobby Abreu, Most Valuable Player candidate.

Entering Sunday's series finale against the Twins, the Angels' free-agent bargain of the decade is found all over the American League offensive leaderboard.

He is tied for sixth in batting average at .320 and sixth in RBIs with 73. He is third in on-base percentage at .415. He is first in hitting with runners in scoring position at .429. He is tied for fifth in walks with 61.

His impact runs even deeper internally. The Angels, feeling the Abreu effect through his actions and his words, have advanced from ninth in the American League in runs scored (4.72) to first in the Majors (5.66).

The AL's best team with their 62-40 record, the Angels have gone from seventh in batting average in 2008 (.268) to first in the Majors (.289). They have gone from 11th in on-base percentage (.330) in the AL to second (.353, behind the Yankees at .358). They have advanced from ninth in slugging (.413) to third (.449) in the AL.

Abreu has stolen 22 bases in 27 attempts, gone first to third like the young thoroughbreds, hit eight home runs and played solid defense in right field with Vladimir Guerrero unavailable.

If these aren't the credentials of an MVP candidate, somebody isn't paying attention.

Abreu has had a lot of help, of course, but there's no denying his profound influence on this team.

"Bobby's been huge," Chone Figgins said. "You can learn a lot about hitting just by watching him. And if you want some details, he'll give you what you need to know."

Abreu takes this, as with everything in his life, in smooth stride. He loves his new team, its aggressive style, its collection of athletes, the freedom that manager Mike Scioscia not only gives his players but demands that they take with relish.

"Mike only gets upset if you don't try to take the extra base," Abreu said, grinning. "I really like this team, everything about it. We have a great chemistry here."

Abreu has heard how Figgins, Torii Hunter, Erick Aybar and pretty much everyone else in the cast have attributed much of their success, and the team's, to his style and approach, on and off the field.

"I feel good to see Aybar, Maicer [Izturis], [Howard] Kendrick getting better," Abreu said. "They've got such good talent. They're starting to learn how to use it. You can see the progress they're having in being more patient, having good at-bats.

"Everybody feels the same here and works hard. Freedom -- that's the word. The way I share with my teammates, how they are [responding], that comes from the freedom we get from the manager. They're special guys who really enjoy the game.

"As a player, it's all you can ask for, what we have here."

The Angels are not expected to try to re-sign Abreu until after the season, but they are fully aware of the impact he has had and how he has upgraded his value at age 35.

"Bobby has been everything we could have wanted," Scioscia said. "He's performed at a consistently high level all season."

Like the fine Argentine reds he'll occasionally sample, Abreu is aging gracefully, with a full-bodied excellence.

MVP candidate? Absolutely.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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