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Entries in Carlos Beltran (4)


Carlos Beltran a Different Man at the Plate, Too

After nearly a decade of rumors fitting him for pinstripes, Carlos Beltran has officially become a Yankee by inking a three-year, $45 million contract. Beltran, entering his age 37 season, isn't the same all-around superstar who once complemented his big bat with high-percentage base thievery and gliding, Gold Glove-caliber defense in the outfield. The same can be said at the plate -- he's not the same hitter he used to be. But in this case, his production hasn't suffered much as a result.

Beltran has shown a keen eye during his big league career, posting a double-digit walk rate nine times in sixteen seasons. But as the switch-hitter has crossed his mid-30's, he has turned into more of a hacker: his unintentional walk rate dipped from 10.7 percent in 2011 to 8.1 percent in 2012 and 6.2 percent this past year. The last time Beltran drew so few walks was 1998, when he was a 21-year-old blue-chipper getting a late-September look with the Royals. Yet Beltran is still raking, putting up a park-and-league adjusted OPS 54 percent above average in '11, and 28 percent above average in both '12 and '13. What gives?

Turns out, the Yankees' latest mercenary replacement for Robinson Cano has expanded his strike zone against "soft" pitches -- curveballs, sliders and changeups -- while still doing damage against those offerings. Those extra chases haven't helped Beltran, but he has offset them by also becoming more aggressive on breaking and off-speed stuff thrown within the strike zone.

Here's Beltran's swing rate against soft pitches over the past three seasons. You'll note two key changes in Beltran's approach: he's chasing more curves, sliders and changeups thrown below the knees, but he's also letting it rip more often on soft stuff thrown high in the strike zone:

Beltran's swing rate vs. soft pitches, 2011

Beltran's swing rate vs. soft pitches, 2012

Beltran's swing rate vs. soft pitches, 2013

In 2011, Beltran's chase rate versus curves, sliders and changeups (29 percent) was comfortably below the major league average (32 percent). But he has lunged at more soft stuff in both 2012 (35 percent) and 2013 (38 percent). Bad things tend to happen when hitters swing at soft pitches thrown off the plate (they slugged a collective .197 on those offerings from 2011-13), and Beltran is no exception (his three-year slugging percentage is .235).

While Beltran has shown less patience on soft stuff thrown out of the zone, he has simultaneously become more discerning -- and deadly -- on piches tossed over the plate. Beltran's swing rate on in-zone breaking and off-speed pitches has climbed from around 71 percent in 2011 and '12 to 75 percent in 2013 (the MLB average is about 65 percent). Great things tend to happen when hitters swing at in-zone curves, sliders and changeups (.492 slugging percentage), and Beltran is once again no exception: he slugged .535 in 2011, .572 in 2012, and .582 in 2013.

Carlos Beltran has shown less ability to lay off breaking and off-speed pitches thrown outside of the strike zone, leading to more weakly hit grounders and fly balls. But he has become better at knowing when to take a cut at soft stuff thrown inside of the strike zone, leading to more drives that split the gaps or clear the fence. The result has basically been a wash. Beltran is a more aggressive hitter than he used to be, though not a worse hitter. He's just different.


NL Homer & Strikeout Percentage Leaders

I wanted to spend a few moments looking at ultimate results, all or nothing, homers vs. strikeouts.

There are 20 players in AL with at least seven homers this season led by Justin Upton, Bryce Harper, and John Buck.

There are 17 players with at least 36 whiffs in the NL led by Jay Bruce, Dan Uggla, and B.J. Upton.

But who are the batters with a good home run percentage and a decent strikeout percentage?

On this chart you want to be in the lower right corner where you see the effectiveness of Bryce Harper, Carlos Beltran, and Yuniesky Betancourt.

The further left you move on the chart into the lower left corner you see batters who are lower in terms of strikeouts and lower in terms of homers.

This group includes guys without any homers including Ben Revere, Denard Span, Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, and Ruben Tejada. But it also includes some low homer hitters like Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Starlin Castro, Andre Ethier, and Pablo Sandoval.

The upper right corner is comprised of guys who are hitting some homers, but striking out too much: this is where Justin Upton, Buck and Harper are hanging out along with Lucas Duda, Ryan Braun, Dan Uggla, Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt, Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer, and a number of other dangerous batters.

The upper left corner are guys who are whiffing without showing power. This unenviable group includes B.J. Upton, Jay Bruce, Adam LaRoche, Rickie Weeks, Matt Kemp, Everth Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano, and numerous others who are frustrating you.


HR Derby Tidbits: NL Edition

Team Cano (Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano, Prince Fielder, Mark Trumbo) takes on Team Kemp (Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Andrew McCutchen) tonight at Kauffman Stadium in the 2012 Home Run Derby (8 PM EST, ESPN). While the Royals' home digs aren't particularly friendly to power hitters during regular games, decreasing homers hits by 27 percent for lefties and 15 percent for righties according to StatCorner, these guys should have little trouble reaching the waterfalls beyond the outfield fences. Here's a closer look at the shots hit by Team Kemp in 2012.

Carlos Beltran

Home Runs: 20

The switch-hitting Beltran, returning to spot where he gracefully roamed the bases and outfield from 198-2004, hasn't yet decided which side he'll swing from tonight. StatCorner's park factors suggest slugging righty would be better, though Beltran has crushed it from both sides this season (.520 slugging percentage and five homers as a right-handed hitter, .550 slugging and 15 HR as a lefty). Beltran might want his BP pitcher to speed it up tonight, as he has hit 14 of his 20 homers against "hard" pitches (fastballs, sinkers and cutters).

Pitch location of Beltran's HRs

Carlos Gonzalez

Home Runs: 17

CarGo doesn't fit the "pull everything in sight" power hitter archetype, hitting eight of his home runs to center field in 2012.  He's extremely adept at clearing the fence on pitches thrown to the outside portion of the plate:

Pitch location of Gonzalez's HRs

Thirteen of his 17 homers have come on pitches thrown away. Gonzalez's middle field power might not serve him especially well at Kauffman Stadium, however, considering that the center field fence is 410 feet from home plate and the power allies are 387 feet.

Matt Kemp

Home Runs: 12

Kemp, on the DL twice this season for left hamstring trouble and making his first appearance on a big league field since late May,  nonetheless ranks in the top 20 among MLB hitters with nine home runs cracked against fastballs. He has spread his homers around, too, going oppo seven times, hitting four to center field and pulling just one ball over the fence this season. He hit seven opposite-field home runs total in 2011.

Pitch location of Kemp's HRs

Andrew McCutchen

Home Runs: 18

'Cutch has made a habit of providing souvenirs for bleacher creatures in all parts of the park this season, blasting six home runs to the opposite field, four to center and eight to the pull side. He has done most of that damage against fastballs, with 13 of his 18 home runs coming against the heat. Pitchers have thrown McCutchen a heater in the strike zone nearly 57 percent of the time despite his fastball mastery, well above the 51-52 percent league average.

Pitch location of McCutchen's HRs