Adrian Beltre, Batting Title?!

By R.J. Anderson //

Nobody could blame Adrian Beltre if he wanted to distance himself from the 2009 season as much as possible. Not only did he endure a horrendous offensive season in which he posted a .683 OPS, he also suffered an injury to a certain male region that should never be used in the same sentence as the term “ruptured”. Nonetheless, Beltre became eligible for free agency and joined the Boston Red Sox. A stronger supporting cast figured to help his counting stats, while a far friendlier ballpark for hitters figured to boost his overall offensive production.

Thus far, Beltre is hitting .343 AVG/.375 OBP/.467 SLG. Previously, Beltre posted a batting average above .300 exactly once in his 12-season career. Meanwhile, his career Isolated Slugging (ISO, slugging average minus batting average) is .182, much higher than this season’s .124.

Beltre’s .386 BABIP is certainly the highest of his career, and miles away from his .292 career mark. Of Beltre’s 36 hits, only nine have been of the extra base variety. Putting up 75% singles looks more like a Nick Punto season, not the kind of numbers you expect from a player who hit at least 25 home runs each season from 2006 through 2008, with 252 career homers.

What gives? Beltre’s 4% HR/FB ratio is a career low, even worse than his 5.6% in 2009. This seems unlikely to continue to be the case. In past seasons at Safeco Field – a park that strongly curbs extra-base hits by right-handed batters – Beltre was still able to launch more than 10% of his fly balls over the wall. A move to Fenway Park – an extra-base hit paradise for righties who can get the ball up in the air and deep – Beltre should not see his power disappear.

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As it stands, Beltre is second among third baseman in hits and second in batting average, behind division rival Evan Longoria. The season is a month old and odds are Beltre is going to finish with a higher batting average than originally expected. But there’s little reason to believe Beltre’s skill set has completely morphed from hulking slugger to Ichiro Suzuki clone. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

For more on Adrian Beltre, check out Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools. 

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