Adrian Beltre, the Everything-Hitter

It’s July 3. No it isn’t! But it is in this paragraph. It’s July 3, and it’s Texas, and it’s the bottom of the sixth of a game between the Rangers and the Mariners. There’s a score, but it doesn’t matter. Adrian Beltre leads off against Felix Hernandez, and on the third pitch, Beltre blasts an automatic double to right-center field, Dustin Ackley watching as the ball bounces over the fence. Beltre coasts into second, and he tries to get Hernandez’s ear. Hernandez, in turn, tries not to listen, but Beltre keeps boasting. Hernandez looks back at second before throwing his next pitch.

The first thing that makes Beltre easy to love is his talent. He’s a power hitter who doubles as one of the greatest defensive third basemen in recent history. The second thing is his drive. Beltre, as you’ve surely heard, once played through a destroyed testicle, and even scored the winning run. And the third thing is his personality. Beltre has an endearing sense of humor, and he’s also got his quirks. His happy feet, his aversion to being touched on the head, his rivalry with Felix Hernandez. Beltre and Hernandez are always playfully talking trash whenever they go head-to-head, and for Beltre, this particular double was revenge for the plate appearance prior.

Beltre had faced Hernandez earlier, in the fourth inning. With the count 2-and-2, Hernandez got Beltre to chase and get himself out.

FelixBeltre20130703.gif.opt

The two stared each other down, and any observer who didn’t know about the personal history might’ve figured there was mutual bad blood. That’s the thing — Hernandez and Beltre frequently look like they’re arguing. Sometimes fun can have the visual appearance of mean. One time Beltre was even ejected for yelling at Hernandez, because the umpire thought Beltre was yelling about a call. At this point, though, the relationship is pretty well and widely understood.

Also, that’s the last time Adrian Beltre struck out.

Beginning with that double, Beltre has batted 78 times since the bottom of the sixth on July 3. He’s drawn four walks, two of them intentional. He’s hit three doubles, and he’s mashed eight dingers. He’s scored 11 runs. He hasn’t struck out. Let me just say that again: Adrian Beltre hasn’t struck out once over his last 78 plate appearances. This is a streak, and this streak is still active.

As a matter of fact, it’s the longest such streak in 2013. As best I can tell, here are the season’s longest streaks without a strikeout:

  1. 78 plate appearances, Adrian Beltre*
  2. 72 plate appearances, Norichika Aoki
  3. 57 plate appearances, Martin Prado
  4. 56 plate appearances, Endy Chavez
  5. 54 plate appearances, Albert Pujols

And Beltre gets the asterisk because he could conceivably still add to his streak. All the other long ones are over. Just for good measure, this is also longer than any such streak in 2012. Beltre has the longest streak without a strikeout since 2011, and his streak isn’t over yet, and league-wide strikeout rates have been rising, making these streaks ever more difficult.

And while a streak of making contact isn’t necessarily the same as a streak of making good contact, Beltre has been obliterating the ball. Over the stretch, he’s batted .375. He’s OBP’d .423, and he’s slugged .764, with 11 extra-base hits. By eliminating strikeouts, Beltre didn’t start spraying the infield with weak dribblers. He turned himself into Chris Davis, but without any of the strikeouts. Hold on, let me think of a better comparison.

Is it possible the Rangers have just faced a stretch of non-strikeout pitchers? Nine different Rangers have batted at least 20 times in both June and July. In July, four of their strikeout rates have gone up. One has stayed the same, and two have barely dropped. Elvis Andrus is down by 6.3 percentage points, and Beltre is down by double those percentage points. Here are some pitchers that Beltre has faced during the streak:

There have been plenty of strikeout opportunities. Beltre just hasn’t struck out. He will strike out at some point again, maybe even on Friday, but what he’s already done is remarkable and it’s unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.

So, what, has Beltre refined his batting approach? Here are two graphs of swings, from Texas Leaguers. One covers the span of his contact streak, while one covers the rest of his season. Are you able to tell the difference?

beltreswingmap1

beltreswingmap2

Even during the streak, there have been wild, out-of-zone swings. Here are a few selected examples:

beltrechen

beltrenova

beltretillman

And here are a couple home runs on pitches inside off the plate:

beltrehrharrell

beltrehrbedard

Truth be told, here’s the big change: before the streak, Beltre had an in-zone swing rate of 64%. During the streak, it’s been 74%. And, naturally, his contact rates have been way higher. He’s made more contact on pitches out of the zone, and he’s made more contact on pitches in the zone. He’s swung at more than half of the pitches he’s seen, and 93% of the time, he’s at least touched the baseball. More often, he’s touched it rather firmly. Adrian Beltre hasn’t become disciplined; he’s just been successfully aggressive.

And this is part of a bigger trend, for him. No, Beltre isn’t going to be a power-hitting Marco Scutaro, but you wouldn’t think of Beltre as being a guy to hold a streak of plate appearances without striking out. His long-standing weakness was sliders low and away, as is the case for a lot of right-handed hitters, and Mariners fans will remember Beltre for ending his share of rallies. As will Dodgers fans, at least outside of that one season. Something Beltre’s never changed is his aggressiveness. His swing rate has always hovered around 50%. His first-pitch swing rate has long hovered around the mid- to high-20s. He still has one of the league’s higher rates of swings at balls. Adrian Beltre has never been patient, and he probably never will be. And yet:


Source: FanGraphsAdrian Beltre

As league strikeouts have gone up, Beltre’s strikeouts have gone down. In 2006, Beltre had a strikeout rate 3% above the league average. So far this year, his strikeout rate is half the league average, and he’s still running extraordinary power numbers. Beltre isn’t really walking much, but he’s never walked much, so there’s not anything there to really sacrifice. Beltre’s just gotten older and started hitting the ball more. That’s one of the reasons why he’s a 34-year-old borderline superstar.

Adrian Beltre has Alcides Escobar‘s swing rates, Ichiro’s whiff rate, and Mark Trumbo‘s isolated power. Adrian Beltre has baseball’s longest streak of not striking out. Players aren’t supposed to age in the way that Adrian Beltre has, but then, he’s always been one of a kind.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Eminor3rd
Member
Eminor3rd
2 years 11 months ago

I have no idea why he didn’t hit homers in SafeCo. I know it suppresses homers, but Beltre doesn’t exactly barely loft them over the wall. Was he flying out the warning track like 3 times a game or something?

Josh M
Guest
Josh M
2 years 11 months ago

Meh, Ive always thought his lack of homerun power in Seattle has been overrated. 53 of his 368 career taters have come at Safeco. He wasnt bad, he just didnt quite live up to the contract. Outside of his insane 2004 season he actually put up better numbers in Seattle than he did in LA.

Josh M
Guest
Josh M
2 years 11 months ago

meant to say overstated not overrated

julia11
Member
julia11
2 years 11 months ago

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cass
Guest
cass
2 years 11 months ago

It’s simply not natural for a player to strike out less as they get older. I think we can be absolutely certain, based just on that graph, that he’s getting some chemical help to avoid striking out. Shameful.

Guest
Guest
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

You are shameful. Ill bet you wouldn’t say that to his face.

cass
Guest
cass
2 years 11 months ago

Of course I would. I’d hope he’d have a good laugh at the idea of a PED that helps you avoid striking out. And I think he might also appreciate a parody of the idiots who declare that someone must be on steroids just because they’re hitting a lot of home runs.

Saying it to his face would also probably remove the chance that my sarcasm would be mistaken for serious commentary. Though I thought my wording was over-the-top enough to avoid that problem. Alas, Poe’s Law.

nilbog44
Member
nilbog44
2 years 11 months ago

That was terrible sarcasm. It wasn’t clear at all

Max
Guest
Max
2 years 11 months ago

Fangraphs commenters are very intelligent, but they are truly terrible at recognizing sarcasm. I’ve seen a number of obviously sarcastic comments with scores <-20.

SmokingPoet
Guest
SmokingPoet
2 years 11 months ago

You herd it in fangraphs comments first: adrian beltre is tripping on acid every night and it helps him not strike out.

Doc Ellis
Guest
Doc Ellis
2 years 11 months ago

thatss for suraer n pwawl4krth 408q5634’/;a

MonkeyEpoxy
Guest
MonkeyEpoxy
2 years 11 months ago

i love you

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
2 years 11 months ago

Yup, he’s been taking some of that good eye, good swing PED. What’s that one called again?

Spencer D
Guest
Spencer D
2 years 11 months ago

Either you are incredibly ignorant (steroids don’t let you make more contact). Or I am missing some serious sarcasm.

cass
Guest
cass
2 years 11 months ago

Steroids don’t do a lot of the things people attribute to them. Why not add making contact to the list?

But maybe it’s not steroids. Might be some new designer drug. All I know is that whenever a player gets better at something as he gets older, it has to be due to drugs. I’ve read enough mainstream baseball commentary to figure this out.

(Yeah, you missed some sarcasm.)

Rob
Guest
Rob
2 years 11 months ago

Sarcasm doesn’t work to well on the internet.

wily mo
Guest
wily mo
2 years 11 months ago

it doesn’t work too well in real life either, if you use it on people who don’t get sarcasm

i got it. the phrasing of “absolutely certain, based just on that graph” was the primary clue. the kind of people who would actually say that would never say it like that

we’re all overthinking it now, of course. but this is fangraphs

Richard
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

It was blindingly obvious that it was sarcasm.

Spencer D
Guest
Spencer D
2 years 11 months ago

Now, reading the comment fully, I realize I erred. However, when I read things like your comment, my complete lack of baseball experience comes to the fore (I have never played a game of baseball in my life). I started liking baseball 8 months ago, after discovering fangraphs, THT, etc. as well as the few competent commentators at other sites (Zach Rhymer on bleacherreport). I honestly thought you were trying to say that because he made good contact in different spots than in an earlier period, some visible trend exists that indicates additional strength or fast twitch muscle. My ignorance of baseball in its elementary aspects is pretty profound (I only recently figured out which side of home plate right and left handed hitters stand on, partially because I don’t get baseball on TV). Nonetheless, I love baseball.
That’s some sappy shit right there.

for what it's worth...
Guest
for what it's worth...
2 years 11 months ago

Hold on there. Steroids do improve bat speed–it makes it roughly 5% quicker. It’s the equivalent of about seeing a fastball 1.5 mph slower.

So yeah, steroids do help you make contact, if you think about it that way.

busch
Guest
busch
2 years 11 months ago

source?

Scraps
Guest
Scraps
2 years 11 months ago

Come on. “He’s getting some chemical help to avoid striking out.” That’s funny — and obviously sarcastic. I know sometimes sarcasm doesn’t do well on the internet, but I think FanGraphs lately has been very twitchy about PEDs.

Funny
Guest
Funny
2 years 11 months ago

Sarcasm does great on the internet. It’s just particularly the members of this site that have displayed an incredible of lack of awareness and humor. Easiest site to troll on the net.

Scraps
Guest
Scraps
2 years 11 months ago

Sarcasm != troll

cass
Guest
cass
2 years 11 months ago

I was not trolling. Trolling involves saying inflammatory things in an effort to get people angry at you. I was not doing this at all.

I was satirizing the sort of people who say that someone like Chris Davis must be on steroids because he hits a lot of home runs. I was not trying to hide my intent – I used over-the-top language in an effort to poke fun at these ridiculous allegations. I really didn’t think anyone would think I was seriously suggesting that Beltre’s decreasing strikeouts meant that he was taking steroids.

Sarcasm involves a balance – it you make it too obvious, all the humor disappears, but if it’s not obvious enough, then it’s not funny because it’s indistinguishable from whatever is being satirized. Given I was posting in a comment threat where a lot of people wouldn’t know me, I tried to err on the side of too obvious. Apparently, I didn’t go far enough.

bdhudson
Member
Member
bdhudson
2 years 11 months ago

He’s also quite good at swatting Elvis Andrus

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
2 years 11 months ago

Leave it to you, Jeff. Sneaking in another Mariners post in the guise of a Beltre analysis.

brad
Guest
brad
2 years 11 months ago

Don’t forget to cite your other evidence. Canseco and Palmeiro played for Texas. Juan Gone put up big power numbers during the heart of period when the MLB was willfully ignorant, more Texas questions. Hell, how could Ryan have kept pitching so long? Must have been on the juice. Texas secretly requires it of its players.
And, of course, A-Rod.
Not to mention you can feel it in your bones, and if you don’t really think about it, it makes perfect sense.

brad
Guest
brad
2 years 11 months ago

This was meant as a reply to Cass above, derp.

cass
Guest
cass
2 years 11 months ago

Nah, the chart Jeff posted is all the evidence I need. Unless his head looks a little big from certain angles or he’s ever gotten acne in his life.

But it is true that I can feel it in my bones. I just prefer to cite hard facts as evidence. You can’t deny that graph! Totally unnatural.

mangraphs
Member
mangraphs
2 years 11 months ago

Step right up, try to strike out Beltre! Winner gets to hang out with Felix Hernandez for the night.

Alexander Nevermind
Guest
Alexander Nevermind
2 years 11 months ago

For those craving a hot narrative, Beltre did not strike out the last time he faced Corey Kluber. The streak will therefore stay alive.

Susannah Hoffs
Guest
Susannah Hoffs
2 years 11 months ago

Hi Alexander :) <3

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 11 months ago

Beltre is the Chuck Norris of baseball.

seattle matt
Guest
seattle matt
2 years 11 months ago

chuck norris wishes he were the adrian beltre of whatever it is chuck norris does.

Scraps
Guest
Scraps
2 years 11 months ago

I liked Beltre in Seattle very much. But this news — Beltre’s not striking out for 78 goddamn at bats — is too much! All I can think about is Beltre swinging and missing at low and away strike threes. 78! and counting!

James
Guest
James
2 years 11 months ago

That one season Beltre was in Boston will always be one of my fondest baseball memories. Wish he had stayed.

CASS
Guest
CASS
2 years 11 months ago

Clearly, by looking at his fielding stats, their downward tendency points to Beltre taking Performance De-enhancing Drugs. You heard it here first.

Roger Maris
Guest
Roger Maris
2 years 11 months ago

No! Say it ain’t so!

Not the dreaded PEDEDS!

t ball
Guest
t ball
2 years 11 months ago

Just for the potential laughs, I vote that Beltre’s next K should happen vs. Hernandez. If Seattle doesn’t move their rotation around, Hernandez might start vs. TX on August 18.

Andy
Guest
Andy
2 years 11 months ago

Is Adrian Beltre the quietest potential hall of fame player of this generation? He’s 34. He has 2,354 hits. 5 more seasons of 160 hits gets him to 3,154. He has 368 HR’s. 5 more seasons of 25 gets him to 493; I realize that might be a bit of a high expectation but if Beltre plays until he’s 42 or so, he could have 3,000 hits, 500 HR’s, with almost a Rosian longevity. Fangraphs puts him at 63.2 WAR. He could easily reach 80 by his career’s end, which would match Brooks Robinson’s, and no one questions if he’s a hall of famer. Of course, the Hall of Fame question is particularly hard to answer nowadays but still, I bet you haven’t thought of Beltre and Hall of Fame much in the same sentence.

Scraps
Guest
Scraps
2 years 11 months ago

I have, but it’s mostly the “hall-of-fame quality player who the writers are too ignorant to put in” discussion.

B N
Guest
B N
2 years 11 months ago

I’ve considered it. He’s been on-pace for it ever since he got out of Seattle and started hitting a bit better (likely partly due to better park factors and lineups). He’d need to keep hitting like this for a few years more, but if he makes it 4 more years at this pace (or puts up one monster year plus a spare), I bet he gets solid consideration. There aren’t a lot of 80 WAR 3B lying around.

Too Many Uptons
Guest
Too Many Uptons
2 years 11 months ago

Third basemen usually have a tough time getting in. According to the HOF website: “By position, there are: 72 pitchers, 17 catchers, 21 first basemen, 20 second basemen, 15 third basemen, 24 shortstops, 21 left fielders, 23 center fielders, 24 right fielders, 20 managers, 10 umpires and 33 executives.”

Michael
Guest
Michael
2 years 11 months ago

Aaaand…he just struck out against Nasty Masty…

Scraps
Guest
Scraps
2 years 11 months ago

Awwwwww!

dannyrainge
Member
dannyrainge
2 years 11 months ago

hall of famer in my book

james wilson
Guest
james wilson
2 years 11 months ago

Beltre is the best third baseman I ever saw, no contest, and I go back to Brooksie. But we now know for a fact that he doesn’t have brass balls.

And hell yes, roids help an intelligent hitter toward better contact. Bonds had cut his K rate in half by 2004, and it was never high to begin with.

Xao
Guest
Xao
2 years 11 months ago
wpDiscuz