Adrian Beltre’s Fly Balls

Yesterday, Jack posted about Adrian Beltre‘s amazing year. I must admit that I was not aware just how amazing he has been, as Betlre’s wOBA of 0.396 puts him in the top ten in all of MLB. I wanted to see what was behind this offensive explosion from a guy who was a well-below-average offensive player last year (0.305 wOBA).

Beltre has never been much of a walker, and this year is no different, so his increased success is mainly based on his balls in play. Looking at his splits by ball in play type, the biggest increase in performance has been on his fly balls. To delve deeper into this better performance I plotted Beltre’s slugging on balls hit in the air by the angle he hit them into the field (with -45 the third-base line, 0 the line between home and second base, and 45 the first-base line). The curves estimate his slugging with standard errors indicated and the data are split by 2010 and 2005-2009 (the years covered by the GameDay hit information).

Beltre is a typical right-handed batter, getting most of his power to left field, his pull field. But in 2010 he has gotten even more power to left, starting at about center and going almost all the way to the third-base line. Beltre gets almost half a base more per ball in the air in 2010 compared to 2005-2009. To right field there is no real difference.

This profile, most of the change coming in left field, could be the result of Beltre’s change in home park: from Safeco, with a deep porch in left, to Fenway, with the Green Monster in left. Interestingly, though, Beltre is actually hitting better away from Fenway (0.416 wOBA away compared to 0.376 at home). Doing the same analysis above but for 2010 split by home/away:

So Beltre has done pretty much the same at Fenway and away to left, and a little better when away to right. Beltre has undoubtedly benefited from playing away from Safeco, but it looks like a big chunk of his success is just that he is pounding ball the a lot farther — with the help of the Green Monster or not.



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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.


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Tim C
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Tim C
5 years 8 months ago

It’s all in the knee-drop move.

Shauntell47
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Shauntell47
5 years 8 months ago

Good one, I just don’t understand why he doesn’t get on his knee from the start, he seems to hit for more power that way.

Shauntell47
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Shauntell47
5 years 8 months ago

Would be interesting to compare his homers he hits w/ his knee down with his normal homers.

Avg distance, Arc of the ball (rather a line drive or fly ball),
Avg times he gets rubbed on the head by Vmart, etc.

Rich
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Rich
5 years 8 months ago

He only drops to the knee on offspeed stuff.

Steve
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Steve
5 years 8 months ago

After his injury last season, shouldn’t this say “Adrian Beltre’s Fly Ball”?

PogProb
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PogProb
5 years 8 months ago

This is not related in any way at all to this post, but did you guys hear that the Twins are going to use Nick Blackburn as their 4th starter in the playoffs instead of Baker/Slowey? LOL.

Steve
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Steve
5 years 8 months ago

Aren’t all of 3 of those guys the same person?

PogProb
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PogProb
5 years 8 months ago

No. Baker and Slowey can strike more people out than Blackburn. I’m not sure what the argument is for Blackburn over either of them.

TFINY
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TFINY
5 years 8 months ago

GB rate (see below post).

TFINY
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TFINY
5 years 8 months ago

Yea, I know. As a Twins fan, I am not pleased.

Here’s how I justify it, though. Since coming back from AAA (and hopefully figuring things out) Blackburn has the seventh highest ground ball rate in the majors (over that time period). Looking at the Twins defense, that is not a bad thing to emphasize. Compare to Slowey who has a 28% GB or Baker who has a 34%.

Baker, who should have pitched, has been hurt, though.

PogProb
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PogProb
5 years 8 months ago

Fair enough.

Does the Twins ballpark play well towards the flyball tendencies of Slowey or Baker? Or is the Twins outfield defense bad enough where it doesn’t really matter?

TFINY
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TFINY
5 years 8 months ago

The outfield defense is really, really bad, though Target field helps to mitigate that (see HR allowed by Liriano, F).

James
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James
5 years 8 months ago

Talk about cart before the horse – they have to make it to a 4th game for it to even be an issue (see also 2009 ALDS, 2006 ALDS)

Kiacks
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Kiacks
5 years 8 months ago

oh so should this decision just go ignored until each team wins a game in that series, thus guaranteeing a game 4?

James
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James
5 years 8 months ago

Well, it’s completely off-topic and certainly doesn’t belong on here regarding this post. I think almost all of the other playoff teams (or potential playoff teams) have far more interesting issues regarding their rotation, except for the Phillies and Giants who seem pretty set. Minnesota has a bunch of interchangeable league-average type guys who they can win with. I get it, Blackburn seems to be the worst option. But as noted above, given the infrequency at which they make it to game 4, ignoring it seems to be the best use of time.

Greg P.
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Greg P.
5 years 8 months ago

Given the infrequency at which they make it to game 4, ignoring it seems to be the best use of time?

In the 30 ALDS series that have been played since the advent of the Wild Card, 20 of them have gone beyond Game 3. So there is probably a better chance that the Twins will be playing a Game 4 than that they will not be playing a Game 4.

Rich
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Rich
5 years 8 months ago

“So Beltre has done pretty much the same at Fenway and away to left, and a little better when away to right. Beltre has undoubtedly benefited from playing away from Safeco, but it looks like a big chunk of his success is just that he is pounding ball the a lot farther — with the help of the Green Monster or not.

Watching Beltre, this makes perfect sense. He’s not hitting a lot of cheap “Monster Shots”. When he pulls the ball, hes absolutely crushing it. Fenway has a huge right field, so being a little better away makes sense.

Steve
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Steve
5 years 8 months ago

seems to me that beltre and ortiz have found a new form of ped that is untraceable for now.

Ari Collins
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5 years 8 months ago
Matt S.
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Matt S.
5 years 8 months ago

Watching Beltre hit this year, I think it is pretty likely that much of that success is due to his adjusting his swing to take advantage of the Monster. I feel like there is an adjustment that a lot of right-handed hitters go through in learning to hit at Fenway.

It is easy to boost your batting average up a bit by pulling the ball in the air but it takes a more lifting type of swing to put it over the wall. My sense is that RH hitters spend alot of time in batting practice learning what they can hit over and what they can hit off the wall. The from-his-knees-swing looked to me to like one where Beltre was trying to get his shoulders low to take lift the braking pitch (as opposed to a more level swing which would line the ball or put it on the ground). Youkilis and Pedroia have a similar way of lifting the ball (Pedroia 2008 ALCS homer comes to mind) and they seemed to have increased their power through as well.

The better road numbers is likely a result or this approach being an effective one for Beltre in general. Fenway takes a fair number of doubles and turns them into singles and home runs into doubles after all. Random distribution of those effects could easily shape his numbers is such a SSS.

I don’t really have any how you would go about finding evidence of such a shift in approach or something like what I am seeing, but the Red Sox have been consistently able to find RH hitters who can succeed with the team.

pft
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pft
5 years 8 months ago

Maybe I am misreading this but looking at SLG pct vs where the ball is hit completely ignores the frequency in where he hits such balls. Beltre has clearly pulled the ball more this year, both at Fenway and on the road from my observation. In fact, the first half of April he was still going CF, CF-RF before adjusting. His HR’s are HR’s in pretty much any park, they are 400+ ft bombs.

So it may well be that Beltre changed his approach as a result of playing at Fenway. If he keeps the same approach, he should not suffer a major drop off in a different park.

Jason Bay may have changed his approach playing at CITI, and suffered the same problem Beltre did when he went to SAFECO, despite the fact that most of his HR last year would also have been HR at CITI.

You can say the park effect for these 2 are all in the head.

Mr Punch
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Mr Punch
5 years 8 months ago

I suspect that Matt S. has it right – Beltre adjusted his swing, because of the Monster, to get more loft, and it’s paid off overall because he hits the ball so hard. On a team with pretty good power, he’s obviously the strongest guy.

He hit pretty well in Dodger Stadium, a homer-friendly park – maybe going to Seattle really screwed him up.

joser
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joser
5 years 8 months ago

Yes, I think Safeco’s LF got into his head. He hit balls as hard as he could to LF, balls that flew out into the upper deck in other stadiums, and in Seattle they just died at the warning track. It must have been discouraging, at least subliminally — he increasingly stabbed at low-and-away pitches like he wanted to find one that he could pull even more, to finally yank it out of the park — and it seemed to go with him even when he was on the road: a little bit of Seattle gloom-mist hanging over him at the plate like the stink cloud over PigPen in “Peanuts.”

joe west
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joe west
5 years 8 months ago

Let me just say that I am HUGE Adrian Beltre fan. He was my favorite Mariner and I will cheer for him wherever he goes (yes, even if it’s the Angels). But check these left field differences.

A.L. West
Safeco-331 ft.
Arlington-330 ft.
Colliseum-330 ft.
Anaheim-330 ft.

A.L. East
Fenway-310 ft. (some dispute it is in actuality only 304 ft.)
Yankee-318 ft.
Skydome-328 ft.
Camden Yards- 333 ft.
Tropicana- 315

Anyway you look at it, Fenway, Yankee Stadium and Tropicana Field are clearly beneficial (for all hitters in the A.L. East for that matter). According to the HitTracker beltre had eight Just Enough homeruns, five alone in Fenway, which none would have been remotely close in any of the four A.L. West stadiums. He’s also already hit 10 doubles over his average this year.

I’d love to give Adrian some credit here, but let’s not make it more complicated than it is. We can all hit a SOFTBALL off the wall at Fenway. And some of us could even CLEAR the wall at Tropicana or New Yankee Stadium.

Just saying….

Rusty Zurkuhlen
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5 years 2 months ago

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