Carlos Beltran on Hitting

Carlos Beltran understands who he is as a hitter. But that doesn’t mean he’s always the same hitter. The 37-year-old New York Yankees outfielder adapts according to feel and he focuses better in some situations than in others. Still, you can’t argue with the results: He’s hit .283/.356/.497 with 363 home runs since breaking into the big leagues with the Royals in 1998. In 51 postseason games he’s hit .333/.445/.683 with 16 home runs.

Beltran talked hitting prior to last night’s game at Fenway Park.

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Beltran on mechanical adjustments: “Every year, you don’t feel the same so you have to find a way. You find a position where you feel comfortable mechanically and work with that. The way I hit last year compared to how I’m hitting this year is a little bit different. One thing is the position of the bat. Last year I felt good with my hands like this [slightly forward] and this year that feels a little uncomfortable. This year they’re back a little bit.

“When I was coming up in the big leagues, I talked to a lot of guys I looked up to. One of those guys was Edgar Martinez. I asked him if every year he feels the same. He said ‘No, every year I don’t feel the same.’ Your body feels different. Maybe some years you’re into your legs a little more, and other years you’re more comfortable a little bit taller. It’s basically how you feel. For me, left and right are two different swings. Depending on how I feel, I might be the same from both sides or I might be different.

“You need to feel comfortable, but you can’t be doing one thing in one at bat and in the next at bat do something different. You need to be confident with what you’re doing.”

On having a strong base: “I have to feel I’m in my legs. For example, if a pitcher takes a long time to release the baseball my legs are going to get tired. When I feel like the wind is moving me back and forth… like if it’s windy and I feel off-balance, I don’t like that. I need to step out and reset. When I feel set, I feel good hitting-wise. After every swing I take, I try to reset myself and think about my lower body. Once I feel like my lower body is there, then I transfer all my concentration on the pitcher.”

On his approach: “I concentrate on my strength. I’m not a guy who hits the ball a lot to the opposite field. I hit more center and right center and concentrate on getting a pitch in an area I know I can handle. If it’s a pitch on the outside corner, I know I can’t do much with that pitch. Unless I have two strikes, I don’t want to swing at it. If it’s a pitch on the inside corner and I don’t have two strikes, I don’t want to swing at it. That’s a pitch where, even if I take a good hack, I feel I’m not going to do much with it. I have to look for a pitch out over the strike zone, in or away. Basically, near the middle. Pitchers are going to miss and you have to be ready to hit and take advantage of that pitch when they miss.”

On hitting with runners on base: “I love RBIs. I love to drive in runs and take a lot of pride in those situations. I believe I’m a different hitter with guys on base. Leading off an inning, I feel like maybe my concentration is not there. When I have guys in scoring position I concentrate more because I know if I get a hit we can tie a ballgame, take the lead, add to our lead or shorten a deficit.

“You don’t want to make an out, but you have to be realistic. You’re going to fail a lot. I’m not trying to give away at bats, but like I said, I’m a different hitter with guys in scoring position.”



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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.


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Schuxu
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Schuxu
2 years 4 months ago

Carreer splits:
None on: .269 .342 .475 817
Men on: .300 .362 .523 885
RISP: .304 .366 .526 892
Bases loaded: .308 .329 .643 973
3rd & 2 outs: .392 .386 .671 1057
Leading off: .276 .343 .483 826

He really knows how to elevate his game once it counts.

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 4 months ago

Or, it could be as simple as he has a harder time concentrating leading off an inning than at other times, as he admitted. Which is totally understandable.

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 4 months ago

Though it’s safe to say that he doesn’t get over-anxious in key situations, letting the pitcher be the nervous one.

That SLG with the bases loaded is awesome indeed. I’d love to know how that ranks all-time.

gump
Guest
gump
2 years 4 months ago

need to normalize against league average, could be the league does better against pitchers with men on

MDL
Member
MDL
2 years 4 months ago

I’m not interested in doing all the research but here a quick glimpse using league numbers from 2013 [source]:

None on: 0.250, 0.310, 0.396, 0.706
Men on: 0.258, 0.328, 0.396, 0.724
RISP: 0.254, 0.335, 0.387, 0.722
Loaded: 0.269, 0.294, 0.419, 0.714
RISP, 2 outs: 0.232, 0.332, 0.353, 0.685
Leading off: 0.265, 0.328, 0.391, 0.719

So at a glance Beltran in his career appears to be more effective in clutch situations than the 2013 league average.

John K
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John K
2 years 4 months ago

Beltran appears to be a much better hitter in general than league average–nothing ground breaking there.

The higher average leading off an inning is largely attributed to “lead-off hitters” leading off the game–wouldn’t look too much into that.

I also don’t buy into the notion that players try harder or are clutch in certain situations. An awfully large hole usually appears on the right side of the infield with runners on base (as long as first base is occupied).

KluberFan
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KluberFan
2 years 4 months ago

I think there are many other reasons besides “concentrating more” a player would have a higher batting average with runners on and especially the bases loaded.

Pitching from the stretch results in a high BAA by itself. Also when a pitcher has RISP or the bases loaded it’s a sign he may be tiring or is having a bad day; which makes the next batter have a higher than usual chance of getting a hit.

KluberFan
Guest
KluberFan
2 years 4 months ago

In addition Beltran is a better hitter than league average so it makes sense that he would take advantage of those situations more than league average.

Nick O
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Nick O
2 years 4 months ago

As the data above shows, the gains from facing pitchers out of the stretch are pretty marginal generally. Beltran improves a hell of a lot more with men on than the rest of the league.

maguro
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maguro
2 years 4 months ago

Do teams shift against him? They wouldn’t be able to that as much with RISP.

Dave P
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Dave P
2 years 4 months ago

Do many/any switch-hitters get shifted on? That’s interesting.

Swfcdan
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Swfcdan
2 years 4 months ago

Why wouldn’t switchies get shifted on? Beltran’s always been a pull hitter from both sides, not like he’s gonna turn around during the AB and pull one where they aint.

Not sure if he does get shifted on, will need to see. Though Id be suprised if he doesn’t, he admitted himself he’s not an other way kinda guy.

Antonio bananas
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Antonio bananas
2 years 4 months ago

Instead of looking at raw numbers, look at what percent Beltran is better than his overall numbers at each of those then do the same with the league average.

Anon
Guest
Anon
2 years 4 months ago

While not a large effect, sac flies will also increase your slash numbers with runners on third and less than 2 outs which is an artificial impact to your numbers with runners on. However the impact should be pretty small (for Bletran, 90 SF in 7949 PA)

Also sacrifices generally do the same thing but I wouldn’t think that would be a huge impact to Beltran’s numbers since I don’t imagine he’s giving himself up very often. (18 SH in 7949 PA)

Anon
Guest
Anon
2 years 4 months ago

Also IBB – there are no IBB with the bases empty (essentially) so that is also an artificial impact to your numbers with runners on – for Beltran it’s 95 IBB in 7949 PA. Again, a very small impact

kevin
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kevin
2 years 4 months ago

hitters don’t like leading innings off. they want to be up in the clutch situations with the game on the line, when it matters.

it’s kind of like a closer who comes in in the 9th with a 10 run lead just to get some work. it’s not the same thing.

to me, it just sounds like someone who’s been in the game for a long time

waynetolleson
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waynetolleson
2 years 4 months ago

While things like “clutch” can certainly be overrated, I do think that some players are better able to focus in pressure situations. The thing with Beltran is that while he’s not a free swinger, he’s also not a guy who draws huge amounts of walks.

I loved how honest Beltran was about talking about his ability to focus. It’s possible that when nobody’s on base, pitchers feel they can nibble with Beltran. And if he’s not quite as focused, Beltran might expand the zone, which leads to worse results.

If there are runners on base, the pitcher feels more pressure to throw strikes. He might not feel he can try to get Beltran to chase that pitch an inch or two off the corner. He might throw pitches that get a little more of the plate.

So, if Beltran is seeing more strikes AND is more selective in the strikes he offer at with men on base, that would likely lead to better results.

BigBubbaNoTrubba
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

Im sure Carlos Beltran knows if he’s better in clutch situations. I’ll trust his gut feeling over any scrawny nerd who’s never played the game at a level higher than little league. And that as a bench player.

The stats back Beltran up.

Value arb
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

I’m not scrawny, I’m portly.

Steve-O
Guest
Steve-O
2 years 4 months ago

Beltran has been a stud for a long time. He has been on my fantasy teams for years, including this year. I say that because he is one of the best clutch hitters in the game, which always helps counting stats.

bleh
Guest
bleh
2 years 4 months ago

This is a problem I’ve always had with people praising supposedly ‘clutch’ hitters who hit better with RISP. If they hit so well with RISP why don’t they do the same when the bases are empty? Isn’t it a bad thing that they apparently aren’t trying as hard when it doesn’t count as much? And it’s interesting that Beltran actually admits to doing that here.

Simon
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Simon
2 years 4 months ago

Beltran’s career Clutch is 1.71. Hardly Tony Gwynn.

blue
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blue
2 years 4 months ago

How do you get these interviews? How is it that you get players whose normal interviews are entirely pablum to give you these thoughtful, articulate responses? I think it’s high time you reveal your methodology, Laurila.

Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan
2 years 4 months ago

He’s 37!? He plays like a 30 year old. Absolute class professional, winner and sportsman. He has won a WS before right? Would be a travesty if he hasn’t.

Just traded for him in a keeper league for M Montero, H K Lee, and Sabathia. Think I got a good deal, don’t care how old he is, this guy is a stud and in the stadium he should be for a few more years to come.

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