Is Citi Field Robbing Beltran’s Range?

Amongst the oddities in the UZR rankings, Carlos Beltran’s -3.9 value ranks high on the list. Beltran is universally renowned for his defensive prowess and ability to make even the most difficult of plays look routine. The accolades are well deserved. Only once in our UZR data has Beltran posted a UZR in the negative for an entire season. That was in 2005, Beltran’s first year with the Mets and as a whole one of the worst seasons for Beltran.

During that season, Beltran posted a career low in RngR of -8. So far this year, Beltran’s RngR is -2.5, his ErrR is -0.5, and his ARM is down to -0.9. Overall his UZR -3.9 while +/- has him at 1.6 runs. Clearly, Beltran hasn’t been quite what we would expect. What’s the reason for his sudden decline?

Well, how about the brand new ballpark? UZR attempts to adjust based on the parks played in, a new park offers little in the way of data for adjustments, so for now we’re still using the park factors from Shea. Obviously upgraded seats and paint isn’t causing Beltran to make more errors, but could it be affecting Beltran’s range?

It’s hard to take such a small sample size of defensive data seriously, but if we just compare the outfielders who were with the Mets during their time in both parks, we can see if there’s any overlaying trend involved. Beltran, Fernando Tatis, Ryan Church, Angel Pagan, and Daniel Murphy are all included in this grouping. Upon doing so you find…nothing. There’s far too much statistical noise to draw anything worthwhile out of these numbers, even for speculative purposes.

Moving on, we do know the dimensions have changed slightly. Here’s a comparison:

Shea Stadium LF: 338 LC: 371 C: 410 RC: 371 R: 338
Citi Field LF: 335 LC: 379 CF: 408 RC: 383 RF: 330

There’s some more room in the left/right center areas, but less to deep center. Checking Bill James Online’s +/-, they have Beltran with the following rankings for shallow, medium, and deep; -2, +3, +1. Over the last three years, Beltran has had shallow rates of +10, +5, -4; medium rates of +5, +1, -3; and deep rates of +10, +18, and +18. Basically, Beltran struggles to play shallowly hit balls, but excels at balls hit deep.

I haven’t been able to observe many Mets games this year, but I do wonder if this is a positioning thing. With Beltran playing back further to guard against balls hit in to left and right center, thus allowing some balls to drop in front of him that he would usually catch. For any of the Mets fans out there, have you noticed any difference in Beltran’s defense?

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24 Responses to “Is Citi Field Robbing Beltran’s Range?”

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  1. Christian says:

    I would guess, based on what you said, that since he normally excelled going back, but there is less room to go back, the catches he makes are more average.

    That is to say, he is great at getting deep balls, but these balls are no longer as deep, and so an average CF can get to most of them. That means that his lesser ability to get shallow balls has played MORE into the rating.

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  2. Mike says:

    I am not as familiar with UZR or +/- as I would like to be, but I am an avid Mets fan who has seen almost every game so I feel somewhat qualified to answer this question. I don’t believe Beltran’s defense has gotten any worse this season. He has allowed 3 or 4 balls to drop in his “zone” because he has had frequent communication issues with the other outfielders. More specifically, Beltran has had to cover ground for Murphy, F. Martinez and Gary Sheffield. I specifically remember a play with Martinez where both of them arrived at the ball and they let it drop, not knowing who was supposed to have grabbed it. I can’t really speculate on Beltran’s arm either, but it appears to be fine.

    One possible source of the problem could be Beltran’s legs which have been hurting him and caused him to miss some time. Perhaps the leg problems have reduced his range?

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    • Erik S. says:

      Minor correction, but that miscommunication you mentioned with Martinez/Beltran was actually Beltran and Pagan, unless there were multiple such instances (which I wouldn’t doubt!).

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  3. Sabermetrician says:

    I’ve watched almost all of the Mets’ games this season. Beltran’s defense has been superb (he still plays deep so shallow hits get in), but this new park is VERY different from Shea. The measurements don’t do it justice. The height of the walls and the deeper nooks and crannies.

    One thing that I have noticed is that Beltran has had to play alongside a lot of inept outfielders. If he’s not next to Church or Pagan (both out with injuries now) he’s next to Murphy (horrible OF), Sheffield (old, let’s face it) or Tatis (an IF). (To be fair sometimes he’s next to Reed who is a decent OF). I think he’s had to make up a lot of ground for these guys or fade to one side to help these fielders out. (And the error Beltran received in the Dodgers’ game was not of his making, Pagan did not get out of Beltran’s way despite Carlos calling him off, we all know the CF is in charge out there).

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  4. Josh S says:

    What about HR suppression? Without looking at numbers, I’m guessing there have been far fewer HRs at Citi Field. This probably means more balls are dropping into the field of play.

    One thing about Citi is that the alleys are huge, especially to right center. There are certainly a ton more XBH in the field of play (or it seems that way) then in the past.

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  5. Josh S says:


    2005 was the year that Beltran and Mike Cameron collided. He seemed pretty tentative after that. Before that, maybe having the second CF out there took away a lot of his range.

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  6. RexS says:

    In the midst of the Omar saga, everybody seems to have forgotten that Omar also pissed away Mike Cameron.

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  7. RexS says:

    Re. Beltran, yes. Partly due to injury issues, partly due to miscommunication with bad outfielders, though Murphy is underrated (bad nonetheless, but not as horrible as made out to be), and partly due to the Fenway Park effect of very high walls keeping balls in play, UZR is just short-changing Beltran horribly.

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  8. Matt H. says:

    “its hard to take such a small sample size of defensive data seriously…”

    Then don’t.

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  9. Terry says:

    Beltran, Cameron and Taveras are three guys that have experienced large neg changes in their UZR when changing environments (specifically when going to parks with larger CFs).

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  10. Ari says:

    “I specifically remember a play with Martinez where both of them arrived at the ball and they let it drop, not knowing who was supposed to have grabbed it.”

    This is not something to write off as unimportant in terms of rating Beltran’s D. If he was actually there and still didn’t make the play as the CF who is supposed to be controlling the OF (and calling MINE on anything remotely catchable) that’s even worse, IMO.

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    • matt f says:

      At this point, every met fan would prefer a dropped fly ball over a collision with pagan or f-mart (I saw the pagan one, not the apparent f-mart drop). Especially, considering the fragility of all 3 players.

      I think it’s outrageous to say “beltran should have made the catch anyways” when a fellow outfielder is sprinting at full speed directly at him.

      Small sample size + uncharacteristic “error” + inept corner outfielders + new park/high walls. I think everyone nailed it. He’s still a premier defensive centerfielder and I will always appreciate limiting gap shots.

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  11. My Pet Goat says:

    Didn’t he have a cortisone shot in his knee last week? That seems like the most likely causality.

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  12. metsinnats says:

    I side with the other Mets fans, having seen a few games, in noting that a lot of the blame should be placed on his rotating OF mates. The more I watch him, the more I’m amazed by Beltran. Steve Phillips can suck it.

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  13. Ari says:

    “At this point, every met fan would prefer a dropped fly ball over a collision with pagan or f-mart (I saw the pagan one, not the apparent f-mart drop). Especially, considering the fragility of all 3 players.”

    Mets fans should prefer their CF takes charge of the OF and lets the other guys know to stay away from balls that are his.

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    • nrmax88 says:

      We do prefer it. Unfortunately, the preference of the fans means little to nothing when Beltran calls a fly ball 5 or 6 times, and Angel Pagan comes flying out of LF, cuts in front of Beltran, and then moves out of the way with the ball less then two feet from his glove. It is like blaming an NHL goalie for allowing a goal when Johan Franzen is in front screening him. I have been reading articles and comments here for a while now, but never commented, and I just felt compelled to respond to you because you come off as a real pompous ass who is also wildly misinformed about the topic he is discussing. Good day sir.

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  14. Eric says:

    Is it possible to run UZR for games in CitiField only for Beltran alone and then for all Mets opponents’ CFers combined?

    If the latter doesn’t come out somewhere well below 0 would it be a reasonable bet that it is more Beltran than the park?

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  15. Ken says:

    The one thing I would say about Beltran is that he has always played a very deep CF for someone who is considered a top-notch OF. Gary Cohen used to talk about this a lot when they first brought him in. Lots of balls would drop in front of him that guys like Andruw Jones or even Mike Cameron would have gotten too.

    I haven’t seen a ton of Mets games this year, but my guess is that with the corners being manned by generally bad OFs he’s playing even a touch deeper to try and cover more ground on balls hit deep in the gaps.

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    • nrmax88 says:

      Beltran does play very deep, and he does have a lot of balls in front of him. That said, he takes away both gaps almost entirely, you can’t hit the ball over his head unless it is out of the park. I’m not sure about the bad outfielders effecting him, because going back to 2006, his corner outfielders have been pretty bad. Anywhere from Cliff Floyd, to Moises Alou, to Xavier Nady, to Lastings Milledge, to Shawn Green, the list goes on. I think the UZR numbers have to be flukey, because make no mistake, whatever the dimensions say, this park, so far, has played much more towards the pitchers then Shea did. The gaps are enormous, the walls are high, everywhere, there is no part of the stadium where it is even possible to take away a homerun, outside of portion of the fence in RCF where the bullpens are. Does a ball off a high fence effect UZR? I don’t know, it seems strange, because Beltran seems as good as ever in center field, and he routinely runs all the way into left and right field to catch routine fly balls to the corner outfielders.

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  16. Daniel says:

    I’ve become increasingly skeptical of UZR’s park factors recently. There seems to be an increasing number of outliers. This year with Beltran, Wily Taveras in Coors, left field in Fenway, possibly left field in Safeco (though it’s still early to make conclusions on Ibanez, Endy Chavez is posting just good numbers as his replacement, when he typically is otherworldly.)

    The sentiment that slow players with good instincts will do better than expected in smaller parks after posting poor numbers in large ones has a sensical foundation, but it’s not like Taveras or Beltran are slow.

    As a Mets fan, my eye has Beltran looking close to normal this year. I’ve always wondered if he may have to move to right by the end of his contract as the years catch up to him, but I don’t feel that time is now. Attrition to his legs (his play has always been highly affected by even minor injuries to them) may have caused him to decline from great to just very good, and a couple mishaps such as the Pagan miscommunication may be toying with a small sample size, but not to the extent of taking him from great to terrible. Something else is messing with the numbers for sure

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    • Max says:

      I’d love to see an analysis of players who made a transition to and from the Coors outfield. How was their UZR affected as a group?

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  17. Ryan says:

    How about being able to look at UZR from only games a player plays away from his home park. I love to see the top and bottom 10 at each position with that rule.

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