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?