One of the things I’ve heard from people who don’t like the Beltre signing is that in his Dodger years he only really cranked it up late in the season, when the team was starting to think about trading him. But that’s not true.
In 2003, his best full month was September. But there’s an excellent case to be made that this is where the Return of Beltre starts to happen — his first-half OPS is .642, and then he get better, better, and better to finish the year. Except even his peak OPS wasn’t that good. And also that in 2002, his September was terrible. His best months were July and August, and those looked like September 2003, but overall… there’s no pattern here. Beltre wasn’t cranking it up whenever trade rumors surfaced.
And that makes the 2003 dip even weirder. If you thought his 2002 second-half improvement was him getting stronger, then 2003 was a step back, followed by a slow ascent to the level he picked it up for 2004.
But this — it’s like reading a stock chart and trying to ascribe causality without there being clear news. It’s not as if analysts issued a “strong buy” advisory ahead of July 2002 and then yelled “sell” before September began.
What we can tell is that Beltre’s not some 90% slacker. Whatever’s going on, random fluctuation or health issues or whatnot, it’s not that he only concentrated for the last eight weeks every year.