Dave · May 4, 2005 at 8:12 am · Filed Under Mariners 

It seems like the fans patience for Adrian Beltre to start hitting is wearing thin. Without a doubt, he’s had a miserable first month, and after struggling through the Jeff Cirillo years, the natural reaction is to think “here we go again”. Well, here’s some hopefully reassuring numbers.

Vernon Wells: .202/.250/.358
Eric Chavez: .210/.288/.314
Andruw Jones: .238/.308/.394
Mike Lowell: .191/.223/.337
Jim Thome: .203/.347/.304
Brian Giles: .185/.336/.348
Rafael Furcal: .229/.274/.349

And, our own example from last year, Ichiro in April 2004: .255/.309/.304

There are some other legitimately great players having awful starts to the season as well. It happens.


46 Responses to “Slumping”

  1. Matt on May 4th, 2005 8:21 am

    Yeah, but I was at last night’s game and saw him flail worse than Olivio with the bases loaded. He better turn it around soon. At least he’s got a sweet glove. That line drive he caught was exactly half way between the highlight reel and the blooper reel. Woop woop woop! I think I, maybe, uuuuhhhh, YEP got it!

    So, is third base cursed for the M’s? Is it retribution for not playing Edgar sooner in his career?

  2. Harry on May 4th, 2005 8:51 am

    He will get better. It’s going to happen (barring injury, of course). Ifthe whole team wasn’t slumping right now, it wouldn’t look so bad. The first week or two, he was actually hot, driving in some runs and getting a bunch of hits (just no dingers).

    But yeah, that outside sinker last night, it just killed me to see him go for it *twice*.

  3. Jimmie the Geek on May 4th, 2005 8:55 am

    If Beltre had been listening to Mushmouth on the TV last night, he would have known to “Make the pitcher come to him” and to “Relax and stay within himself. The hits will come.”

    Those were some ugly hacks, though…


  4. Aaron on May 4th, 2005 8:59 am

    We can justify it all we want. Adjusting to the A.L., slow start, just a little slump, whatever else. The fact is, Adrian Beltre is a large part of why we are not winning games right now and it ticks me off.

  5. anotherjeff on May 4th, 2005 9:02 am

    Beltre will come around. He’s ours for a few years, so I dont think it’s fruitful to get in an uproar after a couple of weeks. Believe me, It frustrates the hell out of me to see him swing and miss at the same pitch twice. Who knows whats going on with him? I have to think the pressure he is under to perform in a big way, and right this very second,is screwing with him.

  6. Aaron on May 4th, 2005 9:06 am

    I understand that, Jeff. But I want to know when everyone that says “patience” feels is a fair time to get worried. What’s the magic number? Two months? Three months? One year?

  7. Swing and A Miss on May 4th, 2005 9:10 am

    I hate to say this, because I know a lot here are going to get upset. However, be that as it may, I had a bad feeling about this guy all along. He did not perform at this level until last year. Yes, I know he had injuries, etc. But, that is part of the game. Many players have this “career year” (that I think is why that term was invented) and then never come near it again. I felt if he hit .285, 25 and near 100 RBI that the M’s would be lucky. Now, I don’t know if he will approach those figures. Yes, it is early. But, every at bat, every loss, counts in the end. Lose 20 games early, you don’t get those back. Your total amount of potential wins drops. He is being paid huge money. He is almost “required” to produce accordingly. That is just the nature of the beast. I think in retrospect, while the M’s may have got him for under possible market rate, he is not going to produce the numbers in this park like he did in 2003. This is just based on my 47 years of watching MLB. I have seen Mantle, Koufax, Marichal, McCovey, Aaron, Killebrew, Cepeda, Seaver, Niekro, Drysdale, Sutton, Osteen, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Torre, Clemente, Griffey Jr, Edgar, Gaylord Perry, Stargell, Maris, Ryan, Cuellar, Dierker, Jimmy Wynn, Rusty Staub, and may other great stars play up close and personal. They all had great and bad years. I just don’t feel this guy rates near these guys. In the long run, I think this signing will come back in the negative for the M’s. Just one man’s opinion.

  8. Troy on May 4th, 2005 9:11 am

    “Adrian Beltre is a large part of why we are not winning games right now and it ticks me off.” I would suggest relaxing. Dave’s example of Ichiro last season is the most apt to me. Plenty of people were questioning if the league had figured him out and if he was destined to being a below average major leaguer the rest of his career. Then he went out and broke Sisler’s record. Beltre is an incredible talent. He has the tools, body, track record and work ethic to succeed. I am surprised by this early slump, but not the least bit worried. He will snap out of it soon enough, and by the All Star break everyone will wonder how they could have been so concerned.

  9. Swing and A Miss on May 4th, 2005 9:11 am

    2003 should be 2004 of course.

  10. Aaron on May 4th, 2005 9:12 am

    Swing, I’ve been saying those exact same things over at the Mariners message board at Adrian’s career stats were MUCH lower than his incredible year last year produced, and I was worried from the very beginning. Now it looks as if those fears are coming true. I certainly hope that I am wrong. I’ve been drafting the kid every year in fantasy baseball since he came into the league, but right now he’s hurting this team in that #3 spot in the batting order.

  11. Swing and A Miss on May 4th, 2005 9:21 am

    Aaron. I agree with you dude. If a player has some “history” or track record of these types of numbers that this guy put up in 2004, then ok, you take the chance. But, I just studied his history before 04 back when the M’s were trying to sign him. Taking out the injury thing, he just did not live up to his potential. The numbers up beside Andruw Jones’ name are the same. Jones is another player that swings at anything within the white lines. The guy make great D plays, but sucks on O. Yes, he hits dingers. But, so did Dave Kingman. He hit 48 dingers in a year, but fanned 170 times or so and hit around .225 to .240 every year. Do you want to pay $8 to $10 million a year for 48 dingers, 170 k’s and a .225 BA?? Not me. Dingers are not everything. Yes, they win games, but so does that bases clearing double or two run single with runners in scoring position. Fans may want the long dinger. But, I bet cha if you win 5-4 on 10 singles night in and night out and are on top of the division, no one would be mad. The old LA Dodgers used to win on 2, 3 or 4 runs per game with Sandy, Don and Osteen pitching. I’d take that production and wins any day.

  12. Scraps on May 4th, 2005 9:32 am

    In fact, Beltre put up excellent years for his age before his appendectomy. This gets pointed out every time someone says he had never lived up to his potential before last year. It’s not true. But people will keep saying it anyway.

  13. Evan on May 4th, 2005 9:32 am

    His K-rate and BA tell me nothing about his offense.

  14. Scraps on May 4th, 2005 9:36 am

    Even if you think Andruw Jones is overrated — many people here do — there is zero relevant comparison between Andruw Jones and Dave Kingman. They have one thing in common: strikeouts, one of the least important offensive statistics. In every other way they are more opposite than smiilar. And Jones is an immensely more valuable player. If your years of experience watching baseball don’t show you that, I am not too worried what you think of Beltre’s chances.

  15. Troy on May 4th, 2005 9:42 am

    Thanks Scraps and Evan. Glad to see there are still some level-headed and intelligent M’s fans out there. Lately I’ve been almost as worried about the sense of our fan base as our struggling offense.

  16. Troy on May 4th, 2005 9:43 am

    #15 obviously didn’t apply to Dave, DMZ, Jeff or any of the other USSM guys. Just the commentors about Beltre, and of course Itea’s rants yesterday.

  17. Swing and A Miss on May 4th, 2005 9:43 am

    Scraps: nor I of “your” opinions of mine.

  18. Jesse on May 4th, 2005 9:49 am

    He was also young, famous, and unmarried in Los Angeles. I think just getting married and moving to Seattle has got to increase his focus on the game. I don’t know; I’m a little nervous, but I think even a full bad season would be too early to give up on him. If he’s this bad all year, that’s one thing, but if he has an ordinary kind of slump year, it doesn’t prevent him from being a good signing. I don’t know how as fans we really know anything about his real work ethic or whether or not he’s secretly a headcase or any of those other things, but the indications that we do have say that he’s not a headcase and does have a good work ethic.

    And yeah, the appendectomy thing. It may also be that we’ve seen it took him a long time to figure out NL West pitching (years), but once he had he was unstoppable. Maybe he’s a slow learner, I don’t know. None of us know. But even if that was his career year he could be a superstar. Let’s not forget that his year last year was not just some ordinary kind of great. It was an historic year for any thirdbaseman. I’m willing to bet he’ll come around. It is frustrating though.

  19. chuck on May 4th, 2005 9:57 am

    No wonder I’m at last place of my fantasy league. I have 3 of the players that Dave listed.

  20. M. Bannan on May 4th, 2005 9:58 am

    So forgivable you are of Beltre, but Sele has had two bad starts and your on him like Michael Jackson and well… nevermind.

  21. Shoeless Jose on May 4th, 2005 9:58 am

    It’s far too early to be dumping on (or calling for dumping) Beltre. Every great hitter has some bad springs in his history; as Dave says, there are examples this spring and there are examples every spring. Did anybody notice how poorly Vlad was hitting in this last series? Do you think the Angels should get rid of him?

    How long do we give Beltre? I’m not even going to look at his numbers until the Allstar break. Historically he does badly in May: it was his worst month last year and every year of his career. Who knows why? Perhaps he starts out bashing the ball, pitchers realize he’ll chase that low and away pitch, and it takes him a month to discipline himself to lay off it. Maybe he just needs to get in a zone or for the weather to warm up. Whatever the reason, expect him to suck worse this month than in April and for all the casual fans to raise more and more hell about it. But given his track record, I see no reason to draw any conclusions until we’ve seen his June. And by September I wonder if this whole discussion will seem as quaint and misguided as the “Ichiro is over” talk seemed by last September.

  22. eponymous coward on May 4th, 2005 10:06 am

    I made a snide comment…but I’m more of a mind of “WTF is it about 3B that turns it into the Bermuda Triangle for the Mariners?” People say this about LF, but if you look at the total history of the franchise, 3B is even worse.

    In the nearly 30 year history of the franchise, we’ve had exactly ONE player have multiple seasons at 3B where they played at a superior level: Edgar Martinez. We’ve had touted prospects come in and tank their careers: Jimmy Presley, Darnell Coles, Russ Davis. We’ve had veteran free agents come in and tank their careers: Jeff Cirillo, Scott Spiezio. We’ve had mediocrities/league average journeymen to fill in for a couple of years: Mike Blowers and David Bell. But we’ve never been able to find a real answer at 3B that hasn’t either been a veteran patch job or has degenerated to a problem (you can even argue that Edgar had tragedy hit him in the form of blowing out his hammy at BC place- his place in the Hall becomes a LOT more secure with time at 3B instead of DH plus better health). It’s extremely frustrating to see the SAME DAMN THING beginning to happen with your 25 year old star FA.

    Now, hopefully, Adrian Beltre will make this all seem like a bad dream come September, and there’s good reason to think that will happen, but the franchise history at 3B is pretty awful- no wonder people must feel like Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day’.

  23. Nick on May 4th, 2005 10:06 am

    Her are a couple other examples of players with bad numbers:

    Player A: 265/310/411
    Blayer B: 254/303/426
    Player C: 240/290/424

    Oh yeah, wait, those are Beltre’s numbers in 2001, 2002 & 2003 respectively. As a Dodger fan I’ve wathced this guy “grow up” and no one was more shocked to see last year’s numbers he put up more than me. this guy has holes in his swing bigger than a basketball.

  24. Knuckles on May 4th, 2005 10:07 am

    #20: Sele has had two good starts in three bad years (yes, I’m oversimplifying, but his record doesn’t warrant any closer inspection than that). I’ll take the 25 year old, power-hitting 3B over the 35 year old, junkball pitcher any time.

  25. Ralph Malph on May 4th, 2005 10:10 am

    Sele has not had two bad starts. He has had three bad years. That is the difference.

  26. Digger on May 4th, 2005 10:12 am

    You might just as easily compare Beltre’s current numbers to these:
    which are his full season numbers for 2001-2003.

  27. Swing and A Miss on May 4th, 2005 10:20 am

    These are his stats:

    1998 LA 77 195 18 42 9 0 7 22 14 37 3 1 .215 .278 .369 .647
    1999 LA 152 538 84 148 27 5 15 67 61 105 18 7 .275 .352 .428 .780
    2000 LA 138 510 71 148 30 2 20 85 56 80 12 5 .290 .360 .475 .835
    2001 LA 126 475 59 126 22 4 13 60 28 82 13 4 .265 .310 .411 .721
    2002 LA 159 587 70 151 26 5 21 75 37 96 7 5 .257 .303 .426 .729
    2003 LA 158 559 50 134 30 2 23 80 37 103 2 2 .240 .290 .424 .714
    2004 LA 156 598 104 200 32 0 48 121 53 87 7 2 .334 .388 .629 1.017
    2005 Sea 27 109 15 25 4 0 2 16 3 19 0 0 .229 .254 .321 .575
    Tot — 993 3571 471 974 180 18 149 526 289 609 62 .273 .329 .458 .787

    Before 04, he threw up a couple of fair years. 00, 02 & 03, he hit 20+ HRs. Those were decent RBI years also. Elimate his 98 rookie season and this year, he has 6 seasons. His HR ave would be around 24 per season, with 04’s 48 boosting those numbers (about ave of 18 per season before the 48). His career BA is .273, with 04’s .334 boosting that also. Just comparing 1999-2003, injuries counting because he did get at least 475 ABs each season, those numbers do not amount to a $65 million contract.

    So, basically the M’s are counting that 04 is the real him, and the other years are not. In the long run I hope it works out, for the M’s will be successful if he does produce at or near 04 numbers. But, if his numbers are more in the areas of 99-03 (ave in the .260s for a BA, 18 HRs, 75 RBI), then no, his production will not warrant the contact. I guess we will see in 5 years.

    And just because some of us don’t think like others here, does not make us lesser of Mariner fans and you the “expert fan” and “TRUE Mariner fan” and we only lesser fans. Like the rest of us, yours is only your opinion and ours is ours. Last time I looked, we each still maintained the right to have those independent opinions, and not just follow the party line. While you may disagree with our opinion, we maintain the right to disagree with yours without being called UN-M’s like fans.

  28. shortbus on May 4th, 2005 10:27 am

    You gotta give Beltre a couple of months to get used to the league and figuring out his place in the lineup. Calling him a bust at this point won’t help things at all. Do we have a serious alternative to Beltre anyway? We owe the guy about a billion dollars…he’s going to be playing 3B all this year at least. If he’s still hitting .230 in August I’ll agree that we’ve been sold a bill of goods on the guy, but for now I’m willing to cut him all the slack in the world.

  29. Scraps on May 4th, 2005 10:30 am

    Any discussion of his career statistics that doesn’t talk about his age and his injury history is a discussion aimed at denigrating him, I’ve found. The numbers before the appendectomy were superb for his age; look at the historical comparables. He lost at least a year to the appendectomy. Go ahead and say you’re nervous about Beltre because of his slow recovery and subsequent disappointing years, if you want. But if you want to look fair and honest, at least make a nod to his age and his injuries, if only to dismiss them.

  30. J.R. on May 4th, 2005 10:34 am

    That lists sadly looks a lot like the line up for my fantasy baseball team….

  31. anotherjeff on May 4th, 2005 10:36 am


    I’m having a hard time finding a place in this discussion where anyone has been told anyone else that they were not a true M’s fan. When people disagree on your position here, It should not be considered an affront to your being a fan. They just disagree.

  32. Bruce on May 4th, 2005 10:40 am

    Just looking at his season totals, one difference between Good Beltre and Bad Beltre is BB rate: respectable in ’98, ’99, ’00, and ’04; hacktastic in the other years, including the line with SEA in front.

    Last night’s bases-loaded whiff is an obvious moment to pick on (that pitch was a foot outside, maybe?), but watching his at-bats I actually still have hope that Good Beltre is still in there. I’m no scout, but it looks to me like a little selectivity will go a long way; so that he avoids the two-strike soft outs on pitches out of the zone, and gets another crack at the hanging curve or grooved fastball.

    Dave, any thoughts or comments from you or your scouting sources?

  33. Shoeless Jose on May 4th, 2005 10:41 am

    I’m not sure what that rant about “TRUE Mariner fans” is about, but on the off chance my post caused it let me explain: I used the term “casual fan”; I didn’t say “lesser Fan” or “M’s Hater” or “UN-M’s” fan or whatever other term you want to make up and pretend I said. I said “casual fan” and my usage is pretty precise. The casual fan might glance at a box score occaisonally but doesn’t look past BAs and HRs. The casual fan wonders who the heck “Dobbs” is and has never heard of King Felix. The casual fan thinks Willie Bloomquist is one of the best things about this team. The casual fan tends to base opinions on the one game in 10 he saw and not the stats from the 9 he didn’t. The casual fan is actually probably watching the Sonics and hasn’t noticed Beltre’s slump (yet).

    It goes without saying (or it should): the casual fan doesn’t read USSMariner. Nobody on here is a casual fan. If there’s a party line for all of us non-casual fans on here, from what I can tell, it is “you’re free to have any opinion you want, but if you assert something as fact you better have the numbers to back it up.” Since we’re all trying to make projections of a player on a new team in a new leauge based on past numbers tainted by injury and perhaps a career year, we’re going to end up with different results based on how we weigh those various factors. And of course there’s the unknowables of whatever is going on inside his head. But I think we all know that one month might be ominious but it’s not conclusive.

  34. Scraps on May 4th, 2005 10:43 am

    I decided to look up Beltre’s most comparables by age myself. This is what it looks like:

    20: Eddie Mathews (943)
    21: Ron Santo (956)
    22: Ron Santo (946)
    23: Ron Santo (975)
    24: Ron Santo (945)
    25: Ron Santo (965)

    Even in his down years, he resembled Santo more than any other player that age in league history.

  35. Swing and A Miss on May 4th, 2005 10:46 am

    #32: 16 and 17 touches it. Maybe it was one of the other subjects where the person said “real” M’s fans on this site today. I don’t think any of us would be here posting if we were not REAL M’s fans. We all love the M’s and want them to do well. Just because we don’t agree with what a poster says, does not make us lesser fans. No one here is “the expert”, the know all, smartest one. If that person is, then he is wasting his time on a baseball site and should be out doing other things with that kind of expertise. We all have our opinions. Some like this guy, some are disappointed, some just don’t like him. Same with Boone, Wynn, Cameron when he was here, others. Probably everyone liked Edgar and Bone. But, just because we don’t agree with someone’s opinion here, does not make us less smart, or UNLOYAL Mariner fans. I think we all have the same goal in sight, a winning team, the division, playoffs and a World Series in Seattle.

  36. Aaron on May 4th, 2005 11:04 am

    #32: Comment #15 says that we aren’t intelligent M’s fans simply because we have a different opinion.

  37. DMZ on May 4th, 2005 12:08 pm

    Not to come to the defense of Troy here, but he said he was worried about their sense, not that they weren’t smart or M’s fans.

    Can we, generally speaking, knock this off? This real fan thing is a really stupid discussion, and I say that as someone who spent some time arguing to a wall over in another Beltre thread.

  38. Ralph Malph on May 4th, 2005 1:00 pm

    3rd base has not been a strong position around baseball since the days of Brett, Schmidt and Nettles. The M’s are certainly not alone in having a history of disappointing 3rd basemen.

    The parallels between Beltre and Santo are interesting. After that point Santo went on to have two of his best years at age 26 and 27.

    It is also interesting that among Beltre’s 10 best through age 25 are a number of guys who never lived up to that early potential: Tony Conigliaro, Ruben Sierra, Ken Keltner, Harlond Clift, and a couple guys the jury is still out on, Andruw Jones and Troy Glaus.

    His comp list also includes some guys who went on to be pretty good: Santo, Bobby Doerr, Gary Sheffield. And Eric Chavez.

    People should chill out a little. It’s early.

  39. Swing and A Miss on May 4th, 2005 1:18 pm

    #38: Interesting you bring up Tony C. He was a good talent. I remember well when he was hit in the face with the pitch. The photo in the newspapers of his eye all black, swollen shut, was terrible. He was a great power hitter. He came back with the Angels and did well a couple of years after the beaning. I think it was Jack Hamilton who hit him. Tony died young, too young.

  40. Swing and A Miss on May 4th, 2005 1:25 pm

    To All:

    Since we have been throwing around a few stats, here is site re baseball stats if you are not aware of it:

    At this site you can check out any player in the game all time. Click on a team and it opens up to a year by year page of the team. Click on the year and it opens to all players and their stats for the team during that year. Lots of good info if you are into stats.


  41. Scott on May 4th, 2005 1:33 pm

    The thing I have noticed about Beltre is that he doesn’t seem to be hitting the ball the other way as much as I heard he did last year. Watching highlights of him from last season, he seemed to hit a lot of HR’s to right. This year he looks like he is trying to pull everything. Could be that he is trying to justify his contract, misses Tim Wallach, forgot what worked for him last year, or something else.

    One other thought that I haven’t heard brought up yet, he had an ankle injury last year that I read impacted his swing positively. Perhaps, the surgery he had to correct the problem has allowed him to do something in his swing that is returning him to his 03 form instead of 05.

    One last thing. I find it funny that people accuse ML players of turning it on during a contract year. If Beltre was able to hit .334 with 48 bombs last year, by simply “turning it on” why wouldn’t he do it again now? Do you think he enjoys hitting .220?

  42. eponymous coward on May 4th, 2005 2:43 pm

    3rd base has not been a strong position around baseball since the days of Brett, Schmidt and Nettles. The M’s are certainly not alone in having a history of disappointing 3rd basemen.

    Oh, certainly, on the last part. The White Sox had a nearly 50 year drought between Willie Kamm and Robin Ventura that Bill James went into in his Historical Baseball Abstract.

    OTOH, here are some more recent 3B than the ones you’ve mentioned, and a non-comprehensive list at that:

    Terry Pendleton
    Gary Gaetti
    Chipper Jones
    Robin Ventura
    Wade Boggs
    Matt Williams
    Todd Zeile
    Scott Rolen
    Bobby Bonilla
    Aramis Ramirez
    Eric Chavez
    Mike Lowell

    So…I’m going to say “no, don’t agree” about the “not a strong position around baseball since the 1980’s” part.

  43. Chris H on May 4th, 2005 4:39 pm

    Dodger fan here. I don’t want anyone to think that I’m piling on here, but I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in here.

    Last year Beltre looked like a completely different player at the plate. He didn’t look anything like he did in his previous seasons. There were a couple of things that he did very well: he hit to all fields, he didn’t swing at pitches low and away, and everything off his bat had a charge in it. In previous years he tried to pull everything and frequently struck out on unhittable pitches.

    From reading the comments it sounds like you have seen the pre-2004 Beltre so far. If that is the case you guys better hope that he figures something out because he never did that last year(even when he “only” slugged .481 in May last year he was still hitting balls very hard).

  44. Jim Thomsen on May 4th, 2005 5:35 pm

    A simple principle to keep in mind when framing Beltre’s struggles this year against his career record: Just as there is “regression to the mean” (which we all expect of Sele, for example — an expectation he’s fulfilling quite nicely this afternoon), there is the inverse.

    “Ascension to the mean.” Since Adrian Beltre is in no way in a decline phase, ascension to his mean is a reasonable assumption for his future performance.

  45. JPWood on May 4th, 2005 5:45 pm

    Guerrero didn’t move on that one to Ichiro!
    Learned his lesson.

  46. Bela Txadux on May 4th, 2005 9:24 pm

    Beltre is going bad at the plate now, and he was unlikely to repeat ’04’s numbers regardless. That said, I’m _not_ disappointed with his signing. All the positives he possessed are there—and the major flaw, too, a lack of patience at the plate. What he is doing wrong at the plate is obvious; it is fixable; in ’04 he fixed it; when it’s fixed he did and can put up big numbers; he’s forgotten the solution at the moment, but he can fix it again.

    Beltre is everything advertised in the field, a gem. He’s a character guy. He has terrific bat speed, and murders fastballs in the strike zone. He has a clear understanding of what pitchers are doing to him at the plate and an approach for dealing with that (which isn’t working at the moment, be it said). I have the feeling that he _does_ understand where the strike zone is from what he has said in the press, and is choosing to ignore that boundary, which is different from having no clue where the strike zone is a la Olivo.

    A week or so ago just before he completely lost it at the plate, he discussed the differences in pitching he is facing in the AL. He said that in the first weeks he had to establish that he could hit fastballs in this league, and had done so; we know that this was true. He further said that over in the NL, when the pitchers got to 2-0 (and by implication in hitter’s counts generally) the pitchers “didn’t want to walk you,” and he’d see a fastball, in the zone or close to it. Historically, Adrian has had some success hitting the high fastball for power to hear tell also, so he’s had some reason to believe he can have success against _selected_ non-strikes. In the AL, by contrast, “the pitchers didn’t care if they walked you,” and he was seeing breaking balls off the plate and definitive non-strikes in hitters counts. Now, it is obvious from Beltre’s career numbers, past performance, and present performance that he hates to walk, and is up at the plate looking for a pitch he can drive. So even though he knows, now, that he won’t see a fastball in the strikezone on a hitter’s count, he’s still SWINGING like he’s going to get a hittable pitch. But he did say that he knew he needed “to hit the ball where it’s pitched,” i.e. use the whole field. He’s reaching for pitcher’s pitches and trying to use more of the field, but he’s still overswinging, and as a result not making much contact. Part of this may also be pressure to perform from the contract signing, as others have suggested; it’s very common for the first big contract of a guy’s career, especially when he’s brought in to a new team to be The Man, most especially to rescue an awful team as in this case. Instead, he’s getting fastballs in (K), fastballs well high (K), and breaking balls and the occasional fastball well outside (K, K, K). In short, the American League pitchers have successfully gotten Adrian to expand his strike zone, and are winning the battle with him accordingly. And they will keep winning the battle to the tune of a sub 650 OPS until Beltre makes an adjustment.

    Can he and will he make said adjustment? This year?? His ’04 season is excellent evidence that he is capable of doing do. After years of oveswinging at the plate trying to pull every pitch with power, he manifestly made an adjustment in his approach at the plate last year, and his big numbers are directly attibutable to that change. Chris H, in #43 says that Adrian did, indeed, look like an entirely different hitter last year, specifically that he hit the ball _to all fields_, and did a better job of laying off breaking pitches away. So to improve, Beltre needs to do either or both of two things. A) If he’s going to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone, he needs to make contact with the ball. I think that this is what Beltre wants to do, and in principle is trying to do. This is NOT going to happen as long as he keeps taking that murder-the-ball swing, however. To hit all those homeruns he was given a big contract to do. If he is going to start spraying the ball off the plate to all fields as a way of ‘hitting out of his slump’ he’s got to swallow some pride for a time and cut his swing down. I’m not a great fan of this approach, but it would seem to fit with Beltre’s historical approach to hitting, to work a hittable pitch and then drive it where it’s pitched. If he succeeds with that, he’ll probably turn in numbers like a naturally stronger version of Boone, with a .290/.335/.460 kind of line, not as good as he could with his tools, but still an effective hitter, much more than the one we are seeing now. B) Adrian can show some patience and lay off pitcher’s pitches outside the zone. If he feels he can still drive high fastballs because historically he has, that’s one thing, but he needs to take some of those pitches inside, and above all he should lay off junk off the plate. Historically, Adrian has _never_ been a patient hitter, and however much it would benefit him to become more of one, especially making his living in Safeco, he has at least shown some ability to lay off breaking pitches outside. For one year. When he hit 48 dingers.

    When I put all this together, it says that the only thing ‘wrong’ with Beltre at this time is his approach. He’s feeling the pressure of the first big contract and being The Man at age 26, and he’s reverted to his former bad habits of overswinging and trying to win the game each time he comes to bat, especially with men on base. Adrian seems to have a good idea of what the pitchers are doing to him, and has an approach in the past that has worked (lay off bad pitches, and drive the ball where it’s pitched). But he’s just stressing far, far too much, and the fact the the team is floundering around him only puts more pressure on. Hargrove held a team meeting a few days ago, and told the hitters that ‘they were trying to do to much, and just needed to be patient.’ Which has been too true. This applies to everyone, of course, but was also a way of sending a message to Beltre without singling him out with a personal meeting. But it’s time for the personal meeting, now, clearly.

    Beltre has great tools, he’s no bust, but under pressure he’s reverted to bad habits and is mostly getting _himself_ out. But that is a fixable problem, and Adrian has shown in the past that he is capable of fixing it. He’ll put up bad numbers until and unless he makes such an adjustment, though. I hope he makes that adjustment this year, and I think he will. I think the odds are good he will make the adjustment at some point, though, even if we suffer until next year.