Yankees Editorial: Statcast Portends Future Success for Beltran
Lacking an elite hitter from previous years (Robinson Cano or peak Alex Rodriguez) and employing all field/no hit players at the middle infield spots, the Yankees were looking for increased offense from other sources coming into the season. Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira were expected to bounce back while Chase Headley was retained to provide some on base skills as a switch-hitter. Carlos Beltran was also one of the players expected to carry some of the offensive load. However, in year 2 of a 3 year/$45M deal, Beltran is running a .235/.269/.382 line (27% worse than league average) as a rightfielder/designated hitter while hitting the middle of the lineup. As a 38 year old with two bad knees, it’s natural to wonder if Beltran is cooked similar to what happened to Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells in recent years. Old players can fall off a cliff without warning. Beltran’s walk rate (4.8%) and power (.147 ISO) have evaporated so far this season. (His defense doesn’t provide any redeeming qualities.) Then again, it’s just 145 plate appearances. Looking at a projection system is the best way to attempt to measure Beltran’s true talent level and see if he has anything left. On Fangraphs, ZIPS projects him to hit .250/.304/.424 the rest of the season while Steamer has him at .257/.316/.427. Both are right around a league average line among all hitters, a big jump from where he’s currently at. There is additional evidence that Beltran might rebound in the form of the new Statcast data.
Joe Lemire of the Wall Street Journal articulated Joe Girardi‘s use of Statcast data to evaluate his hitters. In his article, he mentions that Girardi observed Beltran’s average exit velocity off the bat was second on the team in April (only behind Rodriguez) despite hitting for such a low average for the month. Data at Fangraphs jives with this observation as Beltran currently has the 2nd lowest Soft% (batted balls classified as softly hit) at 12.7% and the 4th highest Hard% (batted balls classified as hard hit) at 27.3% on the team. As this data is fairly new it is hard to know when it “stabilizes” or what the signal/noise ratio is after X at bats, but it would be hard to envision Beltran deemed not being unlucky when he has put the ball in play through the first 40 games. Beltran should have some positive regression coming if he maintains similar hit velo.
Beltran figures to hit second in the lineup with Jacoby Ellsbury on the DL and his contract likely gives him a long leash to get his process (hard hit balls) in line with his results (stat-line). This correction would help a Yankees’ offense that is a far cry from the late 1990s/early 2000s juggernauts.
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