Friday, May 07, 2004


So now even Aaron Gleeman is talkin' up Carlos Beltran as a new potential superstar in an article titled "Making the Leap".

Gleeman's a good blogger, but more and more his writing at Hardball Times has lead me to understand Will Carroll's crap factory comment.

Yesterday's piece on Adam Dunn had an interesting spin on possibly the greatest Three True Outcome player ever, but today he strikes out.

Needless to say, I think there are some flaws with Gleeman's piece. Namely, he doesn't explain how Beltran's year-to-year improvements could lead to a Bondsian breakout this year.

For example, Gleeman talks about Beltran's improving strikeout rates. That's fine, but it doesn't go very far to explaining why Beltran is due for a big year. In fact, to hear Prospectus talk about it, one could associate increasing strikeouts rates with some very good things like hitting for power. (I mean, is anyone really concerned that Jim Thome regularly strikes out over 170 times as long as he's still slugging over .500 and getting on base 4 in 10 times?) Yes, it is very impressive that Beltran is bucking the usual trend as his IsoPwr is increasing while his K/PA rate is decreasing (not that Gleeman explicitly makes that connection), but it doesn't necessarily predict a breakout.

Worse, what Gleeman ignores while talking about that increasing power is the fact that Kaufman stadium has increasingly played as an hitter's park since Beltran arrived on the scene.

Here are the Batting Park Factors for Kauffman Stadium over that stretch, courtesy of baseball-reference.com:

1998 104
1999 101
2000 104
2001 110
2002 117
2003 113

Anything over 100 is considered a hitter's park.

And if I were to tell you that Coors Field had a Batting Park Factor of 112 last year, you can probably see where I'm going with this, because none of the stats Gleeman used to show Beltran's "development" were park adjusted. I mean, you'd laugh at someone who said Vinnie Castilla's increasing SLG and IsoPwr since joining the Rockies this year is indicative of his growth as a hitter, right?

Well, quickly adjusting Beltran's IsoPwr for park effects would indicate that his power development has been more or less stagnant these past three years--a finding which one might even characterize as alarming given most players see their power rise as they approach their age 27 season. Maybe Beltran could do with some increasing strikeout rates.

Now, am I trying to slag Beltan? Not at all. In fact, he's still my early pick as AL MVP (although a lot of that is dependent on the Royals righting themselves). But what I personally find most encouraging for a potential (mini-) breakout are his increasing patience and improving ability to control the strike zone. Yes, Gleeman mentions those too, but I don't think he stresses those elements enough.

Ok, so Beltran is on pace to hit 50 HR, steal 44 bases, and score 156 runs while going .313/.421/.667.

But even if his slugging eventually drops to around his career norm in the low .500s, if he can keep up this 100+ walk pace and .400+ OBP to go along with his stellar performance on the basepaths and the best defence this side of Mike Cameron, then he'll more than earn that the trophy.

But if you're looking for the next Barry Bonds (even the next pre-Giants Barry Bonds), keep looking.

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