The Cardinals' major Hot Stove signing was free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran. The switch-hitting veteran was coming off a career-resurrecting 2011 season in which Beltran hit .300/.385/.525 for the Mets and Giants. Beltran has performed very well in St. Louis, hitting .292/.371/.529 on the year. While the slash stats are very similar to 2011, the numbers underneath are a bit different.
Using the Baseball Prospectus Hitter Profile charts that were put together by Dan Brooks and Harry Pavlidis of Brooks Baseball, today we will compare Beltran's 2011 season to his 2012 season.
DanUp has noted that Beltran has essentially swapped out hitting doubles for hitting homers in 2012. In 2011, Beltran hit 39 doubles on the year to 22 homers over 598 plate appearances (PAs). This season, Beltran has already blasted 21 homers in 377 PAs while notching 13 doubles. Beltran is on pace for 36 dingers in 2012 and 22 doubles. This would be a nearly exact flipping of his round-tripper and two-bagger totals.
After Sunday's game, the homer surge has seen Beltran's slugging percentage (SLG) increase by four points despite his extra-base hit rate dropping from 11.2% in 2011 to 9.3% in 2012. The homer surge has also fed an isolated power (ISO) increase. ISO is named because it removes singles from a player's SLG and isolates XBHs. Last season, Beltran posted a .225 ISO. So far this year, he has put up a .237 ISO.
Using Beltran's Hitter Profile Page at Baseball Prospectus, we can see the location of the pitches Beltran laced for doubles during the 2011 season as well as the percentage of his hits they account for.
Beltran's doubles were hit in all areas of the strike zone as well as some areas outside it. Now let's compare this chart the chart showing Beltran's doubles in 2012.
As you can see, Beltran has not hit double on a pitch throw right down the heart of the plate. Nor has he hit a double on a pitch in the upper part of the strike zone. This is because Beltran has hit those pitches out of the park.
Here is a chart showing Beltran's 2011 homers.
Here is the chart showing a strike zone map of Beltran's 2012 dingers.
These two charts show a similar number of homers, but over a very different total number of hits. Beltran has hit a larger share of pitches for homers that are over the heart of the plate, down and in the middle of the zone, and up in the zone. This is an interesting turn of events as Beltran is demonstrating better plate coverage in that he is hitting for more power over a larger part of the strike zone in 2012 than he did in 2011.
Another interesting dynamic to his 2012 season is the fact that Beltran is hitting more "hard" pitches for homers. Brooks and Pavlidis consider four-seam fastballs, two-seam fastballs/sinkers, and cutters to be "hard" pitches for this categorization. It seems that Beltran is either seeing "hard" pitches better, has been better able to get around on such pitches this season, or some combination thereof. Beltran's increased power on "hard" pitches is perhaps due to increased bat speed two years removed from knee surgery.
Here is the hitter chart for Beltran homers on hard pitches in 2011.
Here is the same chart for 2012.
Beltran started off the season on a torrid home-run pace and put up numbers that propelled him into the 2012 Home Run Derby. Whether or not it is an unsustainable aberration remains to be seen, but if the veteran slugger can continue to demonstrate the plate coverage he has to date and drive "hard" pitches as he has this season, he could very well hit over thirty home runs.