Carlos Beltran is an All-Star for the eighth time in his 16-year career. In his prime, Beltran was a five-tool center fielder as capable of swiping second as smashing a homer into the upper deck. Unfortunately, that Beltran no longer exists. The outfielder who has made two All-Star squads as a Cardinal is a more common MLB beast: the power-hitting corner outfielder.
Last year, Beltran was a no-doubt-about-it All-Star selection. The switch-hitter started off hot and slugged his way through June. By the time he arrived in Kansas City to be managed by Tony La Russa, Beltran's batting line had fallen off a bit. It's a credit to how excellent he was throughout the season's early months that a .296 batting average (BA), .382 on-base percentage (OBP), and .542 slugging percentage (SLG) can be described as being representative of falling off. Beltran's 2012 SLG was fueled by 20 homers in the season's first 82 games. He homered once every 16.16 plate appearances.
The pre-All-Star dip that dragged his on-base plus slugging (OPS) down to .924 continued for the remainder of the 2012 regular season. Beltran's "second half" line was poor. The veteran managed a mere .236 BA, .302 OBP, and .440 SLG. Beltran's Isolated Power (ISO) was still .204 during this cold streak, even though he homered once every 23 PAs. By the end of the season, Beltran's line featured a .269 BA, .346 OBP, .495 SLG, and .842 OPS with 32 home runs.
Beltran did Beltran-in-October things during the postseason, which helped wipe away memories of his poor second half. Nonetheless, his 2012 fade made a second consecutive All-Star appearance seem somewhat unlikely. This year, slugging Beltran has delivered with the same power he displayed during the first half of last season.
Beltran has clubbed 19 home runs so far in 2013 and has a chance at matching the 20 he hit before the All-Star break last season. He ranks fifth in the National League in dingers, behind Paul Goldschmidt (21), Pedro Alvarez (22), Domonic Brown (22), and Carlos Gonzalez (23). Beltran has homered once every 16.94 PAs. Despite this potency, Beltran is drawing far fewer walks.
We have to go back to 2005 to find a full season in which Beltran posted a walk rate (BB%) lower than 10%. It was 8.6% that season. Last year, Beltran walked in 10.5% of his PAs, which is also his career average walk rate. This is how Beltran managed a .346 OBP while only hitting for a .269 BA. This year, Beltran's walk rate is just 5.6%. Beltran is hitting for a .307 average--38 points higher than in 2012--and yet his OBP is .347, only one point higher than a year ago. He's essentially making outs at the same rate as last year even though he's hitting safely much more often.
Beltran has posted an .880 OPS and .378 wOBA. It's safe to say that, if Beltran were walking at his career average of 10.5%, his batting line would likely more closely resemble the .924 OPS that propelled him to last year's Mid-Summer Classic and Home Run Derby. It's clear that Beltran's home-run prowess is what landed him in this year's exhibition that counts. The point of intrigue for Cards fans is whether he'll be able to keep up his power-hitting through the dog days of summer when the All-Star Game is but a memory.