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WSJ: On Beltran

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by xiki, Aug 13, 2005.

  1. xiki

    xiki Contributing Member

    Jun 18, 2002
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    Star Signs
    August 5, 2005; Page W5

    (See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

    "Was Carlos Beltran a flash in the pan in last year's playoffs?" asks Mike Donnelly of West Chester, Pa.

    "This year," Mr. Donnelly writes us about the outfielder the New York Mets signed after compiling stellar postseason stats last year with the Houston Astros, "his on-base percentage is a pathetic .314 [as of Thursday]. For this the Mets paid more than $117 million? My question is: How can we tell when a player is merely having a career year versus when a player really is getting better? How can teams avoid getting snookered in this way?"

    Good question, Mike. And while "pathetic" may overstate Mr. Beltran's decline (he's racked up 12 homers and 56 RBI this season), the danger of wagering big bucks on what could be a momentary spike in performance keeps every team's general manager up at night. So here are a few ways to tell if a player is just having his moment in the sun, or if he's on his way to a long-term position as a baseball star.


    By the Numbers is happy to answer your sports questions. Email your queries to allen.stjohn@wsj.com and include your hometown and daytime phone number.

    The Adam Kennedy Factor: Yes, Carlos Beltran was near-Ruthian in the 2004 playoffs (8 HR, .435 average). But can one postseason show a player's true abilities? Adam Kennedy of the Angels had a fantastic first two rounds of the 2002 playoffs -- .409 average, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 9 runs scored in eight games. But in his four full seasons before the 2002 playoffs (including the 2002 season), Kennedy was a .280 hitter and never hit more than nine home runs. So it's clear that his playoff explosion -- like Mr. Beltran's last year -- was a small-sample aberration.

    The Brady Anderson Factor: Remember Brady Anderson in 1996? Look at his stat line for that year -- 50 HR, 110 RBI -- and you'll see the kind of radical, sudden improvement that raises questions. While Mr. Beltran hit nine more home runs last year than he ever had before, his other stats held steady.


    While Carlos Beltran played in two of baseball's best hitter's parks -- Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City and Minute Maid Park in Houston -- his stats were actually better on the road, which should bode well for his long-term prospects as a Met.

    Home 44 150 57 .281 .359 .503
    Road 49 159 61 .282 .373 .542

    And Mr. Beltran was 27 years old, an age at which players normally reach their peak. (Mr. Anderson was 32 during his big year.) When a team signs a free agent in his 30s, the chance of a sudden decline increases (witness Jim Thome of the Phillies).

    The Home Field Factor: While Mr. Beltran's last two home fields, in Kansas City and Houston, are hitter's parks, Mr. Beltran's numbers aren't really attributable to that -- he actually hit better on the road than at home the past three years. So while Shea Stadium is a pitcher's park, it wasn't a foregone conclusion that Mr. Beltran's numbers would slip dramatically in New York.

    The Cooperstown Test: How can a team cherry-pick the free-agent market? By asking this question -- "Could this guy be a Hall of Famer?"

    If a Hall-of-Fame-type player suffers a decline in new surroundings, he'll probably still be an All-Star if not an MVP candidate (see Rodriguez, Alex, 2004). But if a player is just above-average -- an All-Star only at his best -- a decline can mean that you're paying a king's ransom for a journeyman player.

    That happened to the Mets last year. They spent over $10 million on Mike Cameron, Karim Garcia and Kaz Matsui, who have been collectively disappointing. For a million more, they could have had Vladimir Guerrero, who passes the Hall of Fame test -- and won an MVP for the Angels.

    Does Mr. Beltran pass the Cooperstown test? While injuries he's suffered this season have clouded the picture on that one, that answer is still "maybe."

    The X Factor: The other thing that might be at work? Pure chance.

    In 1992 Bill James did a study in which he ran a computer simulation of 1,000 seasons of Joe DiMaggio. He kept Mr. DiMaggio's abilities as a constant, and used a random-number generator to assign the outcome of each at bat. In the sixth year of the simulation, Mr. DiMaggio had a typical Joe D year -- .338, 38 HR, 150 RBI. In year seven, he dropped to .264, 18 HR. The explanation? "When a player has an off year, even a terrible year, there may not be any reason for it," Mr. James explains. "It may be just the breaks of the game."

    So taking all the factors into account, Mr. Donnelly, it's early to say that Mr. Beltran snookered the Mets.

    Write to Allen St. John at allen.stjohn@wsj.com

    Corrections & Amplifications:

    New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran's slugging percentage (SLG) this season, as of Aug. 4, was .503 at home and .542 on the road. His on-base percentage (OBP) was .359 at home and .373 on the road. The chart accompanying this column incorrectly gave the .503 and .542 numbers as OBP and the .359 and .373 numbers as SLG.
  2. JayZ750

    JayZ750 Contributing Member

    May 16, 2000
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    Is Carlos Beltran really a "maybe" hall of famer? Given his career stats and averages to this point, I don't see how?
  3. weakfromtoday

    weakfromtoday Contributing Member
    Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2002
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    I don't see where he got that either. "Maybe, but probably not" sounds like a better replacement.
  4. bobrek

    bobrek Politics belong in the D & D

    Sep 16, 1999
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    Currently his home SLG is .422 and his road SLG is .447 while his home OBP is .336 and his road OBP is .313. Granted these stats are as of today, but they certainly didn't drop that dramatically since 08/04.

    They need corrections to their corrections.
  5. leroy

    leroy Contributing Member

    Jun 25, 2002
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    Much like Steve Francis and Cuttion Mobley threads are moved from the GARM to the Hangout, so should Carlos Beltran threads. He is no longer an member of any team in Houston. He was only a member of the Astros for 5 months. Yes, he was an important part for those 5 months. Yes, he did hurt many people's feelings by leaving. Yes, it's kind of nice to see him struggling at the plate and in the standings. It's over, though. He's gone to New York and ain't coming back.

    Let it go.
  6. WizzyWig

    WizzyWig Member

    Oct 10, 1999
    Likes Received:
    but I can't do it...I..I just can't... :(

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