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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

May 20, 2009 at 9:54 AM

Analyzing Adrian Beltre: I’m no hitting coach, but…

Nobody is struggling more on the Mariners these days than Adrian Beltre, who tacked on another 0-for-4 yesterday to fall to .205 for the season. This came a day after he had been benched by manager Don Wakamatsu, his first day out of the lineup all year.

I couldn’t help but observe (OK, to be honest, a co-worker pointed it out to me) that Beltre yesterday took three first-pitch strikes out of his four plate appearances (in the other at-bat, he swung and missed on the first pitch).

I looked back, and this is most definitely a trend for him this season. Two games earlier, against the Red Sox on Saturday, Beltre took four first-pitch strikes. In other words, in these two games, Beltre put himself behind in the count, 0-1, on seven out of eight plate appearances.

I decided to look at Beltre’s entire season, using the wonders of CBS Sportsline’s Game Center, which has a pitch-by-pitch recap of every game played this season.

Turns out that Beltre loves to gaze at the first pitch, and pitchers love to put him in an 0-1 hole. Out of 165 plate appearances this year, he has taken a whopping 52 first-pitch strikes. That’s 32 percent of the time.

What are the ramifications of this strategy? Glad you asked. Thanks to the wonders of Baseball Reference.com (how did we ever do baseball research before the internet?), we learn that whenever he falls behind in the count 0-1, Beltre is hitting — wait for it — .104! That’s 8-for-77, by far the worst average on the team. Ichiro, by contrast, is hitting .328 (20-for-61) after he falls behind 0-1. (Just to clarify: These are not their averages on 0-1 pitches; this is their average in all at-bats in which they begin 0-1).

So to review: When Beltre falls behind 0-1, his results are terrible, at least this season. And he has allowed himself to fall behind 0-1 by taking a called strike in 32 percent of his at-bats. And in another 12 at-bats, he has taken a ball on the first pitch and then taken a strike on the second pitch. After he gets a 1-1 count, Beltre is hitting .120 (6-for-50) this season.

My instant analysis would be that Beltre needs to be more aggressive early in the count. When he swings at the first pitch, he is hitting .381 (8-for-21) with four doubles.

Just for the heck of it, here are all the Mariners’ regulars and their averages after falling behind 0-1:

Ichiro: 20-for-61 (.328)

Yuniesky Betancourt 21-for-72 (.292)

Mike Sweeney 7-for-24 (.292)

Kenji Johjima 9-for-32 (.281)

Russ Branyan 16-for-60 (.267)

Franklin Gutierrez 18-for-71 (.254)

Jose Lopez 15-for-77 (.195)

Ken Griffey Jr. 5-for-38 (.132)

Adrian Beltre: 8-for-77 (.104)

Interestingly, Beltre’s career numbers are not terrible after an 0-1 count. He has a .250 average in 2,941 at-bats, including 99 homers. And last year, he was at .267, with eight homers and 34 RBI. But it’s just not working for him this year.

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