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July 22, 2010 at 10:23 AM

Adrian Beltre still hitting better on road, but it’s all relative

Adrian Beltre returns to Safeco Field for the first time tonight since signing that free agent deal with the Boston Red Sox. He’s battling a lingering hamstring problem, but should still be able to play in the series.
During the winter meetings, his agent, Scott Boras, sold Beltre as a guy who has always hit better on the road than at home. That was meant to get teams to overlook some of his less-than-elite offensive numbers in recent years.
The Red Sox took the bait and Beltre is now tearing it up offensively, hitting .339 with a .937 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS). Here’s what he told the Boston Herald about how he’d feel coming back to Safeco Field, where the ballpark’s dimensions were largely believed to have suppressed his right handed bat.
“It’s tough to say,” said Beltre, smiling at the purely rhetorical question about whether or not he’s missed a ballpark where, in 356 career games, he is hitting a droopy .252, with a .305 on-base percentage and a .408 slugging percentage. “I spent five years there and I love the stadium, even though it’s not a really friendly ballpark. I’m just going to go out there and do the best I can. It’s not like I’m going to try to prove that Safeco did ‘this’ or ‘that.’ It’s not a big deal.”
So far, those offensive numbers produced by Beltre this season are his best since his 48-homer campaign for the Dodgers in 2004. It was that season that catapulted Beltre into the ranks of the elite and pursuaded the M’s to give him a five-year contract worth $64 million. The M’s took a lot of heat for that deal afterwards from critics who felt Beltre would never again replicate a season like that.
Well, he probably won’t for home runs. Especially now that 40-homer seasons by anybody have become rare once again in the years after steroids testing was implemented and has caused the aftermath many believe we are now seeing.
But his OPS and slugging are the highest they’ve been since 2004, once again over .900 and .500 respectively for the first time since he posted a 1.017 and .629 back in 2004.
Here’s the interesting thing about Beltre, though. While he’s now in the hitter-friendly confines of Fenway Park, he still is a better hitter on the road.
Photo Credit: AP

Beltre has an OPS of .849 at Fenway, but a whopping 1.034 on the road. That comes as somewhat of a surprise for those who point to Fenway as the biggest reason for his newfound success.
In fact, if you look at Beltre’s entire career, there is not one season in which he’s had a better OPS season at home than on the road.
The difference this year is in his relative numbers.
Beltre’s .849 OPS at home is better than any home season he ever had at Safeco Field. But his road numbers, with that 1.034 OPS, are simply the best sustained stats he’s put up anyplace since that career year in 2004.
Yes, Beltre is hitting better at Fenway.
But he’s also upped his overall game. It wasn’t just Safeco Field. It was the ballplayer as well.
I have no doubt that Beltre’s improved numbers at home have upped his overall comfort level and helped him put together the season he has. Maybe he could never get comfortable here offensively, feeling his home ballpark was weighing him down.
Maybe it was the pressure of his contract. Or all the injuries that piled up later on.
But one thing is becoming clear.
Beltre has never been at his best while playing at home.
Not before. And not now.
The difference this year is, he’s upped his game in every ballpark he sets foot in.



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