Sunday, July 11, 2010

It's A Dirty Job, But Carlos Beltran Can Do It

The Beltran is coming! The Beltran is coming! After missing the entire first half of the season, Carlos Beltran will be making his season debut for the Mets on Thursday night at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

According to Adam Rubin for, Beltran will be batting cleanup for the Mets in their first game after the All-Star Break, which is also their first game of a season-long 11-game road trip.

By batting Beltran in the cleanup spot, the Mets will be able to move the slumping Ike Davis (.186 over his last 16 games) and Jason Bay (his power has been spotted on the side of milk cartons under "Have You Seen Me?") down a spot in the batting order, while keeping David Wright in the three-hole.

Angel Pagan will not be relegated to the bench with the addition of Carlos Beltran. He will be playing right field and batting second in the new Mets lineup.

This means Jeff Francoeur will be losing playing time to Angel Pagan. Pagan will probably get some starts in center field when Beltran needs a day off during the first few weeks after his promotion back to the major leagues.

Francoeur has definitely not been playing like an everyday player recently, hitting .135 over his last 11 games. His OBP and slugging percentage is .179 and .162, respectively, meaning that Johan Santana has been a more reliable power source recently than Jeff Francoeur.

As for Beltran's past experience in the cleanup spot, he's actually been more effective there than in any other spot in the lineup that he has seen regularly. He has accumulated 876 at-bats as a cleanup hitter over his career, mostly over the 2007 and 2008 seasons for the Mets (627 at-bats over those seasons). These are his numbers as a cleanup hitter and at other spots in the batting order over those two seasons:

2007 (cleanup hitter): .310, 13 HR, 45 RBI in 168 at-bats (12.9 AB/HR)
2007 (other spots): .262, 20 HR, 67 RBI in 386 at-bats (19.3 AB/HR)

2008 (cleanup hitter): .290, 22 HR, 91 RBI in 459 at-bats (20.9 AB/HR)
2008 (other spots): .265, 5 HR, 21 RBI in 147 at-bats (29.4 AB/HR)

Overall, Beltran has hit .299 as a cleanup hitter over his career, as opposed to .280 in all other spots in the order. His career OBP and slugging percentage of .383 and .524 as a cleanup hitter are also better than his percentages in other spots in the batting order (.356 OBP, .493 slugging pct.)

The first half might have ended with a poor homestand, but the Mets have quite a bit to look forward to in the second half. With the return of Carlos Beltran, the Mets offense has taken a big step in the right direction and gives the team more offensive flexibility that should produce positive results throughout the rest of the season.

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