St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Reasons Carlos Beltran Has Started so Strongly

Ryan Bothmann@tripleCfanSenior Analyst IIMay 2, 2012

St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Reasons Carlos Beltran Has Started so Strongly

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    After losing Albert Pujols to free agency last December, the St. Louis Cardinals' front office had to do something to help compensate for the loss of one of the franchise's most iconic players.

    Their answer was Carlos Beltran.

    After the successful season Lance Berkman had in 2011, the Cardinals are cautiously optimistic that Beltran could make somewhat of a similar recovery to his career. The revival of Beltran's career would certainly not be as drastic as that of Berkman's. In fact Beltran hit for a .300 average in 2011, with 22 home runs and 84 RBI, but at the age of 35, Beltran is certainly not in his prime.

    The Cardinals though, rolled the dice and signed Beltran to a two-year $26 million deal on December 22.

    The move has certainly paid off.

    Although Beltran fell into a slump to end the month of April, his first month as the Cardinals' new right-fielder can certainly be described as a success. Beltran closed out the month of April with a .253 batting average, a .379 OBP, five home runs, 11 RBI and 17 runs scored.

    So why is Beltran having so much success with his new team in St. Louis? He certainly has not gotten any younger since he finished his 2011 campaign with San Francisco, but there is something different about how Beltran is playing this year compared to his last few seasons.

    Here are five reasons why Carlos Beltran is off to a such a strong start to begin the 2012 season.

Healthy Again

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    One of the biggest reasons that Beltran has been so successful to start out the 2012 season is because of his health.

    The Cardinals have played 23 games so far in 2012, and Beltran has been a part of 22 of them. If he continues at this pace he will play in approximately 155 games for St. Louis this season, his highest total since he played 161 games in 2008.

    Over the past three seasons Beltran has missed 199 games, an average of 66 games per season. Beltran's health did show signs of improvement last year though, as he only missed 20 games.

    Beltran has been very good throughout his entire career, but the injuries have limited his time on the field over the last few seasons.

    As long as he can stay in the lineup, he will be productive for St. Louis.

More Patient Hitter

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    Another one of the reasons Beltran has been so successful to begin the season is because of his patience at the plate.

    In 2006, Beltran was one of the top contenders for the National League MVP award. That season Beltran had a walk percentage of 15.4 percent. This shows how patient Beltran was at the plate, and how he generally waited for the pitch he wanted, rather than chase something nasty from a pitcher.

    Over his 15-year career Beltran has averaged a walk percentage of 10.8 percent, but this season the number is up high once again. Currently, Beltran has a walk percentage of 15.1 percent, the second highest of his career.

    While his average of .253 is low right now, due to his recent slump to end the month of April, Beltran has made up for this by drawing more walks and posting an OBP of .379.

    Even though Beltran has not been picking up base hits of late, his patience at the plate will continue to help him reach base until his recent hitting slump passes.

Power and Speed Are Back

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    Carlos Beltran has also shown this season that his power and speed appear to be back.

    While he does not have the speed that the young Carlos Beltran had back in Kansas City, Beltran has been able to exhibit speed on the base pads for the Cardinals that he was not able to produce late in his career with New York and in his time with San Francisco.

    Over his last three seasons, Beltran only stole 18 bases, but this year he has stolen five already. The speed is most likely a by-product of the fact that Beltran appears to be much healthier than what he was over his last few seasons.

    As far as power goes, Beltran has displayed a home run percentage this year of 5.4 percent. This is the highest home run percentage he has had since his MVP-caliber season of 2006, in which he had a home run percentage of 6.7 percent.

    The power is likely a combination of Beltran being more healthy and of his patience at the plate.

Less Pressure

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    Everyone knows the pressure that New York athletes undergo. It is the brightest spotlight in the world.

    To make it simple, the fans are demanding and unforgiving.

    San Francisco was not much better for Beltran either. After being dealt at the trade deadline to the Giants last season, Beltran was expected by many to be the missing piece that would help the Giants get back to the playoffs and defend their World Series title.

    With such a stagnant offense in San Francisco, no matter how well Beltran played, he could not carry the offense on his own.

    The pressure was relieved for Beltran in St. Louis though. Instead of the Cardinals' front office signing Beltran to replace Pujols, they were blunt and honest by saying that one individual player can not replace Albert Pujols.

    Beltran has been expected to be a force in the St. Louis lineup, but he has not been expected to carry the entire offense like he was in his latter years in New York and in his short stint in San Francisco.

    With less pressure on Beltran, he has been able to focus more and know that he does not have to carry the team each night.

Lineup Provides Protection

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    When Beltran played for the Mets back in 2006, the year they reached the NLCS, New York featured a potent lineup. From Beltran to Jose Reyes and David Wright to Carlos Delgado, the Mets lineup was stacked. This provided protection for each player and made it difficult for a pitcher to get through the lineup unharmed.

    In his later years in New York and his time in San Francisco, Beltran was one of the few focal points of the offense. If you were an opposing pitcher and you held Beltran in check, you would likely win the game.

    Well, the protection for Beltran is back. The Cardinals' right-fielder has great hitters all around him, the most notable of these being Matt Holliday, David Freese and Yadier Molina.

    No longer can a pitcher solely focus on Beltran. He is now a part of a collection of a great group of hitters.

    The entire offense is potent and nearly impossible to pitch to.

    This is the biggest reason why Carlos Beltran is having such great success as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.