When I first heard that the Red Sox signed Adrian Beltre to a one-year, $9 million contract with a 2011 player option for $5 million, my first thought was that it was a perfect deal for both parties involved.
On the one hand, the Red Sox fill a gaping hole at third base, but only temporarily, so they still give themselves the opportunity to make a play for Adrian Gonzalez later on.
On the other hand, Beltre gives himself an opportunity to prosper in a hitter-friendly environment so that he can sign that last big contract before he retires.
Beltre’s decision to sign such a contract with the Red Sox should tell us two things: (1) The market out there was nowhere close to the four-year, $50 million contract he and Boras set out to get, and (2) he thinks that Fenway Park will help him put up good enough offensive numbers to cash in next offseason.
Should we believe him? I'm here to tell you yes, we should.
In order to convince both you, the readers, and myself that Beltre will have an offensive resurgence, I will have to prove the following statements:
1) Safeco Field showed Beltre no mercy.
2) Fenway Park is conducive to Beltre's style of hitting.
3) We can learn a lot from Raul Ibanez's 2009 season.
Let's get to it!
Safeco Field is where right-handed hitters go to die
It's true. Try to name the last right-handed hitter to play his home games in Seattle and hit 30 home runs...I'm waiting...give up? You'd have to go back to 2003 when Bret Boone hit .294 with 34 home runs and 117 runs batted in, and since then, not one right-handed hitter combined for a .300 batting average and 20 home runs in a single season!
Well, since you asked, let's take a look at Beltre's home/road splits since his arrival in Seattle in 2005.
Year (H/A): BA/OBP/SLG/OPS
2005 H: .263/.312/.382/.694
2005 A: .248/.295/.440/.735
2006 H: .251/.310/.467/.777
2006 A: .283/.343/.462/.805
2007 H: .264/.319/.426/.745
2007 A: .288/.320/.538/.858
2008 H: .240/.303/.400/.703
2008 A: .292/.349/.512/.861
2009 H: .250/.283/.364/.647
2009 A: .279/.324/.393/.717
That's a +122 point difference in batting average, +138 point difference in on-base percentage, and a +306 point difference in slugging percentage when on the road for those of you counting at home.
Needless to say, Beltre enjoys his time away from Seattle, and I wouldn't be surprised if he never went back.
The Green Monster is more like the Jolly Green Giant
It's no secret that Fenway Park is more conducive to right-handed hitters than left-handed ones. This article from FanGraphs shows that Beltre's power is primarily to left-left center and that he capitalized on it mostly in away ballparks.
In Fenway, Beltre probably won't reach 30 home runs, because The Monster takes away home runs as well as she (he) allows them. However, as shown above, Beltre's slugging percentage is significantly higher on the road, and it will translate in Fenway in the form of wall-ball doubles. Don't underestimate the importance of the ballparks your fantasy players play in, and in this case, it's a good situation for Beltre.
Remember that guy Raul Ibanez?
I know that Ibanez is a left-handed hitter, so it's not the most perfect comparison. However, consider that while in Seattle (2004-08), Ibanez only topped 30 home runs once, but after his move to the Phillies Ibanez slugged a career-high 34 home runs. Was it the extra lineup support? Maybe the stadium? Was it a combination of both?
Well, consider that from 2008 to 2009 Ibanez's line drive percentage dropped 3.8 percent (bad), yet his HR/FB percentage rose 10.4 percent (good) to a career-high 21.1 percent (very good), which tells me that it had a lot to do with the ballpark and not those players surrounding him.
Just to recap, Ibanez moved from a pitcher-friendly environment at the ripe old age of 36 to a hitter's paradise and put up a career year.
With that in mind, it's fair to assume that with Beltre making the switch at the much younger age of 31, he could put up very good offensive numbers.
Now, Fenway isn't quite the hitter's park that the Phillies' Citizens Bank Park is, which is why we should temper our expectations a bit. Another season like 2004 is not coming now, or ever again.
So what can we expect after all of this? Beltre hopefully will rebound from injury problems that plagued his 2009 season, and if he does, we could see him bounce back in 2010. He will benefit from hitting between players such as David Ortiz and J.D. Drew (if he bats sixth) or Drew and Marco Scutaro/Jacoby Ellsbury (if he bats eighth).
I expect him to hit around .275 with 25 home runs, 80-plus runs and RBI, and steal 10 to 15 bases. Beltre could sneak into the top 10 at third base over players like Michael Young, Casey Blake, Mark DeRosa, and Chipper Jones.
For the original article and more fantasy baseball analysis, check out Baseball Professor !