When Adrian Beltre was introduced as a member of the Red Sox, it was not, Theo Epstein said, to bolster the team’s offense. It was to shore up their suspect defense, especially in the hot corner once patrolled by an aging, injured Mike Lowell. The signing was the product of a few circumstances, not the least of which must have been that Red Sox’ management was concerned about their ability to keep up with the Yankees in the same way they had been in years past.
Another concern must have been that, in a weak economy, it would cost more to re-sign Jason Bay and other offensive-minded players, and that it’s cheaper to patch up the defense than it is to sign 40-HR, 120-RBI guys. That’s why the Sox got Scutaro and Cameron. It’s definitely why they got Lackey.
Epstein didn’t spend much time speaking about Beltre’s offensive prowess, but when he did, he made it very evident that the team believed in his ability to swing a bat.
What he didn’t discuss was Beltre’s ability to swing a bat while on his knees. Number 29 leads the team in that category with 2 slow trots he produced from his knees, and is pacing the Sox in a number of far more legitimate offensive categories as well, including Batting Average (.337), RBI (48) and hits (88).
To say that Beltre came as advertised would be an insult to his abilities. Although he has been sometimes less-than-stellar in the field, he has been regularly solid and often fantastic, a considerable upgrade over Lowell. His at-bats are becoming the apple of Sox’ fans eyes, and considering his place in the lineup. In 58 of 66 appearances, Beltre has batted 6th or 7th– at the end of Boston’s murderers’ row of Pedroia-Martinez-Youkilis-Ortiz-Drew and just ahead of the outfield game of Go Fish featuring Hermida, Cameron, Ellsbury, Nava, McDonald, Hall, van Every and friends.
He’s not getting pitches to hit. But he’s getting hits. It’s no surprise that he leads the team in RBI because of who he follows in the lineup (although 10 of his 48 RBI have come with Beltre batting 5th), but it’s when he’s hitting that’s most surprising.
Beltre’s batting average when he’s ahead in the count is .351. That’s to be expected, but what’s incredible is that is average when he’s behind in the count is a paltry .344. After a 1-2 count, he hits .361, second only to his .462 average when he’s ahead, 2-0.
One of the biggest points of contentions for these Red Sox, even as they started to turn the corner, was that they struggled to produce with men on base. Not for the man who hits .484 with 22 RBI when he comes to the plate with two outs and men in scoring position. His .397 average with 2 outs leads the team, and exactly half of his RBI have come when he comes to bat as the inning’s potential last out.
Maybe he was goaded into being an offensive force by the training staff, who assuredly is tired of Beltre DL-ing anyone who has the nerve to play left field and wear a Red Sox jersey at the same time. Maybe it has something to do with that big wall in left field – something many of us suggested would play to Beltre’s favor when he first signed with Boston.
Whatever the case, he continues to come to play, giving his teammates a lift and frustrating opposing pitchers. It’s no doubt that many members of Red Sox Nation would like to pat him on the back and congratulate or thank him, and it’s certain that he’d welcome the praise while remaining humble enough to know that he has to keep working to get better. So pat him on the back all you want.
Just don’t rub his head.