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86 for 89
2004-04-12 12:16
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Adrian Beltre has looked marvelous, by reports from fans on this site and the media, and by my own observations watching Sunday's game on television.

He is taking outside pitches to center and right field instead of trying to pull the ball - and jumping all over pitches in his wheelhouse, the inside half of the plate.

He has walked only once all season. But amazingly, even for this young season, he has yet to strike out.

Beltre has had 25 plate appearances so far this season: 11 hits, one walk and 13 fly-ball or ground-ball outs (including a sacrifice fly and a reached-base-on-error).

He has hit on every count there is:

Counts on Beltre Plate Appearances, 2004
0-0, 0-1 or 0-2: 9 PA, 3 for 8 with a HR and SF
1-0, 1-1 or 1-2: 7 PA, 4 for 7
2-0, 2-1 or 2-2: 4 PA, 1 for 4 (HR)
3-0, 3-1 or 3-2: 5 PA, 3 for 4 with a HR, 2B and BB

0-0, 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0: 7 PA, 3 for 6 with two HR and SF
0-1, 1-1, 2-1 or 3-1: 8 PA, 4 for 7 with a HR and BB
0-2, 1-2, 2-2 or 3-2: 10 PA, 4 for 10 with a 2B

I'm not surprised that Beltre has gone to two strikes in 40 percent of his plate appearances (10 out of 25) - but it's pretty shocking that he's made contact in 100 percent of those situations. That's not the image of the Beltre we know, diving at and missing low-and-away pitches, Raul Mondesi-style.

Even more remarkably, out of 89 total pitches seen this season, Beltre has swung and missed at only three.

Last April, Beltre struck out 17 times.

So, yeah, one walk in 25 plate appearance concerns me. But this isn't any ordinary lack of plate discipline. If Beltre can be a power hitter who makes contact, who resists trying to pull a bad outside pitch, he may force pitchers to pitch much more carefully to him. And then, the walks - and in turn, the complete player we've all been waiting for - may yet arrive.

Of course, San Diego and Colorado don't offer the most challenging pitching staffs in the world. But Beltre's great first week came in pitching-happy Dodger Stadium, from a hitter who batted .209 at home in 2003 and .225 in 2002. And frankly, there aren't a lot of great pitching staffs in baseball. Who would you pick in the National League: Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, maybe Florida?

Is this Wade Boggs-like bat control by Beltre just a first-week apparition? We'll see what happens, beginning Tuesday in San Diego.

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