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International Man of Mystery
2003-08-18 08:20
by Jon Weisman

It's the hot topic of the dog days. The perplexing, confounding, astounding Adrian Beltre is at it again, raking it in August like New Englanders rake it in November.

Beltre leads the National League and is tied for the major league lead in RBI for August. He has taken over the Dodger team lead in RBI and home runs and, with Shawn Green, has keyed a relatively resurgent Dodger offense. (Think of a swimming pool heating from 60 to 63 degrees.)

Beltre has an OPS of .931 in August, to go with an .890 in August 2002 - his best months of the year in both instances. His OPS in August 2001 of .724 was his third-best that season (the appendectomy year), but in August 2000, he knocked out a 1.032 OPS - his best month of the century.

Everyone's been wondering what causes this explosion each year as Leo transitions to Virgo, but I find myself wondering about the effect of a bloomin' Beltre.

By the end of this month, the Dodgers will have played 114 games in the past four Augusts. Of that total, nine - just nine - will have been against NL West opponents. How miniscule is that? Think of something similar to Jason Romano's batting average: .078.

Beltre's best month has as little impact on the Dodgers' divisional hopes as one could imagine. It's like a broken coin machine - it doesn't change anything.

Maybe the Beltre August is not completely meaningless, because every little bit helps - and there is the NL wild card to compete for. However, although the Dodgers trail two NL East teams in the wild-card race this season, it is Arizona and San Francisco that have been the Dodgers' principal playoff competition for almost all of Beltre's major-league career - division or wild card. And against those teams, Beltre has an OPS barely above .500 this season and at just about .700 dating back to 2000.

What's to come? Beltre's OPS has dropped from .880 in August to .762 in September over the past three seasons. If that happens again, it may be less about the turning of the calendar than the returning of opponents like the Diamondbacks and the Giants.

On the other hand, if Beltre can finally keep it going this September, then maybe our man of mystery has finally solved himself.

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