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The free-swinging start of Adrian Beltre

04.10.10 at 11:42 am ET
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On the one hand, Adrian Beltre has five hits in his first 15 at-bats, good for a .333 average that suggests a nice start to his Red Sox career ‘€“ particularly given that he played a key role in the Sox’€™ only win of the year. But beyond that, his offensive approach has seemed a curious one.

It is not just that Adrian Beltre has yet to take a walk in his 16 plate appearances this year. He hasn’€™t come close.

He has yet to reach a three-balls count this year. In his fourth at-bat in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Royals, he lined a single into center on a 2-0 pitch ‘€“ just the second time he’€™s gotten to a two-balls count this year.

Here is the rather amazing breakdown of the counts when he put a ball in play thus far this year:

0-0 count ‘€“ 3
0-1 count ‘€“ 3
0-2 count ‘€“ 1
1-0 count ‘€“ 2
1-1 count ‘€“ 1
1-2 count ‘€“ 4
2-0 count ‘€“ 1
2-2 count ‘€“ 1

Beltre is now averaging just 2.69 pitches per plate appearance, third fewest in the majors.

It is, of course, far too early to make sweeping assessments of what kind of a hitter he is, and whether this has simply been an unusually aggressive period. J.D. Drew, after all, had not walked in the first three games of the season against the Yankees. Beltre’€™s 3.77 pitches per plate appearance in his career is actually slightly more than the big league average (3.75) during his time. It is also important to note that he has been making repeated solid contact, with multiple warning track flyballs that have offered a glimpse of his power potential.

Even so, his on-base percentage has been below league average in 10 of his 13 seasons in the majors. And thus far — again, in an incredibly brief sample of games — he has shown a willingness to expand the strike zone with an aggressive approach that has been atypical for the Red Sox lineup under Theo Epstein.

It has also been noteworthy to see where Beltre has hit the ball on the field. He has put 14 balls in play this season, and all but two of those have been either up the middle or to the opposite field.

While there was some expectation that he would benefit significantly from relocating from Safeco (a frustrating environment for right-handers) to Fenway, Beltre suggests that his best power stroke is gap to gap. He crushed a flyball just in front of the bullpen in right-center during the Yankees series. The ball might have been off or over the wall in other parks, a reminder that his new home does not guarantee an offensive boost.

Beltre reflected on that fact in his interview on Friday’€™s pre-game show.

‘€œNormally, when I’€™m going right, my balls are right-center to left-center. According to Fenway, that’€™s not probably the best spot. Hopefully this summer, those balls I hit to the wall might be a little farther than that.’€

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