Carlos Beltran understands who he is as a hitter. But that doesn’t mean he’s always the same hitter. The 37-year-old New York Yankees outfielder adapts according to feel and he focuses better in some situations than in others. Still, you can’t argue with the results: He’s hit .283/.356/.497 with 363 home runs since breaking into the big leagues with the Royals in 1998. In 51 postseason games he’s hit .333/.445/.683 with 16 home runs.
Beltran talked hitting prior to last night’s game at Fenway Park.
Beltran on mechanical adjustments: “Every year, you don’t feel the same so you have to find a way. You find a position where you feel comfortable mechanically and work with that. The way I hit last year compared to how I’m hitting this year is a little bit different. One thing is the position of the bat. Last year I felt good with my hands like this [slightly forward] and this year that feels a little uncomfortable. This year they’re back a little bit.
“When I was coming up in the big leagues, I talked to a lot of guys I looked up to. One of those guys was Edgar Martinez. I asked him if every year he feels the same. He said ‘No, every year I don’t feel the same.’ Your body feels different. Maybe some years you’re into your legs a little more, and other years you’re more comfortable a little bit taller. It’s basically how you feel. For me, left and right are two different swings. Depending on how I feel, I might be the same from both sides or I might be different.
“You need to feel comfortable, but you can’t be doing one thing in one at bat and in the next at bat do something different. You need to be confident with what you’re doing.”
On having a strong base: “I have to feel I’m in my legs. For example, if a pitcher takes a long time to release the baseball my legs are going to get tired. When I feel like the wind is moving me back and forth… like if it’s windy and I feel off-balance, I don’t like that. I need to step out and reset. When I feel set, I feel good hitting-wise. After every swing I take, I try to reset myself and think about my lower body. Once I feel like my lower body is there, then I transfer all my concentration on the pitcher.”
On his approach: “I concentrate on my strength. I’m not a guy who hits the ball a lot to the opposite field. I hit more center and right center and concentrate on getting a pitch in an area I know I can handle. If it’s a pitch on the outside corner, I know I can’t do much with that pitch. Unless I have two strikes, I don’t want to swing at it. If it’s a pitch on the inside corner and I don’t have two strikes, I don’t want to swing at it. That’s a pitch where, even if I take a good hack, I feel I’m not going to do much with it. I have to look for a pitch out over the strike zone, in or away. Basically, near the middle. Pitchers are going to miss and you have to be ready to hit and take advantage of that pitch when they miss.”
On hitting with runners on base: “I love RBIs. I love to drive in runs and take a lot of pride in those situations. I believe I’m a different hitter with guys on base. Leading off an inning, I feel like maybe my concentration is not there. When I have guys in scoring position I concentrate more because I know if I get a hit we can tie a ballgame, take the lead, add to our lead or shorten a deficit.
“You don’t want to make an out, but you have to be realistic. You’re going to fail a lot. I’m not trying to give away at bats, but like I said, I’m a different hitter with guys in scoring position.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.