In 2005, his first season with the Mets, Carlos Beltran disappointed everybody and their brother by hitting .266/.330/.414, an OPS+ of 95 and an EQA of .263. Excuses for his terrible production that year ranged from the big city to the big contract to the big question: Was he really that good, anyway? Beltran answered all of those questions (and many others) with his 2006 offering, a robust .275/.388/.594 line, a 153 OPS+ and a .322 EQA. He was the Mets' best player and one of the best in the National League, finishing fourth overall.
This past year, Beltran overcame a crummy May and June to hit .276/.353/.525, OPS+ of 128 and an EQA of .299, all fine numbers. He hit .293/.372/.596 after the All-Star break, but was largely overshadowed by David Wright's tremendous second half. He also swiped 23 bases in 25 attempts, an absurd 92% success rate that likely contributed more to the Mets' success than Jose Reyes's gaudy 78 stolen bases at just a 79% clip). Throw in another superlative season with the glove in center field and you're looking at a terrific all-around season that mostly flew under the radar of fans and media alike. I suspect that Beltran is just fine with that.
I would like to see Beltran take a few more walks. He drew 89 unintentional free passes in 617 plate appearances in 2006 and just 59 in 636 plate appearances in 2007, a decline from 14.4% to 9.3%. There was a long stretch during the middle of the season where Beltran looked cripplingly uncomfortable at the plate, although his walk rate stayed fairly consistent from the beginning of the season through the end. Like most of his other numbers, Beltran's 2007 walk rate is right in line with his career average, so considerable improvement in that area might just be wishful thinking on my part.
If we accept that Beltran was playing over his head a bit in 2006, even his 2007 stats put him among the top center fielders in the National League (minimum 400 plate appearances):
|BB||69||2nd (A. Jones)|
Beltran's secondary average (SecA, or [TB - H + BB + SB - CS] / AB) was eighth overall in the NL among those playes qualifying for the batting title (Barry Bonds led the world with a .691 SecA and 10.05 RC/27, or runs created per 27 outs. A team of all Barry Bondses would have scored 1,628 runs this season.)
Carlos Beltran is under contract with the Mets for another four seasons during which we can expect him to remain among the very best center fielders in the league. Even if he only manages to reproduce his efforts of 2007 he will be immensely valuable to this team has he plays through his prime. In the back of our minds, though, there is a glimmer of hope that he has another one or two 2006s left in him. As David Wright continues to emerge as one of the finer players in the game he will likewise continue to preponderate Beltran in both production and media stature, allowing Beltran to remain comfortably introverted while quietly playing baseball like the dickens.