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Exploring how Carlos Beltran got his groove back

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He's been on fire since the beginning of May, but what has Carlos Beltran done differently to regain the stellar offensive form that interested the Yankees in the first place?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After a terrible first season in pinstripes that saw Carlos Beltran hit for a 95 wRC+ and slash just .233/.301/.402, he's finally showing some of the skills with the bat that enticed the Yankees to sign him after the 2013 season.  Yes, he looked completely lost in April, and no, he still can't play any defense, but, during May and June, he's at least looked a lot more like the dangerous middle of the lineup hitter he once was.  While his horrible defense still robs him of a lot of value, the fact that he's been a reliable everyday force at the plate recently gives the Yankees a lot more room for error, and it packs this lineup with enough punch that it should remain one of the best offensive clubs in the American League for the rest of the season.

When he began the season hitting .162/.216/.265 in April, it seemed as though Carlos Beltran was never going to amount to much as a Yankee.  His legs old, his defense unspeakable, it looked like even his bat had finally and completely lost its pop.  But as April became May, Beltran began to resemble his old self again, at least at the plate.  That month, Beltran hit .298/.316/.500 with a 122 wRC+, ripping seven doubles and crushing four homers.  In June, he's been even better, hitting .328/.400/.586 with a 174 wRC+.  Overall, since the first of May, he's managed a 143 wRC+ and has slashed .309/.350/.533, looking like a force to be reckoned with at the dish again.  His resurgence, along with the bounce-back years of Alex Rodriguez (#MVP) and Mark Teixiera, has helped drive a better-than-expected Yankee offense towards the top of the division.

Diving deeper into Beltran's numbers, he's become a more complete line-drive hitter again this year.  Last year, Beltran had one of the worst offensive seasons of his life, posting a career low in batting average and hitting just 15 home runs, his lowest total since he played just half a season in 2009 for the Mets.  He hit very few line drives, instead just grounding out and hitting pop-ups (and 14% of said pop-ups landed in the infield - not a good look).  He also pulled over half of the balls he hit last year - since he had almost triple the at bats as a lefty than he had as a righty, perhaps this was all part of a big effort to take advantage of the short porch in right.

This year, he's once again lining the ball all over the field, just like he did in his years with the Cardinals.  After pulling the ball over half the time in 2014, since May 1st, he's been pulling just 45% of the balls he sees, hitting a third to center and over a fifth to the opposite field, which constitutes a mild but significant jump over those numbers from last season.  His line drive rate since the beginning of May is 25% compared to the ugly 16.5% rate from 2014, he's hitting far less groundballs this season (36% compared to 44%) as well as slightly fewer fly balls; however, the fly balls he is hitting are more powerful and more likely to land for home runs this year.  He's seriously cut down on his infield fly outs, he's hitting the ball harder (32.8% versus 30.2% over the course of last season) and overall just seems to be hitting the ball with more pop and to more parts of the field.

Beltran's bat coming alive is a big reason why the Yankees are in the good position they're in right now, even with Jacoby Ellsbury missing a lot of time and Chase Headley still not performing the way the Yankees hoped at the plate (or in the field, for that matter).  While Beltran will still be bad in the field all year, if he can hit like he has recently all told, the Yankees should be able to manage some scuffling around in right field, especially if Ellsbury comes back and makes Gardsbury, the defensive juggernaut, whole once more.  This is the Beltran the Yankees paid for, and this is also the Beltran I doubt many of us ever expected to appear in the Bronx.  Better late than never.