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Appreciating Carlos Beltran's 2016 season so far

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Among all the negativity surrounding the Yankees' first two months of the season, Carlos Beltran's feats have gone largely unrecognized. What he's done at the age of 39 is unprecedented and truly remarkable.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As you probably know, the Yankees scored the second most runs in baseball last season. Other than the prolific Blue Jays offense, the Bombers arguably had the best bats in the league. However, all good things eventually come to an end, and the Yankees' offense is no exception. Despite being quite dangerous last season, New York's bats have produced the fourth least runs in baseball in 2016.

There's plenty of finger pointing going around, with scapegoats ranging from the shift to newly-minted hitting coach Alan Cockrell to Yankee Stadium itself. These all are real contributors to the Yankees' difficulties, but the most obvious source of the problems is likely coming from the Yankees' heart of the lineup. Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran were powerful run producers last season, but today only one of these men can claim to be at least an average hitter.

There are a number of directions I can take this article. I could talk about the frightening reality that Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira aren't simply slumping—they're just getting old. Or, I could break down why the two veterans are such non-factors at the plate, and why, it seems, things may not get much better. Instead, I'm going to focus on a more uplifting topic: the improbable but persistent success of Carlos Beltran.

In 2015, Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Beltran had an incredible rebound. After producing a total of 2.6 WAR between 2013 and 2014, the three churned out 7.5 WAR last season. Many fans wrote them off as overpaid burdens, but the three turned back the clock and powered the Yankees to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. This season, the clock has caught up to them. Well, most of them.

Among players 35-years of age or older last season, Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Beltran ranked in the top four by wRC+. This season, they rank 23rd, 25th, and 10th. Let's talk about that last player—Carlos Beltran. Beltran (despite his weary legs that are a liability in the outfield) has managed to outrun time. In spite of a .275 BABIP (which would be his lowest in a qualified season since 2004), the 39-year-old has a .530 slugging percentage and 120 wRC+. That slugging percentage would be the third best in his career, and his isolated power mark of .265 is the second highest of his career next to 2004, when he was 27 years old and placed 12th in MVP voting. PECOTA projected him to hit 22 home runs and produce 0.8 WARP in 560 plate appearances this season. In 194 PA, he's just ten home runs away from that mark and has already out-produced his WARP forecast by 0.2.

Other than the fact that he's having one of the better offensive seasons of his career (which is amazing on its own), things look even more impressive when we compare his performance to other 39-year-olds. Beltran has a top 20 wRC+ for players over 39 since 1980. Since the start of the live-ball era, his slugging percentage in that same age group is better than every player not named Barry Bonds, David Ortiz, or Ted Williams. On an unrelated note, I think it's important to mention that Bonds had a 233 wRC+ in 2004, at age 39. No other player has topped that at any age. Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled programing.

I hate to use A-Rod and Teixeira as negative foils to Beltran's season, but it's worth doing just to show how unprecedented Beltran's continuation of success has been. Let's compare the three from last year to this year, using wRC+ and true average (TAv) to measure total offensive output.

2015

2016

wRC+

TAv

wRC+

TAv

119

0.28

Carlos Beltran

120

0.293

129

0.292

Alex Rodriguez

72

0.222

143

0.313

Mark Teixiera

57

0.211

Rodriguez and Teixeira have seen age get the best of them and although they probably aren't ‘done' quite yet, the future doesn't look too bright. One the other hand, Beltran hasn't just continued to perform well, he's improved. In fact, few would argue with the notion that Beltran has been the best hitter on the Yankees this season.

This isn't to say Beltran is perfect. He's bad in the field, has minimal value on the base paths, and isn't walking much (though his BB% has increased by 2.2% from April to May). Still, he's having one of the best power seasons of his career, and doing it at the age of 39. He might begin to regress from here, or he might see his BABIP stabilize and his batting average (and OBP) rise. Regardless, let's appreciate what Beltran has managed to do in the first two months of 2016. For a second, look past the Yankees' poor start to the season, the lack of offense, and the rapid declines of Rodriguez and Teixeira. Instead, enjoy the 39-year-old Carlos Beltran for his remarkable and unexpected accomplishments this season, independent of all the not-so-great events that have transpired on the field for the Yankees.