When the Yankees outbid the Royals, of all teams, nearly two years ago for the services of Carlos Beltrán, it looked like yet another great move for a team that can afford nearly any free agent on the open market.
Beltrán, then 36, had played in at least 140 games each of the previous three seasons with St. Louis, San Francisco, and the New York Mets and he’d made the All-Star team each year. Clearly, when he’s healthy, he can play—or at least hit.
But last year, the first of a three-year, $45 million deal, Beltrán wasn’t very healthy. He underwent surgery on a bone spur in his elbow and missed roughly a third of the season. The result was the worst batting line of his career—.233/.301/.402 (average/on-base/slugging) while playing in just 109 games.
This year, he got off to an awful start, compiling a .162/.216/.265 batting line in April, making many wonder if he was done.
But as soon as May rolled around, Beltrán started hitting again. The two-time Silver Slugger award winner hit .298/.316/.500 for the month and followed that up with .300/.378/.488 in June.
Since the All-Star break, Beltrán has continued his tear to the tune of a .323/.403/.591 batting line with seven home runs and 20 RBIs. His production has been huge with A-Rod slumping (.153/.273/.259 in August) and Teixeira injured.
But Beltrán’s biggest contributions are likely yet to come. Where the switch-hitting, eight-time All-Star has historically performed best is the postseason.
Remember that guy who hit eight home runs in 12 playoff games—tying a single-season postseason record—for the Astros in 2004? That was Beltrán. Or how about when he—at age 36—nonchalantly robbed Big Papi of a grand slam in the 2013 World Series for the Cardinals with an incredible catch at Fenway Park?
Beltrán is a career .333/.445/.683 hitter in baseball’s playoffs with 16 home runs (ninth all-time in postseason play), and 40 RBIs in 51 games. Pro-rated to a 162-game season, those numbers come out to a staggering 50 home runs and 127 RBIs. That’s his postseason rate.
Clearly he’s at his best when the pressure’s on.
For the Yankees, the pressure will be on this October and if history’s any indication, Beltrán will be ready.