"It’s not dramatic. I’m supposed to be doing something like that." - Adrian Beltre after popping last night's game-winning homer
I'll say something about Yu Darvish a little later, though to be frank, I think we're running out of the hyperbole it takes to adequately describe what he's doing to hitters right now. You all know the reality of my situation nowadays and the time constraints with which I'm having to work, and that leaves you in the position of needing to economize and narrow your focus what's on really important. To that end, there are two things which really jump off the page at me about what went down last night:
● This probably isn't one of the big things that everyone wants to talk about right now, but given the season-long focus on this matter, it certainly bears mentioning: twenty days ago, Michael Young's season OPS was sitting on .640 (again). Today, he's sitting at .277/.309/.367, and while those figures aren't very impressive either in isolation, the fact that he's elevated his OPS by 36 points in less than three weeks ties to the fact that he's hit .359/.391/.563 (.402 wOBA) over that stretch with seven extra-base hits (three homers). From May 21st through July 24th, Young amassed 221 plate appearances, and mustered only eight extra-base hits (zero homers). This latest 20-game sample is less than one-third the size of that May-July sample, but the overall power output is still superior. That's noteworthy. *
[* The discernible uptick in power is noteworthy. The other thing that's noteworthy -- and the other big thing that has driven the improvement in Young's numbers -- is the 80-point spike in Young's BABIP over these last 20 days compared to the rest of his season as a whole, and the fact that this BABIP spike has occurred despite the fact that the underlying indicators (the batted-ball rates, his well-hit rates, etc.) have remained largely static between the two periods. My eyes tell me that may have something to do with more batted-ball velocity of late, which isn't necessarily something that would be captured by the batted-ball data. Or maybe Young is a wizard.]
Now, I don't expect this late-season burst of offensive enlightenment to effect a wholesale change in public opinion on Young, or to quell the disdain for his rollovers to shortstop, but we're still talking about Young producing at a high level over a multi-week period for the first time since early April. You don't want to be forcibly sucked into the hope that he can keep doing this because, well, it's hard to innately trust someone who flirted with the "worst player in baseball" label for the better part of the season ... but, at this point, that's all you can really do is hope that he can sustain something remotely close to this, because he's not going to stop playing once the post-season arrives.
● The big thing that everyone's still buzzing about was the Adrian Beltre killshot, a majestic blast that resulted from a hanging Ernesto Friero curveball being launched deep into the night and, among other things, sent the Angels' win expectancy -- and odds of reaching the post-season -- into a nosedive:
It's early in the afternoon on the day after the homer, and with that being the case, I'm not going to devote an excess of time to talking up the heroics of the moment, or the fact that Adrian Beltre once again had to talk his way into last night's lineup after initially being excluded due to intestinal pain. It's still astounding and deserving of heaps of praise and recognition, but we know what Beltre is at this point, and this is what Beltre does. He battles until he has almost nothing left, and then he delivers, and then he shrugs it off because, in his mind, that's what he was supposed to do in the first place, and he's simply fulfilling an obligation that he couldn't leave unfulfilled.
What I will talk about for a moment, though, is the overarching significance of Beltre's season when stacked up against his contract. About a month ago, I wrote a post that went unpublished -- up until now, that is -- about Beltre murdering the ball at the time, and the implications for the Rangers:
One of the big concerns that was bandied about at the time of the Beltre signing was a concern that is frequently tied to large-money contracts -- that is, the concern about the back end of the deal, when Beltre would be playing out his mid-to-late-30s seasons, facing a potentially steep decline (though certainly not as steep as what we've seen with Michael Young this year), and providing diminishing and/or negative value in relation to his steadily escalating salaries. The concern there, I think, is that with all of that fully in mind, you either wanted to see Beltre hold up better than expected over the entire life of the deal, or provide some huge surplus value at the front end of the contract to counteract the loss of value at the back end of the contract.
Yeah, we're still only in the second year of Beltre's deal, and there's still ample time left for things to go awry as Beltre advances further along the aging curve, but he has now churned out 11.5 wins above replacement over the 2011-12 portion of his contract, and, using the $4.5 million/win baseline, has produced $22-23 million of surplus value already. If he delivers just 2.5 wins per season over the final 3-4 years of his deal (depending on whether or not his 2016 option year vests or is voided), the Rangers will come out in the black on a huge free agent contract during a time in baseball when it's really quite hard to come out in the black on huge free agent contracts.
He's the Rangers' most valuable player this season, he's the best third baseman in baseball, he's probably one of the five best overall players in the American League this year (even when you include Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez alongside Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, and Mike Trout), and he's probably going to the Hall of Fame someday. We're always ready to embrace transcendent performers when they happen to stop down in this area of the world, and we're always on the search for the next guy who can deliver a transcendent performance, and I just hope no one commits the grave error of overlooking Beltre as one of baseball's transcendent performers of the last few years.