With yesterday's Juan Pierre-related drama, Gordon Beckham's opposite field home run was easy to miss yesterday. But it raised a troubling issue regarding the second baseman's power.
I've always liked Beckham's opposite-field stroke. When he's going right, he'll stay with any pitch, letting it get deep in the zone before flicking it into right field with good power. He doesn't go the other way all that often, though. That could be because he's being pitched inside, it could be because he's struggled, or it could be both.
But given Beckham's ability to hang out line drives to right field, I would've figured he would've knocked a home run out that way at some point in his career before Thursday.
I was surprised to find Baseball-Reference listed Beckham as only having one home run to the opposite field, that coming Thursday in Denver. My first thought of "that can't be right" turned out to be warranted, though, as I looked up Beckham's batted ball history on Texas Leaguers' pitch f/x tool:
Thursday's dinger was the third of Beckham's career to go to the opposite field. All three of those home runs have come since the start of 2010, which is interesting because Beckham's ability to hit doubles to the opposite field has declined since 2009:
But the lack of power to right field is concerning. Most of hits to the deeper part of right field are clustered down the right field line, which gives me the impression Beckham is more or less lucking into those hits by being late on pitches rather than trying to drive the ball to right field. In 2009, a good chunk of Beckham's hits to deep right field were clustered a little to the left of straightaway right field, which is a much more consistent spot at which to aim than down the right field line.
Taking into account Beckham's outs—which could include lazy fly balls—we still see the same pattern. He has hit some deep outs to right in the last season and a half. I'll give him four deep outs as compared to one in 2009, but again, we're talking about a full season's difference here.
And what makes this whole thing strange is that Beckham has hit those three home runs to right in the last two seasons. It'd be easy to sit back and say he's trying too hard to hit home runs the other way, but I'm not sure I'm buying that.
This decline in opposite-field power could be a reason why Beckham has struggled—or it could be a product of Beckham's struggles. Either way, it's doesn't represent the entirety of Beckham's offensive brick wall, although it is a large portion of it. Beckham still has time to improve, but he's going to turn 25 in September and could end up being eligible for arbitration after this season.
Another second-half turnaround would be great, but at some point, he's going to have to learn how to hit well at the MLB level in the first 81 games of a season. This year wasn't the year for that, apparently.