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Tim Beckham's two drastically different months with Orioles short on long-term indicators

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Orioles shortstop Tim Beckham's two months with the club after his July 31 trade from the Tampa Bay Rays were vastly different in terms of his production, with his torrid start in August giving way to a considerably cooler September.

Overall, however, his .306/.348/.523 batting line with 10 home runs from Aug. 1 on represents a marked improvement over what he produced over four spotty seasons with the Rays.

What the Orioles will hope for, going forward, is that his production is closer to his 1.062 OPS in August than the .603 OPS he posted in September and October. Examining the batted ball data from those two months doesn't add much clarity to that, but does provide a glimpse into Beckham's unique offensive profile.

In August, his hard contact rate was 34.3 percent, according to FanGraphs, with his soft contact rate at 18.6 percent. Per, he had an 88.1 mph average exit velocity and an average launch angle at 9.9 degrees, which produced a 17.6 percent home run/fly ball rate and an otherworldly .458 batting average on balls in play.

All that added together means a hitter who not only consistently made quality contact, but also got fortunate in finding gaps, and by virtue of his 18.9 percent strikeout rate, struck out far less frequently than his career rate. Essentially, Beckham spent all of August making quality contact and being rewarded for it. That stopped being the case in September.

He struck out 32.7 percent of the time — much more in line with his career 29.7 percent rate — and while his average exit velocity was relatively stable at 87.7 mph, his ground ball rate spiked to 56.4 percent. So even with another low soft contact rate at 10.5 percent, and an increase in his home run/fly ball rate to 26.7 percent, his .226 batting average on balls in play meant he wasn't rewarded often for the contact he did make.

Once the calendar turned, Beckham reverted into the worst version of himself, with problems making contact and too many balls on the ground when he did connect, even if he was hitting the ball hard as frequently as in August.

Considering this season represented more than half of Beckham's major league plate appearances in his career, it's hard to really establish a baseline for which is more in line with what he's expected to do. While he does frequently hit the ball hard and has good speed, his career .344 BABIP could be sustainable, and means more months like August could come on that front.

But put all those rate stats together in his time with the Orioles and you'll still have a player who was an above-average offensive player. Though he's older at this stage in his career (27 years old), the volatility of these two months almost brings to mind earlier versions of his teammate, second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who before this season would end up with strong numbers at the end of the year but would have prolonged lulls between extreme highs.

Schoop frequently credited hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh with changing that and raising his overall level of at-bats over a six-month season. Perhaps Coolbaugh can do the same with Beckham and bring an athletic free-swinger with a quick bat into a more consistent routine so that there are more months like August than September.

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