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Sunday, May 20, 2012
Beltran, Furcal lead the way for Cardinals



Scott Rovak/US PresswireCarlos Beltran is one of the reasons the Cardinals lead the National League Central this season.
(The Los Angeles Dodgers host the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday at 8 ET on ESPN)

The post-Albert Pujols era is in its first season in St. Louis, and right now the Cardinals do not appear to miss the second-most prolific home run hitter in franchise history.

In fact, the Cardinals are in first place in the National League Central thanks in part to some savvy offseason moves.

Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal have been two of the three most effective free agent signings. Beltran’s 1.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is tied with Kelly Johnson for the highest this season among 2012 free agent signings. Furcal is third with a 1.8 WAR.

In fact, Beltran and Furcal are part of an interesting 2012 trend: rejuvenation of older players once thought to be done.

• Carlos Beltran (35) Leads NL in home runs (hasn’t hit 30 HR since 2007)
• Rafael Furcal (34) .351 BA ranks 4th in NL (.231 BA in 2011; didn’t play 100 games in either of last 2 seasons)
Derek Jeter (37) .355 BA ranks 3rd in AL (hit .282 in previous 2 seasons)
David Ortiz (35) 3rd in AL in OPS and 4th in BA (hit .257 from 2008-10)
Paul Konerko (36) .367 BA is 2nd in AL (hit .240 in 2008)

Beltran has 13 home runs through 40 games, the most he’s ever hit in his team’s first 40 games. (Before 2012, the most HR Beltran hit in his team’s first 40 games was 11 in 2004.) In addition to leading the National League in home runs, Beltran ranks fifth in OPS (1.036).

He’s also two stolen bases from becoming the eighth player in major-league history with 300 HR and 300 stolen bases. With a .861 career OPS, he’d join Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds as the only 300-300 players with an .850 OPS.

As good as Beltran has been, Furcal has been just as impressive. He’s hitting .400 this month, which is the fourth-highest NL average in May behind David Wright (.436), Andrew McCutchen (.420) and Carlos Ruiz (.411) Furcal also is one of the best NL hitters with two strikes. His .293 average with two strikes is third in the National League.

One part of Furcal’s success is that he isn’t so pull happy. Last season, Furcal pulled 42 percent of all balls that he put in play. In 2012, that percentage is down to 34 percent.

Furcal and Beltran are also two of the most prolific active switch hitters. Beltran ranks third among active players with 1,956 hits and Furcal is sixth with 1,739.