For Your Consideration: Adrian Beltre
Last week, Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers, was a regular fixture on ESPN SportsCenter, becoming the only major league player other than Joe DiMaggio to have a three home run game and hit for the cycle in the same week. Despite being a consistently good player for nearly 15 years, it’s been rare for Beltre to get this sort of attention without it involving a mischievous teammate rubbing his head. When looking at his entire body of work, it’s clear that Beltre is one of the most under-appreciated players in baseball and is moving closer and closer to being a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate.
I used to believe that I could tell a Hall of Famer by their stats or by having watched them during the course of their career and just “feeling” they were Hall-worthy. Given the explosion of counting stats over the past 20 years that is no longer the case, While I can admit that Beltre doesn’t necessarily “feel” like a future Hall of Famer to me, the numbers suggest otherwise.
Still just 33, Beltre is already in his 15th major league season. Since it’s reasonable to assume he still has a number of productive seasons left, a sampling of his current numbers, including 335 home runs, 1,194 RBI, and 2,185 hits indicate that by the time he plays his final game he will have accumulated some truly impressive stats, particularly for a third baseman. It is not outside the realm of possibility that he could make a serious run at 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, still the gold standard for Hall of Famers- unless you’re Rafael Palmeiro.
Beltre is more than just lumber. He made himself into one of the best defensive third baseman in baseball, and has few peers (Evan Longoria?) when it comes to being a dual threat. In fact, if advanced defensive metrics are to be believed, Beltre is actually an all-time great with his glove. His career defensive WAR of 21.6 is already 35th among all players in baseball history, behind only Brooks Robinson and Buddy Bell when it comes to third basemen.
With an unknown chunk of his career still to be played, Beltre already stacks up well against other Hall of Fame third sackers like Mike Schmidt, Robinson, and Ron Santo. As he continues to build his resume he could easily reach or surpass those legends in a variety of way. Here is how they currently stack up:
Hits Home Runs RBI Batting Avr. OPS+ WAR
One knock that Beltre might have against him is his lack of championships and hardware. He is only a three time All Star, has won three Gold Gloves, and been in the top 15 of MVP voting three times, with his high water mark coming in 2004 when he finished second while with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although he is a near lock to be in the playoffs this season, he has only been two other times during his career, including last year’s trip to the World Series with the Rangers.
When contemplating possible Hall of Famers, voters and fans like to see full trophy cases, but Beltre’s is relatively bare of personal recognitions and team accomplishments. It may come as a huge shock to some, but many factors other than production often play a role in determining who receives individual awards. Player reputation, popularity, and media market are all strong influences when it comes the voting. Just looking at Beltre’s 2004 season shows how such thing may have impacted him. That season, despite hitting .334, with 48 home runs, 121 RBI, and a 2.5 defensive WAR, he was somehow left off the All Star team, didn’t win a Gold Glove, and finished behind Barry Bonds, who had one of the best statistical seasons of all time, for the MVP. That season is a classic example of how underrated Beltre has been throughout his career.
The final chapters in the book of Beltre have yet to be written, but what is already on the record is certainly impressive. He is within shouting distance of being a legitimate candidate for Cooperstown and is at the stage of his career where he is cementing his legacy. The next time a conversation comes up discussing who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, take the time to consider Adrian Beltre and how he stacks up among the all-time great third basemen.
Andrew Martin is the founder of “The Baseball Historian” blog where he posts his thoughts about baseball on a regular basis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach him on Twitter at @historianandrew.