Adrian Beltre and the Hall of Very Good in today’s random thoughts

There has been a lot of talk as of late of Adrian Beltre and his chances of making the Hall of Fame. As his very good 18-year career begins its final stages, I simply don’t get it.

Anthony Castrovince wrote a great article over at MLB.com making a pretty compelling case for Beltre’s Hall of Fame candidacy. My problem with it is that much of it is based on WAR, both offensive and defensive. I like WAR as a comparison tool, but I don’t like it as an end all to determining one player’s greatness. I’m on the short end of the stick, as I know many experts and writers love WAR (to those still not SABR-savvy, Wins Above Replacement), but I think there needs to be more to be a Hall of Famer.

Even FanGraphs states:

WAR is not meant to be a perfectly precise indicator of a player’s contribution, but rather an estimate of their value to date. Given the imperfections of some of the available data and the assumptions made to calculate other components, WAR works best as an approximation.

That’s one reason that WAR doesn’t do the trick for me. Another reason is that — as Mr. Castrovince points out — Derek Jeter has a career WAR of 71.8, while Beltre has a career WAR of 82.9. I don’t have to write an article about whether or not Jeter is a Hall of Famer, do I?

A Hall of Famer in my opinion (who else’s would it be?) is a Mike Trout or Albert Pujols. Someone who from the second he stepped on the field, you said to yourself, “this kid is someone special.” Ken Griffey, Jr., Jeter, and Chipper Jones — some of the soon-to-be Hall of Famers — were all like that.

It is also someone that not just blows you away right out of the gate, but sustains that success his entire career. Case in point, Don Mattingly. Donnie Baseball was the best first baseman in baseball — quite possibly the best offensive player in baseball — for his first six seasons. He set records, won an MVP, threatened to win the Triple Crown, but then because of that back, he fell off a cliff. To no fault of his own, Donnie Baseball’s seemingly easy induction into Cooperstown disappeared.

You know how I remember Beltre’s early career? I remember one of baseball’s best prospects (he was a top 30 prospect in 1997 and No. 3 overall in 1998) struggling to meet expectations. Now grant it, plenty of Hall of Famers struggled to start their career, heck, Mickey Mantle was sent down. But Beltre had a tough time finding any consistency for the bulk of his first five years, not just his first call-up.

I then remember an elite prospect finally figuring it out in his contract year. Seemingly out of nowhere, Beltre put up a 2004 season he hasn’t come close to replicating in his 11 seasons since. He led baseball in home runs with 48 (the closest he ever came to 40 home runs agains was 36 in 2012) and posted a career high slash line across the board.

It lead to a huge payday with the Seattle Mariners. The following season, Beltre returned to earth, and while he began to solidify himself as a defensive superstar, he stunk up the joint. He went from .334/.388/.629 and 48 home runs to .255/.303/.413 with 19 home runs in the same amount of games. Hall of Famers don’t suffer falloffs like that in their mid-20s. They hit their prime in their mid-20s and reel off some of the best years of their career.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Plenty of players put up very admirable careers with excellent numbers who take a bit longer to mature and come into their own, but those players aren’t necessarily Hall of Famers.

Beltre became one of the best third basemen in baseball when he went to Boston for a year and finally landed in Texas. He played extremely well in his lone World Series appearance, but he didn’t win. While Beltre’s numbers are very close to those “automatic” Hall of Fame numbers, they aren’t there quite yet. And unfortunately there is no denying that his health and natural ability are clearly in the decline.

Beltre is 36 years young. He needs 242 hits to reach 3,000 which — if it made Craig Biggio a Hall of Famer — will make Beltre one as well. But I am not so sure he reaches 3,000, and if you take that number away from Biggio, he’s no Hall of Famer either, despite the fact that I loved to watch him play.

When you don’t reach those instant entry numbers (3,000 hits, 5oo home runs, 300 wins), you need to have what I like to call the he was the best… conversation. Take Chipper Jones for example. Larry finished his career with 2,726 hits and 468 home runs. But while he played he was quite possibly the most feared switch hitter in baseball. When it comes to legendary switch hitters, his name is spoken with The Mick and Eddie Murray and that is some lofty company. He was the offensive leader for a team that won it’s division a billion times in a row. And at the end of the day, unlike Beltre, he has a World Series ring and MVP Award in his trophy case. And just to be a stinker, his career WAR is 85.0 (according to Baseball Reference).

Like Mr. Castrovince pointed out, it doesn’t matter about the numbers, and it doesn’t matter at all about our opinions. At the end of the day, the way into the Hall of Fame is a vote by the BWAA. There is a lot of old school in those voters, and that means a lot of guys who still use the sight test and throw stats and numbers by the wayside.

Ask yourself this. 20 years from now, when you remember the greatest third basemen, when Bleacher Report puts out one of their fun Top 10 third basemen of all time slide shows, will Beltre make that list? I don’t think so. I think he will be on the cusp, and hang around the nomination board for a few years, but unless he gets that elusive 3,000 hit, I think the only way Beltre makes into Cooperstown is like you and I… by paying for an entry ticket.

 

17 thoughts on “Adrian Beltre and the Hall of Very Good in today’s random thoughts”

    1. I have watched him play. I think the past six years he has been. But there were 12 years prior to that during his career that he was a great defender with an inconsistent bat. I’m not saying I’m right, not saying your wrong, but stand strong behind my opinion that if he doesn’t hit 3,000, he won’t make the Hall.

      Thanks for reading and always appreciate the insights.

  1. If there were more third basemen in the hall you might have an argument. But Beltre is one of the ten best third basemen in baseball history. He’ll get in no problem. Sure, he is a compiler who struggles as a 19-ear old, but Pete Rose was a compiler. Eddie Murray was a compiler. Biggio was a compiler. Tony Gwynn was a compiler.

  2. By Jay Jaffe’s JAWS metric, Beltre is the 5th best 3rd baseman of all time. Behind Schmidt, Mathews, Boggs and Brett. I think that’s reasonable. Chipper is a bit behind but Chipper played his whole career in the easier league. Beltre will finish his career with 400+ homers, 3000+ hits and a bunch of gold gloves. He’s in the hall easily, even for an institution that tends to ignore third basemen.

    1. Valid points and I appreciate the extra research. I just feel like there has been a lot of people labeling Beltre a “sure fire” Hall of Famer and I think we all know voters have surprised us many times.

      Just presenting the other side of the coin. Thanks for reading and appreciate the feedback!

  3. To put a finer point on it, there are only 14 third basemen in the Hall. Two of those are Freddie Lindstrom, who isn’t close to being a Hall of Famer but was inducted because Frankie Frisch was putting in all his ex-teammates when he headed the Veteran’s committee, and Pie Traynor, who was a guy who hit some singles for a long time. George Kell is also in the Hall as a third baseman, and Kell would probably not be a major leaguer in 2015. Molitor was more of a DH than anything, and Brett was as much of a first baseman as he was a third baseman. Beltre was – in his prime – an elite third baseman defensively and he hit very well for the position. There are so very few third basemen in the hall that it seems odd that one of the very best of all time wouldn’t be there.

  4. I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to as struggling, but he was merely a 19 year old kid when he debuted, then put up OPS of .780 & .835 in his next two seasons at only 20 and 21 years old. When I think Top 10 Third Baseman of All-Time, I certainly think of Beltre. He’s also one of the best defensive 3rd basemen ever- up there with Schmidt and Brooks Robinson. 1st ballot Hall of Fame in my opinion.

  5. I don’t get it. This article is filled with “this is my opinion” stuff, which is fine. Completely fine. Literally everything points toward Beltre being a sure fire Hall of Famer. The numbers, the eye test, the longevity, even the class and workmanship. You have a hard time putting him in the top ten? Honestly, I have a hard time keeping him OUT of my TOP 5, and it’s not even really close. Good post, I just think you missed the mark with this one by a wide margin.

    1. It’s possible I did. I won’t deny it, I’m not always right, but I like to express my opinion. But I think my main point is until three or four years ago, there wasn’t much buzz about Beltre being a future Hall of Famer. Maybe that’s all it is for me, the simple fact that I didn’t see Beltre trending toward the Hall until his latter career.

      And I appreciate you respecting my opinion, as I try and respect all of my readers comments. Thanks for your insight!

  6. Two points about Beltre’s “slow start” to his career. First, Dodger Stadium is a horrible hitters park. It’s Park Factor is usually the worst in baseball for offense. And the NL West was the worst division for offense in the entirety of his time with the Dodgers. While Seattle’s park factor was the worst in the AL the entire time he was in Seattle.

    Beltre’s complicated contract situation clouded most of his time in LA. He was signed at 15. His contract was voided by Bud after the 2000 season, which lead to a complicated contract. The rumors that some of his development was hindered in order to limit the effects of this contract where swirling around the Dodgers during this period. These factors can not be marginalized.

  7. You seem to be getting a lot of pushback on this opinion, but I wanted you to know I understand your point perfectly. Through the majority of his career, he was never thought of as a future hall of famer. I know I never considered it. I like HOF candidates to be more obvious. I’ll be honest though, I’ve no idea how to grade his defense; if he’s really one of the best defensive 3b in history, then it’s quite possible we are in the minority for a good reason.

    1. I had a feeling there would be a lot of pushback, because the main reason I wrote the article was the flurry of Beltre being a first ballot Hall of Famer articles that shot up on the internet lately.

      I knew I was in the minority, but I felt like I had to voice my opinion. And my opinion stands. I think Beltre is a great player, quite possibly one of the greatest third baseman ever. But like I said, and you brought up, this is simply about the first 12 years of his career. No one spoke of his greatness like that. Is that a Hall of Famer? I’m not so sure.

      I have no problem being wrong, but I just wanted to present the other side of the coin. Thanks for chiming in!

  8. I agree with you completely. He doesn’t pass the eye test. I have never in my life thought I was watching one of the greatest players of all time watching Beltre despite what the statistics tell you. It isn’t an insult to him either. He’s a fantastic player, but I really don’t think he’s a famer.

    1. Thanks for chiming in.

      I agree that it isn’t an insult, simply an opinion and thank you for noticing that. I took a lot of heat when I wrote this that I was “hating” on Beltre.

      Fact of the matter is, I think he is a very good player, simply as you said, not a Famer.

  9. Anyone who has actually followed Beltre knows he is a Hall-of-Fame third baseman. He is by far the most underrated player during my lifetime. In the next few years Beltre will get the credit he deserves – will get his 1500th RBI this season and see him get his 3000 hit, 600 2B, 1500 run, and 450 home run in 2017. Not to mention he is the second best defensive third baseman in history. If anyone argues that Yadier Molina deserves to be in the Hall, should have no problem with Beltre getting in on his defense alone.

    Some of Beltre’s under appreciated stats:

    2483 games played at 3rd base is second all-time to Brooks Robinson’s 2870. Adrian needs 388 to become the all time leader. If Beltre can play two more years as a starter he should achieve this in 2018 or 2019. If Beltre can play 117 games at third this year and end up with 2600, only 7 players in history will have played more games at one position than Beltre. Barry Bonds (2874), Brooks Robinson (2870), Willie Mays (2842), Rickey Henderson (2826), Hand Aaron (2760), Omar Vizquel (2709), and Derek Jeter (2674).

    2767 hits ranks him #53 all-time. Sometime during the 2017 season he should get past 3000 and end up being in the top 25. If he plays through the 2019 season, 3200 hits is not out of the question, which would put him in the top 15.

    4636 total bases ranks him #39 all-time. A few more years should land Beltre in the top 15 with over 5200.

    560 2B hits ranks him #26 all time. In a few more years Beltre should easily pass 600 and end up in the top ten, if not in the top 5.

    His 413 HR ranks #50 all-time. He should easily get past 450 and end up in the top 38.

    His 1467 RBI ranks #57 all-time. In a few more years he should get past 1600 and end up in the top 35.

    A career dWAR rating of 25.5 is ranked #14 all-time. He has the second highest rating for a third baseman behind Brooks Robinson’s 38.8. If Beltre averages his usual 2.3 dWAR for the next two seasons he will end up with 30.1, which would put him 8th all-time. It should be noted that Chipper Jones has a negative dWAR (-1.6).

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