Let’s Talk About Carlos Beltran

Following Carlos Beltran’s heroics Friday night–which continued his history of tremendous postseason results (save one forgettable at bat in the 2006 NLCS)–I witnessed the following discussion on Twitter between two high-profile writers regarding his Hall of Fame chances:

 

 

Surfeit? Who uses that word? Perhaps the same guy who thinks of Dave Winfield as the second-best outfielder who’s played in the last 20 years.

EDIT: In comment #2 below, Hartvig points out that they’re talking about outfielders elected by the BBWAA, not all outfielders who’ve played in the last 20 years. Obviously, I completely spaced this detail.

But, I digress. Let’s take a look at that list of outfielders.

First things first, though. How are we defining last 20 years? Since Winfield was a major part of the discussion, and he retired after 1995, I’m going to assume we’re talking about any outfielders who’ve played at all in the last two decades.

Player WAR/pos From To G PA AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS
Barry Bonds 162.6 1986 2007 2986 12606 9847 2227 2935 762 1996 2558 1539 514 141 .298 .444 .607 1.051
Rickey Henderson 110.6 1979 2003 3081 13346 10961 2295 3055 297 1115 2190 1694 1406 335 .279 .401 .419 .820
Ken Griffey 83.6 1989 2010 2671 11304 9801 1662 2781 630 1836 1312 1779 184 69 .284 .370 .538 .907
Larry Walker 72.4 1989 2005 1988 8030 6907 1355 2160 383 1311 913 1231 230 76 .313 .400 .565 .965
Manny Ramirez 69.1 1993 2011 2302 9774 8244 1544 2574 555 1831 1329 1813 38 33 .312 .411 .585 .996
Tony Gwynn 68.9 1982 2001 2440 10232 9288 1383 3141 135 1138 790 434 319 125 .338 .388 .459 .847
Tim Raines 68.8 1979 2002 2502 10359 8872 1571 2605 170 980 1330 966 808 146 .294 .385 .425 .810
Kenny Lofton 67.9 1991 2007 2103 9235 8120 1528 2428 130 781 945 1016 622 160 .299 .372 .423 .794
Carlos Beltran 67.6 1998 2013 2064 8949 7868 1346 2228 358 1327 934 1427 308 48 .283 .359 .496 .854
Andre Dawson 64.4 1976 1996 2627 10769 9927 1373 2774 438 1591 589 1509 314 109 .279 .323 .482 .806
Dave Winfield 63.9 1973 1995 2973 12358 11003 1669 3110 465 1833 1216 1686 223 96 .283 .353 .475 .827
Andruw Jones 62.6 1996 2012 2196 8664 7599 1204 1933 434 1289 891 1748 152 59 .254 .337 .486 .823
Bobby Abreu 60.5 1996 2012 2347 9926 8347 1441 2437 287 1349 1456 1819 399 128 .292 .396 .477 .873
Gary Sheffield 60.4 1988 2009 2576 10947 9217 1636 2689 509 1676 1475 1171 253 104 .292 .393 .514 .907
Jim Edmonds 60.2 1993 2010 2011 7980 6858 1251 1949 393 1199 998 1729 67 50 .284 .376 .527 .903
Vladimir Guerrero 59.7 1996 2011 2147 9059 8155 1328 2590 449 1496 737 985 181 94 .318 .379 .553 .931
Ichiro Suzuki 58.5 2001 2013 2061 9278 8605 1261 2742 111 695 544 876 472 106 .319 .361 .414 .775
Sammy Sosa 58.3 1989 2007 2354 9896 8813 1475 2408 609 1667 929 2306 234 107 .273 .344 .534 .878
Johnny Damon 56.4 1995 2012 2490 10917 9736 1668 2769 235 1139 1003 1257 408 103 .284 .352 .433 .785
Lance Berkman 52.0 1999 2013 1879 7814 6491 1146 1905 366 1234 1201 1300 86 48 .293 .406 .537 .943
Luis Gonzalez 51.3 1990 2008 2591 10531 9157 1412 2591 354 1439 1155 1218 128 87 .283 .367 .479 .845
Kirby Puckett 50.9 1984 1995 1783 7831 7244 1071 2304 207 1085 450 965 134 76 .318 .360 .477 .837
Brian Giles 50.8 1995 2009 1847 7836 6527 1121 1897 287 1078 1183 835 109 45 .291 .400 .502 .902
Torii Hunter 50.2 1997 2013 2091 8539 7787 1158 2170 314 1227 603 1547 189 91 .279 .335 .466 .801
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/12/2013.

The next assumption I’m going to make is this is one of those “…besides Barry Bonds (and other PED-implicated players)” discussions.

So, ignoring Bonds, as many delusional folks would like to do, it’s also obvious Sheehan overlooked Ken Griffey Jr. Clearly, Junior is easily the best outfielder who’s played the game in the last 20 years.*

After that, this debate is clearly up in the air, as Larry Walker, Manny Ramirez (if not for…well, you know), Tony Gwynn, Tim Raines, Kenny Lofton, Andre Dawson, Winfield and Beltran could all be considered #3 on the list.* Of course, Gwynn, Dawson and Winfield are Hall of Famers, but none of them are indisputably better than any of Walker, Raines, Lofton and Beltran.

*besides Barry Bonds

But, the point here is really to discuss Beltran’s Hall of Fame credentials. Comparing him to his peers is certainly relevant to that discussion, but he’s clearly not the second-best outfielder of the last 20 years, nor does he need to be to be Hall-worthy.

By advanced metrics, his 67.5 career WAR ranks behind only five Hall of Famers who played 50% or more of their career games in center field. [I’m pretty sure everyone reading this post can name all five in a matter of seconds.] If we don’t limit to Hall of Famers, Griffey and Lofton slide in ahead of him. Still, 8th best all-time at any position, let alone one as top-heavy as this one, is quite impressive.

Additionally, Beltran’s Hall Rating of 131 ranks 9th all-time among center fielders, with Billy Hamilton edging ahead of him, and Duke Snider rounding out the top 10 at 130.

What’s working against Beltran, of course, is his lack of any marquee counting numbers, and with only 2228 career hits, 358 home runs and 308 stolen bases, those who don’t realize only four players in history can top that combination are likely to look past him.

But, what I also think is happening with Beltran, and what I think is a fairly common phenomenon, is that he was written off as not quite Hall of Fame material too quickly, and people have a tough time moving beyond such preconceptions. His career looked to be tailing off in his early 30s when the Mets moved him to right field, then jettisoned him to San Francisco, and he’s been thought of as a role player since.

Role player or not, he’s still producing more than Raines and Lofton were at this age, and, of course, since he doesn’t turn 37 until early next year, his career is far from over. However, the additional 5 WAR Walker added after his age-36 season didn’t change the perception of his candidacy much, so short of some more postseason heroics, it’s hard to imagine Beltran will convert the unconverted in the next two or three years.

Whether you’re a fan of WAR or not, there’s really no disputing it’s been difficult for voters to wrap their heads around evaluating players who do a lot of things well but who don’t make an obvious contribution in one area. While it’s looking like there’s at least a pretty good chance Raines eventually gets in the Hall, the question that’s difficult to answer right now is will Beltran go the way of the one-and-done Lofton, will he linger on the ballot without much reason for optimism like Walker, or will he earn the relatively favorable treatment of Raines?

What do you think? What kind of Hall of Fame treatment is in store for Carlos Beltran?

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Bryan O'Connor
Editor
7 years ago

Beltran regular season: 2228 H, 358 HR, 67.5 rWAR DiMaggio regular season: 2214 H, 361 HR, 78.3 rWAR Beltran postseason: 51 H, 16 HR, 1.169 OPS in 185 PA DiMaggio postseason: 54 H, 8 HR, .760 OPS in 220 PA Of course, DiMaggio had a career OPS+ of 155, to Beltran’s 122, and three years missed due to military service are not akin to ~250 games missed due to injury. But it’s not crazy to think Beltran might finish his career with 2700 hits, 425 homers, 75 WAR, and one of the great postseason resumes of all time. Voters might… Read more »

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
7 years ago
Reply to  Bryan O'Connor

In the last three years, Beltran has 467 H and 78 HR. Let’s say that, over the next three years, he produces at 80% that level (which seems fair to me; obviously, he could outproduce that; and he very well could fall short – but it seems kinda fair to me). That would be 62 HR and 373 H. It would put him at 420 HR and 2601 H. That’s probably not a horrible projection. So then the question becomes, how long does he play, how much playing time does he get, and will someone DH him for a long… Read more »

Hartvig
Hartvig
7 years ago

It seems to me that when Sheehan says: “than every BBWAA HoF outfielder in the last 20 years save Rickey.” that he is comparing Beltran ONLY to the outfielders that the BBWAA have elected to the HOF in the past 20 years and not to other candidates not yet enshrined. That would mean he was comparing him only to the following HOFers: Robin Yount 1999- depending on if you consider him a shortstop or centerfielder Dave Winfield 2001 Kirby Puckett 2001 Tony Gwynn 2007 Rickey Henderson 2009 Jim Rice 2009 Andre Dawson 2010 And I would say that as long… Read more »

Hartvig
Hartvig
7 years ago
Reply to  Dan McCloskey

Still, I think for the main point of your article- which I take as does Beltran belong in the HOF & if so will he get in?- bringing in the those contemporaries still on the outside is also an absolute necessary. Griffey will get in of course. I don’t know if anyone can say for sure about Bonds. Raines’ vote totals so far match up pretty well with Jim Rice so maybe. Larry Walker’s on the other hand look more like Don Mattingly’s first few years so probably not. And Lofton is already toast and if I had to guess… Read more »

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
7 years ago
Reply to  Hartvig

I think you’re parsing that right, Hartvig. I would say Gwynn has a better (traditional) case than Beltran. Probably Winfield, too. The 3000 hits thing is a pretty big deal. But neither of them was as good defensively as Beltran. He certainly has a case as the best “overall” case, if you include defense. I think Dawson is a pretty good comp, honestly. And I had no problem with his election (I actually don’t get why so many sabermetrically-minded folks did – it’s not like the Jim Rice election AT ALL). Yount would definitely be counted as a SS for… Read more »

RJ
RJ
7 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

“But neither of them was as good defensively as Beltran.”

That’s harsh on Gwynn, who in his peak was better defensively than Beltran (according to the metrics), but unfortunately suffered a fat, slow phase of his career that virtually wiped out all that positive Rfield.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
7 years ago
Reply to  RJ

Jack Murphy Stadium fielding stats for the period 1987-1992 (or so, I don’t remember the exact years) are a mess (also, someone PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong about this; it’s a recollection I have, and it has colored my thinking for a long time. I have a pretty good memory, so I’m just going to go ahead and assume it’s true, unless someone can let me know otherwise). I think that’s why you get Gwynn’s numbers looking like this: +7 -3 -23 +7 +28 +19 At that phase in his career, I don’t think Gwynn was nearly as bad… Read more »

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
7 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Actually, that position thing got me thinking. Gwynn’s first 11 years, Rfield + Rpos = +26.
Beltran’s first 11 years, Rfield + Rpos = +98.

It’s really, really not close. And that’s taking Gwynn at his best possible point. Even Gwynn’s best season was +28 Rfield, and -5 Rpos. Beltran’s best? +20 Rfield, and +3 Rpos. Both were worth 23 runs defensively at their best.

I stand firmly by my original statement: Beltran has been a much better defender than any of the other BBWAA players elected in the last 20 years.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
7 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

And sorry for the wordy comments. I just love baseball!

mosc
mosc
7 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

RFIELD is limited in magnitude until more recent years. Bad defenders are under-penalized, good defenders are under-rewarded. You can’t compare today’s RFIELD numbers to ones from generations past. The best defenders in the league today generate historically absurd rfield numbers.

bstar
bstar
7 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

“At that phase in his career, I don’t think Gwynn was nearly as bad as -23.” Dr. D, it seems here like you’re expecting TZ numbers to be a statement about a player’s true talent level every single year. They’re not; they’re measuring that year’s performance. If you want TZ’s best guess as to true talent defensively, use a 5/4/3 weighting system for years N/N-1/N-2. If you do that, you’ll get numbers that don’t look too dissimilar to your DRA ones. Look at Tony Gwynn’s Rbat for ’87-’92, and you’ll see just as big of a spread in his offensive… Read more »

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
7 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Actually, bstar, I understand defensive stats and their variation just fine. I seriously remember someone saying something about Jack Murphy fielding numbers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Regardless, other defensive systems don’t rank Gwynn that poorly that year, and I don’t think his traditional defensive numbers, poor as those are, bear out that kind of assessment. To be honest, I put all those caveats about Jack Murphy in my comments precisely BECAUSE I knew that someone would comment exactly ad you did. My concern is not about variations in TZ runs evaluations from year to year. OF COURSE… Read more »

Doug
Editor
7 years ago

The name that jumps out at me is Walker. His WAR per PA level is 30th best of all retired players all-time (min. 5000 PAs). Only retired outfielders with a better rate are all legends (Bonds, Williams, DiMaggio, Speaker, Mantle, Cobb, Mays, Clemente, Ott, Aaron, Ruth, Robinson, Musial and Shoeless Joe). Walker certainly benefits from reduced PAs outside of his career peak, owing to a late start and and an early finish. But, getting a late career start is normally seen as a handicap to career achievement, so seems rather unfair to “penalize” him for spending his youth playing ice… Read more »

mosc
mosc
7 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug, really? BA accolades from the Coors Field pre-humador period? Also, walker was a couple games away from failing to qualify that BA in half of those seasons (513 and 524 AB’s) due to injury. And breaking 500 AB’s before your age 24 season is a late start? Boggs didn’t have any AB’s before his 24 season. I would guess the average full time start for a HOF’er is around 22 instead of walker’s age 23 start. Walker is clouded by Coors, Steroids, Injuries, and not being a particularly good old player. Despite playing in the 162 game era and… Read more »

Lawrence Azrin
Lawrence Azrin
7 years ago
Reply to  mosc

13/mosc,

Al Kaline never had 330 TB in a season; Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson, and Dave Winfield only surpassed that once. OTOH, Chuck Klein did it five times (over 400 TB three times), in a short career (though aided by the Baker Bowl).

I’m not sure what the significance is of this, it sounds like selective endpoints. There are a number of good arguments against Walker’s HOF case, the 330 TB isn’t one of them. I have also NEVER heard the slightest suggestion of steroids for Walker.

Doug
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  mosc

The BA was just a fun stat. Not meant to be taken too seriously. Not a particularly good older player? Compared to whom exactly? There are 67 HOFers with 2000 PAs aged 34-38. Their median OPS+ is 122 (Yaz). Walker was 144, exceeded by only 14 of those 67. Their median WAR was 14.8 (Rickey). Walker was 23.4, exceeded by only 12 of those 67. A late starter? Um, yes he was. Of 137 HoFers, excluding pitchers, Walker’s 534 PA through age 23 rank 22nd lowest. The median is 1371, more than a season’s worth more PAs than Walker, and… Read more »

Jeff b
Jeff b
7 years ago

Please explain how it is delusional to overlook bonds who is the biggest cheat and stain on the game of baseball, one that the league is still trying to recover from.

Jeff Hill
Jeff Hill
7 years ago
Reply to  Jeff b

I’m sorry, what makes him a “bigger cheat and stain” than David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez(who’s been busted TWICE), Ken Caminiti, Roger Clemens, A-Rod, Ryan Braun(who I believe deserves that dubious honor by being a complete ass)Sosa and McGwire and so many more? Because he broke records and they didn’t? Because he wasn’t a nice person? I still for the life of me can’t stand when Bonds gets the brunt of all this, like he was (1) All alone in this (2) Actually got caught using during his career…which he didn’t and most of the above did (3) He was blackballed… Read more »

Dan McCloskey
7 years ago

@Jeff B: I said *ignoring* Bonds (i.e. pretending he never existed) is delusional.

Jeff Hill
Jeff Hill
7 years ago
Reply to  Dan McCloskey

He most definitely existed and for the record…

Cleanly bettered Griffey Jr. in the 90’s from a overall ball player standpoint. Numbers most certainly don’t lie there.

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago

Re: Beltran’s supposed lack of marquee counting numbers — Comparing him to career center fielders (where he’s played 80% of his career games), since 1893, Beltran ranks: — 8th in HRs — 8th in RBI — 15th in Runs (less than 50 away from the 10th spot) — 10th in Total Bases — 6th in Extra-Base Hits Among the HOF-eligibles: — On the HRs list, all 4 above him are in the Hall. — On the RBI list, all 6 above him are in the Hall. — On the XBH list, all 4 above him are in the Hall. A… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

birtelcom, thanks for the JoePos link on Beltran. He has a good perspective. And yet, as if to confirm that no one can be quite objective about Carlos, Posnanski pulls a bit of shameful legerdemain in deflating Beltran’s postseason stats. Follow this: “In truth, Beltran has been good, but not legendary, in his postseasons since 2004. That year in Houston was one-of-a-kind. Since then, Beltran has hit .290/.395/.598 in October, which is certainly outstanding, but it’s not the insane .333/.443/.725 career numbers that everyone talks about again and again.” OK, Joe. So, if you subtract that one legendary postseason, which… Read more »

Chuck
Chuck
7 years ago

Postseason is a team accomplishment, the HOF is individual, therefore one should not consider them as HOF criteria.

IMO, of course.

Assume this.

Beltran will likely sign another contract or two before he’s done and could easily play another four, five years primarily as a DH, similar to Winfield (and Molitor).

He could attain another 10-12 WAR, which would put him close to 80 career and fourth on this list.

That doesn’t make him a HOFer as I personally wouldn’t vote for either Walker or Raines, but he’d be much further from the fence than he is now.

Jimbo
Jimbo
7 years ago
Reply to  Dan McCloskey

Playoffs should definitely count for a players credentials. They are a big deal. Guys like Smoltz, Pettite, Beltran, and Ortiz who have big post season credentials should definitely benefit from them, espeically now when there’s so many games. Pettite pitches 1.5 seasons worth of innings in the post season!

Voomo Zanzibar
Voomo Zanzibar
7 years ago

___________

Jake Westbrook
Edward Mujica
Randy Choate
Carlos Beltran
Matt Holliday

Only Cardinals of any significant playing time that are NOT a product of their system.

Their front office has got to feel pretty smart right about now.

PaulE
PaulE
7 years ago

Just curious if anyone ever noticed Willie Mays’ horrid post-season resume. James, in his BJHBA, talks about peak seasons and post-season performance and then goes and calls Mays the superior of Mantle. Go figure…..

RJ
RJ
7 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

I’ll play devil’s advocate. Mays only appeared in only two postseason series from the ages of 21-39, the limited number of games making it difficult to build an impressive resume. Outside of those years we can hardly be expecting him to perform at his peak. One of those series was the 1954 World Series, which Mays’ Giants won in four straight. – In Game 1, Mays started the winning rally in the 10th with a walk and a steal. – In Game 2, Mays scored the tying run after a walk. – In Game 3 he went 3 for 5… Read more »

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago

Let’s talk about “Carlos Beltran, World Series participant.” 🙂

Steven
Steven
7 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

I second that emoticon.

AlbaNate
AlbaNate
7 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Is there a website that explains how to use bbref’s play index? I’m a subscriber, but don’t really know how to use it to its fullest capacity. I’m especially interested in learning how to do a nested search. That is, do one search that gives me a list, then find out something further about the people on that list.

John Autin
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  AlbaNate

AlbaNate — Here are a couple of helpful links for doing a filtered search: Filtered search description: http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/10708 Share Tool description: http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/2403 Share Tool tutorial: http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/3223 The Share Tool is used to save the results of a search (or any page where you find a “Share” link, such as team pages). After you click on “Share,” then click on “link url” and give it a name. To do a filtered search on the saved results, go to the Play Index front page (but don’t use your browser’s “Back” button) and choose Batting Season Finder or Pitching Season Finder; enter your… Read more »

birtelcom
Editor
7 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

Would have been nice to also do “Torii Hunter, World Series participant” at the same time. This was only Beltran’s fourth trip to the post-season — Torii’s been there seven times now, a total of forty-five post-season games — without getting to that last level.