Beltre on the Brink

Adrian Beltre is on the brink of 3000 hits and could reach the milestone this weekend. Here’s a look at the career (so far) of the Cooperstown-bound third sacker.

Beltre’s Rangers played Ichiro‘s Marlins this week so we almost had the rare occurrence of a game with 3000 hit players opposing each other. That’s happened before only with these pairs of players:

Beltre will become the just the 10th player to reach 3000 hits by his age 38 season. Very shortly thereafter, Beltre will pass Wade Boggs for the most hits by a career third baseman, and will likely pass George Brett next season for most hits while playing a majority of games at third base. Bill James “Favorite Toy” projection tool predicts 3370 career hits (10th), with a 25% chance of reaching the top 5.

Beltre’s ascent up the career hit list has accelerated markedly in the second half of his career. After his last season in Seattle at age 30, his career projection was just 2517 hits and only a 17% chance to reach 3000. Defying those odds, Beltre already has more WAR after age 30 than before. Beltre will join the 3000 hit club standing 6th in the group in highest percentage of career WAR after age 30 and will likely be second on that list by the end of next season, with only Honus Wagner apparently out of reach.

Beltre’s WAR accumulation has been steady but not spectacular, with just one 8 WAR season. But that puts him in good company with half of the 3000 hit club, becoming the 15th in that group with one such season or none. More impressive is Beltre’s accumulation of solid seasons, as he is poised this year to pass 3 WAR for the 17th time, the same number as Babe RuthStan MusialMel Ott and Alex Rodriguez, and with only 8 players having more (Beltre drops to 44th on the list of most 4 WAR seasons, or 34th if he gets to 4 WAR this season; his ranks for 5, 6 and 7 WAR seasons are 22nd, 42nd, and 31st, respectively).

Other notable career milestones that Beltre has already reached are 450 home runs, 600 doubles, 1500 RBI and 5000 total bases. Likely in his future are 100 WAR, 500 home runs, 1500 runs, 3000 games and 12,000 PA. I’d give him an outside shot at 700 doubles (Favorite Toy says 23% as of start of this season), but a realistic chance (Favorite Toy says 53%) to pass Craig Biggio‘s total of 668 and move into the top 5 on that list. With 5 more extra-base hits, Beltre moves into the top 20 on that list, with a 65% chance to reach 1200 (8th) and a 9% shot at the top 5.

The Hall of Fame is notably under-represented by third baseman, which one presumes should enhance Beltre’s Hall chances (if, in fact, there remains any doubt as to his Hall worthiness). Beltre currently stands 3rd on the career WAR list for third baseman, after passing Brett last year and Boggs earlier this season. Beltre almost certainly (97% chance) will pass Eddie Mathews for second and stands a reasonable shot (31%) of catching Mike Schmidt. Beltre already stands second to Brooks Robinson in games played at third base and should pass Brooksie sometime in 2019 (likely early that year, if he stays healthy).

What may give some BBWAA voters pause in considering their HOF ballots in another 8 or 9 years is the effect on Beltre’s totals of the high run scoring environment over the first half of his career. But, they really shouldn’t give that another thought as Beltre’s neutralized totals, in fact, closely resemble his actual numbers, with his first half results held down by a late peak (excepting his career best 2004 season) and by playing in pitchers’ parks in LA and Seattle. My view is that Beltre is a solid Hall choice with a good shot at a first ballot selection, provided he isn’t on the same first ballot as Albert Pujols (my guess is Beltre outlasts Pujols). Hall of Stats agrees, already showing Beltre with a 175 score, in the top 50 all time and well above the 100 cutoff line.

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Voomo Zanzibar
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Interesting that Rose played most of NINE seasons with 3000+ hits, and only encountered one other member of the club.

Doug
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And, then only for a month or so at the end of the season. Had he still been with the Reds, would have missed Brock too.

Dr. Doom
Guest

A great piece as always, Doug. Question out there for the community: where would you rank Beltre among all third basemen all-time?

Doug
Guest

Top 5 for sure. Behind Schmidt. Ahead of Brooks, Brett and Boggs. About even with Chipper and Mathews.

Voomo Zanzibar
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Ooooh, that’s bold, putting him ahead of both Boggs and Brett. If we take his defensive metrics as objective truth, then I suppose the numbers are there. But offensively, I can’t say I wouldn’t choose Boggs over Beltre if I were building a team. I’ll nuetralize their slash numbers here, to account for different eras. Let’s give all of them 2016 AL, neutral park: Beltre, Boggs, Brett .283 / .336 / .475 / .811 .321 / .407 / .434 / .841 .307 / .372 / .491 / .863 Beltre and Brett take a little dip, and Boggs gets hit hard.… Read more »
Doug
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I dock Brett in rating third basemen due to playing a significant part of his career at another position.

Beltre gets the nod over Boggs for his defense and power.

But those three are really close. Not much to choose between them.

Dr. Doom
Guest
Here’s something I found interesting. I took for granted that most of us would rank Boggs, Brett, Mathews, and Schmidt as the top-4 third basemen of all-time (Doug disagrees, but I’ll proceed with this line of thinking nonetheless). I think most of us would have Beltre next. The next group of three is Chipper Jones, Ron Santo, and Brooks Robinson. These were the eight guys I came up with off the top of my head, and they also happen to be the top-8 via JAWS, so I feel pretty good about that. Anyway, I averaged the Black Ink, Gray Ink,… Read more »
Doug
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Interesting. It’s the black ink where Beltre is light. Part of the reason is playing in a bigger league. Other reason is playing in pitchers’ parks for over half his career. Beltre having a significant part of his value from his defense should be considered a good thing. Strictly just a sense, but seems like runs saved with your defense are often more valuable than offensive runs. I say that because, in blowout games, it seems like the losing team loses a lot of intensity in their AB’s and the winning team loses intensity in its defense. Ergo, if a… Read more »
robb
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Great to see Adrian get the credit he deserves as he gets close to 3,000 hits. HHS and the Advanced Stats community have done a lot to raise the profile and HOF chances of players who played for more than one team, as the group showed me last week with examples or Alomar, Gossage, and Perry. Just wish my “Trivia Stumpers” of Rusty Staub (only player with 500 hits for four different teams–verified by HHS community) and Doc Cramer (only player –as far as my limited capabilities can determine– with 700 hits for three different teams) were better players to… Read more »
Richard Chester
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Since 1901 Beltre and Cramer are the only players with 700+ hits for 3 teams, plus Willie Keeler if you go prior to 1901.

David P
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After thinking more about your question, I think Alomar fits the profile best as someone who made the HOF without being identified with a single team. Here are his per team highs (all accomplished with Toronto, though his peak was with Cleveland):

Years played: 5
Hits: 832
WAR: 22.2 (only 33.2% of his total)

Can’t imagine there’s another HOFer else with totals so low.

Brent
Guest

Well, I think there might be some pitchers who fit that description. Nolan Ryan, Bert Blyleven, Gaylord Perry come to mind.

David P
Guest

In some ways, yes. But all 3 have more years and more WAR (and percent of WAR) with a single team than Alomar.

Daniel Longmire
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Only 17 players between the ages of 31 and 39 have had at least 8 seasons with at least 250 plate appearances and an OPS+ of 120 or above. Beltre is 42 PA away from joining that group this season. The other names on the list are everyone that you might expect, plus Norm Cash.

e pluribus munu
Guest

Daniel, did you mean seven seasons? That’s what I count for Beltre. Of course, he’d still have next year to reach eight in that age range.

Daniel Longmire
Guest
Ugh! Yes, epm, you are correct. My mistake was that I ran two searches (OPS+ at 110 and 120) and accidentally crossed the results when publishing. Beltre is currently at 8 seasons with an OPS+ of 110; only those 17 other players have done that every year from 31-39 with 200+ plate appearances (one drops off if the criteria rises to 250 PA). Also (and coincidentally), if he does maintain that 120+ level this year AND reach it next season, he would indeed become the 18th to do so for 8 seasons in that range. The players in both lists… Read more »
alz9794
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Overall, he has been pretty consistent at home and on the road. Here is his career triple slash line for home and away. Career 285/342/476 … 287/337/486 However, his first two home parks killed him. His 2016 road stats are basically the same as his 2007 road stats, and look like they would fit in with his time in the Dodgers. He has pretty much always been a .280-.290 hitter on the road. But he was a .250 hitter in Dodger Stadium and Safeco, and a .330 hitter in Arlington. Some might argue that he’s only done what he has… Read more »
Dr. Doom
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I think the important point here is that, if you REVERSED Beltre’s home parks, there’s a fair chance that he’d be out of baseball now, if he’d been able to have his 2004 season in Texas (I’m just assuming he would’ve hit 60 HR) and were having his current seasons in Dodger Stadium. That would have artificially inflated his numbers as a young player and made his decline look steeper than it was. Fred Lynn syndrome, basically. Instead, he gets Hank Aaron syndrome, where changes in home park artificially “slow” a player’s decline.

Doug
Guest

His decline?

Don’t think we’ve seen that yet. At least not in a significant way.

But, I get your point about perceptions. If he turns in 2001-2003 in LA at age 35-37, he’s probably looking for a job for right now.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

On Beltre’s temporary replacement, Joey Gallo…
Update:

Seasons with SLG greater than 2.6* BA:
Ranked by SLG:

.863 … Barry Bonds (2001)
.591 … Don Drysdale (72 PA)
.590 … Frank Thomas (124 PA)
.527 … Joey Gallo (current)

.492 … Mark McGwire (2001)
.480 … Rob Deer (64 PA)
.428 … Lew Krausse (51 PA)
.424 … Ryan Schimpf (current)

no statistician but
Guest
Beltre. All right. The first thing you notice about him is that, with the exception of the 2004 season, his stats are fair to good up through age 30, but not HOF level, even given the fact that he was playing in pitchers’ parks at home. His oWAR for the 11 full seasons he played 1999-2009 is 30.0, 7.3 of that coming in 2004, meaning that his average for the other 10 years was 2.27. Not the stuff of HOF careers, even for outstanding defenders. He won no awards during those 10 years except a couple of Gold Gloves in… Read more »
Daniel Longmire
Guest

Not sure if there is a direct comp for Beltre’s arc, nsb, but he does rank 19th all-time in oWAR (jumping to 10th in total WAR) for age 31-37 seasons.

Maybe Edgar Martinez is the closest parallel? Just 3 full seasons above 100 OPS+ in his twenties, a big decline with injuries in his age 30 year (like Beltre), then rebounding at 31, with excellence for the next decade or so. It’s not a perfect match, but the closest that I could find.

David P
Guest

Paul Molitor might be another one. OPS+ of 113 through age 29. Then put up a 140 OPS+ from ages 30-37. Of course, Molitor was primarily a DH during this time, just like Martinez. Which makes what they did a bit different than Beltre.

Dwight Evans is someone who is often noted or peaking later is his career though his isn’t as extreme as Beltre’s. Clemente, on the other hand, is pretty extreme: 113 OPS+ through age 29, 152 afterwards.

Richard Chester
Guest

To age 30 Beltre’s OPS+ was 105 and from age 31 to date it is 134, a differential of 29. Here are some players who had a differential of 20 or more, 4000+ PA from age 31 and on.
Barry Bonds…..44
Ken Williams….30
Cy Williams…..24
Gavvy Cravath…..23
Sammy Sosa…..23
Dixie Walker…..20
Ellis Burks…..20
Willie Stargell…..20

Dr. Doom
Guest

Nearly all of them are power hitters, many of them who WERE fast as younger players, but relied more on their bats as they aged. Presumably, a combination of getting stronger, pitch recognition, “feel for the game,” and perhaps swinging more from the heels with the knowledge that they weren’t going to be beating out ground balls anyway. The odd thing about Beltre is that, while he hits for good power, I don’t think anyone would call him a “power hitter,” which is a little odd. Interesting to think about, though.

David P
Guest

I agree that he has to rank behind Brett and Boggs. He’s not close to them offensively and only closes the gap because of defense (which we all know is problematic and was measured differently when Brett and Boggs played).

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Lucroy to Denver.
Selling in Texas.
Think they’ll trade Beltre? Probably not.

Saw some nice black ink on Lucroy.
53 doubles a few years back. As a Catcher.

And… that’s a record. And it isn’t close.

Most 2-baggers by a Catcher:

53 … Lucroy
47 … Ivan Rod
44 … Yadi
43 … Mauer
42 … 6 times

Doug
Guest
In the Sunday night game, the Dodgers walked off the Giants on a two-RBI pinch-hit by Kyle Farmer, making his major league debut. Just the third searchable game, after Curt Ford (1985) and Jack Hiatt (1964), with a player delivering a walk-off pinch-hit in his major league debut. Later in his career, Jack Hiatt delivered a walk-off grand slam, something Steve Pearce did yesterday and last Thursday, becoming the 20th searchable player with two (or more) in a career, but just the second, after Jim Presley (1986), with two in the same season (the “more” belongs to A-Rod and Vern… Read more »
Daniel Longmire
Guest

Doug, according to the MLB.com recap of the game, Cy Williams also hit two walk-off grand slams for the Phillies in 1926. I haven’t verified this independently, though.

Doug
Guest

Thanks Daniel,

That’s before the earliest event data in P-I. But, B-R’s home run log confirms the Williams slams, on Apr 15 and Sep 8. The first was a pinch-hit, and the second was one of 5 that Williams hit in the same series against Brooklyn.

Paul E
Guest

Interesting parallel between Mathews (age 21-31) and Schmidt (24-34):
.283/.393/.543 155 OPS+ 1,647 games
.270/.388/.546 155 OPS+ 1,644 games

I don’t believe Boggs, Brett, or Chipper were the equal of Schmidt or even Mathews but they were the superior of Beltre. So, I guess Beltre’s the 6th best 3B of all-time?
Kind of weird how “average” Beltre’s twenties were. And, it’s even odder that he hasn’t really slowed down yet

oneblankspace
Guest

Beltre is also the first Dominican with 3000 hits.

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