Lindbergh: Adrian Beltre’s excellence snuck up on everyone

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on July 30, 2017:

Just four days after his on-deck circle sit-in and ensuing ejection produced the latest in his line of viral videos, Adrián Beltré is back in our highlights and our hearts. On Sunday, Beltré became the 31st major league player to record his 3,000th career hit, doubling off of Baltimore’s Wade Miley.

Unlike some hitters who’ve had to hang on well past their primes to reach 3,000, Beltré didn’t limp across the line. At 38, the defending Gold Glover — who ranks fourth in the majors in WAR since 2010, behind Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, and Robinson Canó — is having an injury-shortened but still-excellent season, hitting .312/.388/.543 in addition to his customary above-average defense. That historic double didn’t push Beltré into Hall of Fame territory, though; the milestone merely burnished a Cooperstown case that was already sealed. The only non–Hall of Famers with higher career WAR totals than Beltré’s 92.4 are the still-active Albert Pujols and three PED poster boys: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and the not-yet-eligible-anyway Alex Rodriguez (the only position player other than Beltré ever to amass at least 20 WAR with three different franchises). Beltré’s JAWS score — a statistical method of measuring Cooperstown credentials developed by Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe — places him fourth among third basemen, behind only Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, and Wade Boggs. And with a year remaining on his contract and no great decline to date, Beltré could climb that list.

Despite his unbesmirchable stats — both traditional and sabermetric and both peak and career — Beltré’s “complete lock” status has come late in his career compared with the fast-rising reputations of many equivalently accomplished players who were perceived as future Hall of Famers throughout their time in the majors.

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Originally published: August 3, 2017. Last Updated: August 3, 2017.