Saturday, August 27, 2016

Is Adrian Beltre a Hall of Famer? An Inner Circle Hall of Famer?

I recently read an article, and one of the things in the article that struck me was the following:
Adrian Beltre at 37 is still a phenomenon; this guy is a first-ballot, no-doubter, inner-circle Hall of Famer.
Inner circle? Really? Having never really looked into it, I had a feeling that Adrian Beltre deserved some strong Hall of Fame consideration.

But never would I consider him an inner circle player.

First, lets see if he's got Hall of Fame credentials.  As of this writing:

436 HR
4 Gold Gloves
4 All Star appearances
Two top 3 MVP finishes
Career WAR of 88.2
1 time lead league in HRs
2902 hits, so 3000 hit club will likely be reached

Generally speaking, this looks pretty good.  I could definitely see him as a Hall of Famer.  I was surprised that he had so many hits despite having a career average of .285.  But when you start your career at 19 and play everyday, those things will start adding up.

Now how does he compare to the greats?  Looking at a post about the "Baseball Inner Circle" from a survey of writers about their top 50 players of all time, I found 4 third basemen on the list and 1 that was just off of the top 50.  The post is a little old (Ken Griffey Jr should definitely be on this list), but I don't think there's been any third basemen added to the HOF in the last few years.  So here's their top 5 third basemen of all time.

#20 Mike Schmidt

548 HRs
10 Gold Gloves
12 All Star appearances
3 MVP, two other top 3 MVP finishes
8 times lead league in HRs
Career WAR 106.5

#24 George Brett

317 HRs
1 Gold Glove
13 All Star appearances
1 MVP, three other top 3 MVP finishes
Career WAR 88.4
3 batting titles
3000 hit club

#39 Eddie Matthews

512 HRs
9 All Star appearances
Runner up MVP twice
2 times lead league in homers
Career WAR 96.4

#46 Brooks Robinson

268 HRs
16 Gold Gloves
15 All Star appearances
1 MVP, three other top 3 MVP finishes
Career WAR 78.4

#51 Wade Boggs

118 HRs,
12 All Star appearances
1 time 4th in MVP voting
Career WAR 91.1
5 batting titles
3000 hit club

So assuming Adrian Beltre plays 1-2 more years, crosses the 3000 hit barrier, and adds a few more WAR points to his career total, he'll probably finish 3rd in career WAR amongst these third baseman.  While he's still playing well, it's hard to imagine him getting another 8 WAR to surpass Eddie Matthews, but it's certainly possible (Edit: After amassing 6.4 WAR in 2016, I think surpassing Eddie Matthews may be very doable now).

However, I can't imagine many writers ever putting Adrian Beltre on a pedestal as high as Schmidt, Brett, and Robinson.  Maybe some will put him above Matthews and Boggs.

The thing that appears to separate Adrian Beltre from these well accepted Inner Circle players appears to be something more subtle.  It's all the things that aren't related to the Career WAR.  It's the MVPs, Gold Gloves, All Star appearances, and what not.  Adrian Beltre will finish his career with a very low amount of them compared to these legends.  So while he had a very long and productive career, he was never considered really amongst the most elite players for a decent length of time.

As a potential HOF contemporary of Beltre's, lets look at Chipper Jones

468 HRs
8 All Star appearances
1 MVP, 1 other top 4 MVP finish
1 batting title
Career WAR 85.0

I wouldn't consider Chipper Jones an "Inner Circle" Hall of Famer, but he does have the MVP, batting title, and all those All Star appearances.

I found it interesting that Adrian Beltre didn't make an All Star team until his age 32 season.  He certainly should have made the team in 2004 when he was runner up to MVP.  However, what blocked him from being an All Star for so long?

In the NL, he wasn't really that great until 2004 (three 3 WAR seasons from 1999-2003).  Scott Rolen and Mike Lowell blocked his way to the All Star game in 2004.  In a weaker generation of third basemen, he probably could have snuck on in 2004.  As an illustration of how deep third baseman were in this generation of players, Chipper Jones didn't make an All Star team from 2002-2007. 

Beltre then played on a pretty terrible Seattle team from 2005-2009 that surely didn't help his case.  The cavernous fields of Seattle probably didn't help either.  Alex Rodriguez, Mike Lowell, Troy Glaus, and Evan Longoria blocked him during this time.  Again, a weaker generation of third basemen could have helped him sneak on at some point.  He did have two 5 WAR seasons in 2006 & 2008.

All his All Star appearances were after he went to much better Boston & Texas teams from 2010-2014 (and perhaps also helping, better hitters parks).  He finally got the All Star nod in 2010 and even started in 2011-2012.

So I think that Beltre is an unquestionable Hall of Famer, but I wouldn't put him into the Inner Circle category.  I think it takes a little something extra to be put into that upper echelon of the Hall of Fame.

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