Archive for May, 2013

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The American League had the Mid-Summer Classic on lock for what felt like an eternity. They ran up a record 13 All-Star Game undefeated streak, until the National League took control back two years ago a few years back.

Fast forward to this time around the bases, and the AL may have as talented of an offering has they have since before that initial streak started. From a staff of dominant arms, to a lineup that boasts the likes of at least five MVP candidates that would miles ahead over in the NL, the home of the DH is going to be a few handfuls to get through.

There are sure to be some slights in the end, as there definitely were more than a few I to accept in putting this together. But as it would stand today, a ticket to ride to New York in July for the AL means you’ve been a world beater all year so far. Here’s the best as they shake out today from my seat towards the field:

Catcher: Joe Mauer (Twins)*, Carlos Santana (Indians)

Mauer is back at the top of his game, and thus putting distance between himself and the rest of the AL catching pack. His .330 average is by far the tops at the position, and 9th in the AL this season. Santana has kept his offense at a solid level in his full-time return behind the plate, hitting eight home runs, along with a .284 average.

First Base: Chris Davis (Orioles)*, Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays)

Davis has proved that his power swing is truly a coming of age, not a flash in the pan. He has led the AL in home runs all season (currently at 17, along with 47 RBI), and isn’t looking like that’s going to change any time soon. His tremendous season has been somewhat put in the shadows, due to Miguel Cabrera’s onslaught. On his heels is Encarnacion, who has heated up recently and is third in the AL in both home runs and RBI.

Second Base: Robinson Cano (Yankees)*, Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox), Jose Altuve (Astros)

Second base is one of the best positions in the league this year. Cano did an incredible job not only holding the Yankees together, but somehow making them the most surprising team in baseball. Pedroia is healthy and playing the best ball since his MVP year of ’07, with a .332 average. Altuve is in the mix as well, and his 60 hits prove he’s not just the obligatory Astro.

Third Base: Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)*, Evan Longoria (Rays), Manny Machado (Orioles)

While second base has been great, third has been absurd. Cabrera’s effort needs no introduction, as he’s making his Triple Crown year look like light work so far. Yet Evan Longoria and Manny Machado have been huge for their respective clubs as well. Longoria has been the catalyst for reviving the Rays offense (.320 average, 30 RBI), while Machado’s breakout season thus far shows that he deserves a  spot in the best prodigy in baseball convo. With a MLB best 23 doubles and a .335 average, he’s legit.

Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta (Tigers)*, Elvis Andrus (Rangers)

Peralta has swung a very potent bat to start the season off, sitting at third in the AL with a .339 average, and cleaning up the lower half of the Tigers brutal lineup. Andrus has shown why he was worth the investment and the long-term vote of confidence for the AL-best Rangers as well. He’s stolen 13 bases, and had his usual superb glove work as well.

Trout didn't blaze out the barrel as hard as he did a year ago, but he already has a grand slam and become the youngest player to ever complete the cycle this year.

Trout didn’t blaze out the barrel as hard as he did a year ago, but he already has a grand slam and become the youngest player to ever complete the cycle this year.

Outfield: Alex Gordon (Royals)*, Mike Trout (Angels)*, Adam Jones (Orioles)*, Jose Bautista (Blue Jays), Alex Rios (White Sox)

Outfield is coming together in a nice way in the AL. The do-everything encore season for Trout has started to fall in place; he’s third in the AL in total bases and has just started heating up. Gordon and Rios are carrying two struggling clubs in the Central, while Joey Bats has shown his wrist is just fine, busting 12 long balls over the fence as he tries to salvage the Jays year. Not to be overlooked Jones, with his 17 double/10 home run campaign thus far.

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz (Red Sox)*

Ortiz started off disabled but came back to be the final piece in the Red Sox shocking push into contention this season. He started the year with a 27 game hitting streak, and proved he’s the best DH of his era still for a reason.

Pitcher: Matt Moore (Rays), Clay Buchholz (Red Sox), Justin Verlander (Tigers), Felix Hernandez (Mariners), Yu Darvish (Rangers), Max Scherzer (Tigers), Anibal Sanchez (Tigers), Chris Sale (White Sox)

A good season isn’t enough to slide onto into the ASG over here this year, because virtually every arm in the mix has been dominant this season. Verlander and King Felix’s efforts are to be expected, but Moore, Buchholz and Scherzer are yet to taste defeat this season (combined 22-0). Darvish is on pace to become the first pitcher to hit 300 strikeouts in 10 years, while Sale and Sanchez both have one-hit outings on their resumes.

Reliever: Mariano Rivera (Yankees), Joe Nathan (Rangers), Grant Balfour (A’s), Tom Wilhelmsen (Mariners)

Rivera is having a hell of a comeback/farewell tour. The ninth inning G.O.A.T., has 18 saves added to his historical tally. Win early out West, as the division has a trio of dominant ninth inning guys in Nathan (16 saves), Balfour (28 consecutive saves) and Wilhelmsen (0.41 ERA).

For more on the run up to Citi Field and the All-Star field developing in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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Coming off of a holiday weekend, there was plenty of time to catch a lot of baseball. In the period it’s time to start looking forward to the MLB’s mid-summer holiday, the All-Star Game. And for any debates about the All-Star Game, whether it’s about the winner’s stipulation so it “matters” or if it’s the the seemingly 45-man rosters that take to each dugout for it now, it’s still one of the most fun things to debate in the first half of the season.

The first half of the year is for the individual and watching, debating and ultimately being upset about who makes (or doesn’t) the All-Star team. The league format of the MLB still creates a unique tension in all of sports about which side is superior, so in that way, it sort of does matter…even if it’s just for bragging rights.

The National League is the owner of the most recent bragging rights, as they have won the past two summer classics, and are offering another very strong group this year. And at the half way point to the half way point, here’s how I see the NL’s best shaping up. Some will stick, some won’t, but this is the best chance the senior circuit has of pushing their streak out to three years as of today.

Catcher: Yadier Molina (Cardinals), Buster Posey (Giants)

It’s not a tough call, and the names are familiar for a reason. The top two catchers in the game are right back where they would be expected to be. Molina is hitting over .330 for the year, in addition to his all-time great level defense. Posey is having another strong season as well, with an on-base percentage over .402 and a .311 average.

First Base: Joey Votto (Reds), Paul Goldschmidt (D’Backs), Anthony Rizzo (Cubs)

Votto is back to being the on-base machine that he was before his season-slowing injury last year. He’s leading the NL in batting average (.351), on-base percentage (.476) and hits (67) and having another MVP-caliber year. Goldschmidt is also factoring into that MVP picture, sitting in the top 2 in the NL in home runs and RBI. Rizzo is far from the mandatory Cub on the roster, as he’s coming into his own as a prominent power hitter in the league.

Second Base: Brandon Phillips (Reds), Marco Scutaro (Giants)

Phillips is producing runs at an elite clip. His 43 RBI have him atop the NL currently. Behind him, Scutaro has propelled his season on the back of an 18-game hitting streak, and is in the top 5 in the NL in hits.

Third Base: Pablo Sandoval (Giants), David Wright (Mets)

Third base hasn’t been as strong of a position as it usually is in the NL, but Sandoval has carried his hot October into the new year as well. He’s drove in 34 already with 8 home runs. David Wright not representing New York in the ASG would be a huge upset, but he’s playing the part as well, with 16 extra base hits and 11 stolen bases as well.

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies), Jean Segura (Brewers)

With Tulo, it’s always “if” he’s healthy, there’s nobody in his league at shortstop. Well, health has been on his side again, and that is proving to be the case again. His 10 home runs and 39 RBI have propelled the Rockies to being one of baseball’s best clubs. Segura has come into his own in his first full year in Milwaukee, hitting sparking the Brewers with a .347 average and 14 steals.

Harper already is 10 home runs short of where he was a year ago and has raised his average by nearly 20 points.

Harper already is 10 home runs short of where he was a year ago and has raised his average by nearly 20 points.

Outfield: Justin Upton (Braves), Bryce Harper (Nationals), Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies), Ryan Braun (Brewers), Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Carlos Gomez (Brewers)

The NL outfield is ridiculous this year. Upton has taken Atlanta by storm, leading the league in home runs with 14. Carlos Gonzalez is on his heels with 13, while Harper has continued his precocious assent up the “Best in baseball” ladder. The NL Central is host to dynamic trio of run producers, in Braun (.310, 33 RBI), McCutchen (27 RBI, 14 steals) and Gomez (.331 avg, 10 homers).

Starters: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Jordan Zimmermann (Nationals), Matt Harvey (Mets), Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Patrick Corbin (D’Backs), Shelby Miller (Cardinals), Jose Fernandez (Marlins), Lance Lynn (Cardinals)

Pitching has been fantastic in both leagues this year, but the NL has offered an amazing assortment of performances. There’s been the youth movement of Harvey, Corbin, Miller  and Fernandez (who have combined for 15 wins and a 3.02 ERA), the continued coming of age of Zimmermann and Lynn (who are 1 & 2 in the league in wins), as well as the continued excellence of Kershaw (77 strikeouts, 1.68 ERA) and Wainwright (seven wins, 74 strikeouts).

Reliever: Jason Grilli (Pirates), Craig Kimbrel (Braves), Aroldis Chapman (Reds), Luke Gregorsen (Padres), Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies)

Kimbrel and Chapman have been their usual overwhelming selves out the pen, while Grilli has been a ninth inning revelation (an NL-best 20 for 20 in saves opportunities). Papelbon (0.96 ERA) and Gregorsen (0.87 ERA) have been nearly untouchable on the season.

For more on the season as it’s forming and taking shape, follow me in real-time, all the time, on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Miguel-Cabrera

It seems odd to think of Miguel Cabrera in terms of all-time, already. He’s the foremost hitter in the game today easily, and he’s in the midst of one of the best primes seen in quite a while. He seems to be a very young 30 years old; after all he did come up with the Florida Marlins as a very advanced () year old, and has already had a career’s worth of accomplishments as is. World Series winner, batting champion, RBI king and home run king…with a few occurring multiple times, and quite notably as well, in the same season (in case it was a very heavy rock you’ve been underneath). With the majority of this series, it’s been based in qualify whether or not for the Hall when it’s all said and done. However, for the sake of Cabrera, it’s about looking at him from the perspective of just how high he could end up in the history of the game. And most likely, it’s a career in the works that lands among some of the most revered of all-time. Let’s have a look at it here.

The Numbers (through May 15): .320 avg, 329 home runs, 1164 RBI, 1860 hits, 396 doubles, 990 runs scored, .396 on-base percentage, .562 slugging percentage

The Case For: Perhaps only Albert Pujols is a more accomplished active overall hitter than Cabrera. Cabrera is the model of a balanced, power bat. His 162 game averages are staggering: a .320 average, 34 homers, 118 RBI, 103 runs scored and 194 hits per year. He’s topped 30 home runs and 100 RBI in all nine of his full MLB seasons, and in five of those seasons he’s bettered 40 doubles as well. In the last three seasons, which could be deemed the entry into his prime, he’s truly ramped up to a historic level. Since his age 28 year, he’s hit .340, with 82 home runs and 285 RBI, along with a .423 on-base percentage. In addition to his impact, he’s a low risk swing; he’s adjusted his swing to the point where his impact has risen along with his contact. After averaging 124 strikeouts his first six seasons against 70 walks a year, he has restricted his zone and only struck out 94 times on average per year since 2010, while raising his walks by 18 per year. He’s nearly brought his strikeouts to walks even, while improving his power numbers (33 to 37 home runs), average (.315 to .334) and total on-base plus slugging percentage (.936 to a ridiculous 1.025). For perspective, his OPS over the past three seasons would be the sixth best of all-time, behind only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds and Jimmie Foxx’s career marks. As it stands, his career OPS of .957 through 11 years is the 19th best of all-time. And he’s still trending upwards. His ability to drive in runs has already taken him to a historic level, as he is one of four players in history to drive in 1,000 runs before his 30th birthday, along with Gehrig, Pujols and Hank Aaron.

He’s a seven time All-Star that hasn’t finished outside of the top 5 in a league MVP votes in the last four years. He won a World Series in his rookie season, has he hit four home runs and 12 RBI has a 20 year old outfielder. Overall, he has appeared in three World Series before turning 30 years old.

The Case Against: If he stopped today, would he be in? It’s a tough question to ponder, because he’s still short of the “guaranteed” numbers to reach the Hall at his positions, which are particularly offense heavy. The only downfalls in his game are his speed and defensive prowess. He made strides to become a solid defensive first baseman before moving to third base before the 2012 season to accommodate Detroit’s acquisition of Prince Fielder. Conversely, third base was his original position before he was moved to first due to his lack of mobility on the opposite corner, so he’s playing out of position currently, but a bat like his will never be kept from recognition due to a slight of defense. He has had  a few legal issues that have been detractors from his character, but not to the extent that they draw his accomplishments on the field into the shade.

An early start, along with good health and a consistently improving bat has placed Cabrera in rare air regarding his potential career totals.

An early start, along with good health and a consistently improving bat has placed Cabrera in rare air regarding his potential career totals. Where he could be regarded would be among the immortals.

3. Similar players (through age 30):

–          Frank Robinson: .304 average, 373 home runs, 1131 RBI, 1855 hits, 1165 runs, 352 doubles

–          Hank Aaron: .320 average, 366 home runs, 1216 RBI, 2085 hits, 1180 runs, 351 doubles

–          Albert Pujols: .331 average, 408 home runs, 1230 RBI, 1900 hits, 1186 runs, 426 doubles

4. Cooperstown Likelihood (what’s it going to take): Basically, all it’s going to take for Cabrera to make it to the Hall is for him to #1) keep breathing, and #2) stay at a moderately above average pace. To reach 500 home runs, he’d need to stay at his current, mid-prime rate for another four to five seasons. At his current rate of 194 hits per season (his career average), he’d top 3,000 hits in roughly six years. However, the intriguing thing about Cabrera is how high he is spiking currently. He’s having some of the great production seasons in the history of baseball over his past three and a half seasons, and could easily move his time table up some. He started early, being a full-time player at age 20 and has been remarkably durable, playing in no less than 150 games a season in his career, and only once under 157. He has led the league in 15 categories already, including his historic Triple Crown effort of 2012, which potentially could end up not being his best performance of his own career (compare 2012 against how 2013 is shaping up currently).

In terms of his established potential already, as a first baseman, there have been 19 players inducted into the Hall as first basemen, and it is among the most competitive positions of all-time. While he has some way to go to reach the standard marks of a Hall of Fame first baseman (which for comparison sake in this era would be a career such as Willie McCovey, Eddie Murray or Johnny Mize), he’s on pace to hit some pretty hallowed marks with another eight seasons or so that he projects to play at. For projections sake at the likely halfway point in his career, Cabrera could have another 204 home runs, 732 RBI, 246 doubles and 1,164 hits ahead of him. That would put his career totals at 533 homers, 1861 RBI, 642 doubles and 3,024 hits, good for top 5 all-time at the most offensive dominant position the history of the game…at just 36 years old, or just two years younger than Derek Jeter is now.

All of this considered before he enters his DH-only twilight, where he could tack on another 75 homers or so to cap off what truly is, and can be one of the most spectacular careers of all-time.

So if the question is asked today, is Miguel Cabrera in, out or in-between the Hall of Fame, the correct answer is IN-BETWEEN, but enjoy saying that now, because in two years (when he’s a grand old age of 32) that answer will probably be outdated.

For more on what’s happening right now along the road to the Hall for Miggy and many more, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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Wednesday night was my time in the rotation for the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour once again, with Tara Wellman. In addition to covering the end of the Cardinals 4-2 victory over the New York Mets, we touched on a spread of topics around the Cardinals currently.

On yesterday’s show, we discussed riches and roles of the young Cardinals pitchers, who are currently beginning to push their way onto the big league club. Also in the same neighborhood of topics, we touched on the potential returns to the club, including what Mitchell Boggs, Marc Rzepczynski, and even Chris Carpenter. What could each mean to the team and how it progress across the season.

In addition to these, check out our word on why Shelby Miller is having such quick success, what’s the real difference in Adam Wainwright from ever before and the indispensable impact of Matt Carpenter as well.

These topics along, along with plenty more made the UCB Radio Hour what it was, and the podcast is available for download here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ivieleagueproductions/2013/05/16/ucb-radio-hour

And for more Cardinal talk along the way, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan 

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For a while, it’s been my intention to start bringing together links and info on all of the different outlets I’m writing at back here to CSP, so that followers can know where to see everything I’m at in a given week. When I started up, this was the only place I was writing at,  so it was simple to see everything I was putting out by simply logging on here each morning and see what is waiting. However, since then I’ve become a bit more involved elsewhere, and I keep regular columns on multiple sites, so keeping up can be a bit more difficult now than even a year ago.

So, from now on, I’ll be posting a new weekly recap column here on Sundays or Monday’s bringing the entire week that was together. It will consist of my primary outlets of the m0ment for me, as well as any new print or radio/podcast work I do in the course of the week.

I suppose this is a good thing! A way to keep things small as they grow, and hopefully continue to do so. So at any rate, here’s where things have been over the past week.

 

Monday–I took a look back at the Cardinals weekend in Milwaukee, and how their offense finally kicked out of tough early season rut at i70Baseballhttp://www.i70baseball.com/2013/05/07/cardinalsbrewers-three-thing-to-walk-with/

Wednesday--Right here at CSP, my summer series on who’s in, out or in-between being a Hall of Famer one day continued, with the curious case of Carlos Beltran’s career was examined: https://cheapseatsplease.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/in-out-or-in-between-carlos-beltran-and-cooperstown/

Friday–The Cardinals first trip to Chicago of the year was chronicled, as Yadi Molina’s exploits on the bases determined the direction the series both started and finished: http://www.i70baseball.com/2013/05/10/cardinalscubs-three-things-to-walk-with/

Friday–Right now in Boston, there’s really something remarkable going on, as the Red Sox are tackling free agency in a quiet, yet resoundingly successful way. Here’s my word for the week in the other Cheap Seats at The Sports Fan Journalhttp://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/how-the-red-sox-rebuilt-the-right-way/

 

For more commentary in the moment, make the move you should have made a long time back, and follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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In the second entry of this series, the spotlight turns to Carlos Beltran, who has had quite the diverse career. In his 16-year career, he’s had five stops along the road, starting with the Kansas City Royals, before a brief (yet impactful…more on this later) stop in Houston. Then he had the longest stop of his career with the New York Mets, before another brief stop in San Francisco, before arriving at his current home with the St. Louis Cardinals. All along, his career has been defined by the rare run of constant potential: the chance to be a big time player, then the opportunity to showcase it, due to a mixture of struggling clubs and injury woes. However, when all things are considered, he’s put together a solid resume of work and has been one of the better outfielders of the past decade. But is that enough for him to be considered on a historic level? Let’s see where Beltran stands on the big picture.

The Numbers (pre-2013)

–          16 years (age 36): .282 avg, 334 home runs, 1243 RBI, 2064 hits, 416 doubles, 74 triples, 306 stolen bases, .360 on-base percentage, .496 slugging percentage

1. The Case For: When he was one of the most consistent hitters in baseball for the better part of his first ten seasons. He played his first full season at age 22, and also had his first 100 RBI season. He followed that with eight of the next ten seasons, averaging 98 RBI per season. Across that same time span, he hit better than 25 home runs six different times, with a career-high of 41 in 2006. It is arguable what was his greatest skill during that time span as well, his power or his speed. From 2001-04, he averaged 37 stolen bases a season, and his 38 homer/42 stolen base 2004 season made him a strong member of the 30-30 club. He is also one of the most accomplished switch hitters of all-time, hitting the sixth most homers ever for a split duty guy. He’s also the only switch hitter in MLB history to hit 300 homers and steal 300 bases.

However, his two very strong assets that set him apart from a glut of other dually capable players is ability in the field and his high pressure ability. At his best, he was one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball. He won three Gold Gloves from 2006-08 when his game was at its best, and twice won the Fielding Bible’s honors for best center fielder in baseball as well. He has a strong and accurate arm as well, and has eight seasons of at least 10 outfield assists.

In postseason play, he is one of the greatest hitters of all-time. He has a .363 batting average in 37 career playoff games, along with 14 home runs, including a record eight in one postseason in a 2004 October with the Astros that only consisted of 12 games. His five consecutive postseason games with a homer that season are also a record.

2. The Case Against: While Beltran’s production has been impressive; he did lose some significant years to injury in his mid-prime seasons. Over a three-year stretch from 2009-2011, he played in a total of 287 games, and only played in over half a season once. During this time he battled multiple knee injuries, which robbed him of much of his speed. From 2009-2012, he averaged only eight stolen bases a season, and had to move to right field due to both loss of range and preservation. He’s never been a particularly prolific hitter from an average sense either, only hitting over .290 three times in his career. Also, despite a long and steady career, he’s been an All-Star in less than half his seasons, and has never finished in the Top 3 in any Most Valuable Player vote.

3. Similiar Players (through age 35)

Andre Dawson (.283 avg, 346 home runs, 1231 RBI, 2201 hits, 396 doubles, 300 steals)

Dave Winfield (.285 avg, 332 home runs, 1331 RBI, 2241 hits, 375 doubles, 200 steals)

Bernie Williams (.301 avg, 263 home runs, 1132 RBI, 2097 hits, 401 doubles, 144 steals)

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Diversity is Beltran’s ally, but being able to see the peak of his abilities completely could be his undoing when it comes time for the vote.

4. Cooperstown Likelihood (what’s it going to take): Beltran finds himself in a tough position regarding how he profiles for the Hall of Fame. As a centerfielder, he finds himself in an extremely difficult group to compare against in terms of all-time numbers. There have been 18 primary players at the position that have been inducted thus far, not counting the inevitable election of Ken Griffey, Jr before Beltran’s eligibility clock starts.

Once again, the potential of Beltran comes in the spotlight again. He both is, and isn’t, an elite performer at his position. Beltran’s career WAR (64.9) tells a story that shows him on the fringe of being in the top 10 players to ever play the position. His five-tooled impact during his prime and late career renaissance as a power hitter has helped him to get in range of some very solid marks. With another 20 home runs in 2013, he’ll pass none other than Joe DiMaggio’s career mark of 361, as well as move him into the top 10 all-time at centerfield. That’s an impressive, but it’s really the only strong claim to fame he’ll make.

The potential of Carlos Beltran will ultimately be his undoing. He lost the years that would have put him firmly in range to make a run at the Hall, especially in light of the productive turn he’s taken with the Cardinals in the last two years. His three-year average coming into the 2009 season, where injuries first took a substantial toll on him (at age 32, his late prime) was a .278/34/113 effort, with 22 steals and 37 doubles added on as well. An addition two years of those changes everything about what his potential is. He’d be in range to top 400 home runs and 2,500 hits, in addition to the 300 steals he’s already accumulated.

An output of that caliber would have put Beltran on par with Dawson, who was considered to be more of a fringe HOF. Who knows what could have happened in withat time. Perhaps Beltran would have filled out his entire potential, and became the best player in the National League for at least one full season (although he had terrible timing for a coming of age with the dominance of Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols happening simultaneously as his best years). Beltran has as unique niche established, but it’s all based on the ‘almost’ instead of the ‘done’. He’s a postseason hero, without a Championship. He is a power hitter, who’s never led in any major category. A Rookie of the Year, that never took the next major award step. Instead of having the case that Dawson had, being an MVP, he’s more in the haze range of Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds, and as of now, that’s proven to be very great, but not immortal.

So, when it’s all said and done, and the question is asked about Carlos Beltran’s place in history: is he in, out or in-between, the numbers are solid, but the time lost will hurt, and he will remain OUT.

For more on Beltran’s road to prove me wrong (although he’ll never ever know I wrote this in all likelihood), follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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In the first of this summer’s project series for me here at CSP on what active ballplayers could be due for a call to Cooperstown, I’ll be taking a look at the credentials of Adrian Beltre. In a certain way, Beltre has flown under the radar, from a production perspective. He is veteran of (…) years, spent initially with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and then moving along to the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and now Texas Rangers. In a time where third base depth is at arguably the highest group caliber it has ever been, Beltre has stayed consistent as any throughout the years, and now with Chipper Jones retired, he is the longest tenured everyday third baseman in the game. He has quietly offered up a very good career, and is entering into his crucial years for potential immortality. Here’s what he has both in his favor, against it and potentially where it all lands.

The numbers (pre 2013):

– 15 seasons (age 34) .279 average, 351 home runs, 1215 RBI, 2227 hits, 463 doubles, 30 triples, 115 stolen bases, .331 on-base %, .476 slugging percentage

1. The Case For: In making a point for Beltre, looking at the complete body of work is important. He’s already reached 350 career home runs, and has nine seasons of at least 20. His single-season high is 48 with the Dodgers in 2004. What’s more is that he’s shown great ability to be a consistent overall run producer as well; he has topped 80 RBI in nine separate seasons, and his in-prime years have seen him best 100 in three consecutive seasons since 2010. Beltre is one of the rare players that broke in as a teenager and stuck; he is entering his 16th season and is only 34 years old. Across that time he has played in an average of 141 games per season, and topped 150 in seven seasons.

Yet the greatest asset of his game perhaps is his defensive acumen. He has become the best defensive third baseman in the game currently, and has won the previous two American League Gold Gloves, bringing his career total to four. The Fielding Bible, which measures a variety of defensive metrics, as named him the best at the position in six separate seasons.

2. The Case Against: In the midst of his career, he slipped dangerously close to the “wasted” potential category of players…in a perspective way. The huge spike of home runs that he hit in 2004 followed a stretch he averaged 21 home runs a year for the next four years, in addition to not getting his average above .276 in any season, and has low as .255. Basically, he went through a very mortal stretch. In that time, a brand new stretch of third basemen came along in David Wright, Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman that took the spotlight at the position. Basically, he spent a good portion of his career being average, but the high seasons have added up and made some growing impressive totals here at the back end of his prime.

Beltre's acumen in the field is truly an asset, as he is among the premier best corner infielders of his time.

Beltre’s acumen in the field is truly an asset, as he is among the premier best corner infielders of his time, with both range (.958 fielding %) and arm.

3. Similar Players (through age 33)

Ron Santo (.279 avg, 337 home runs, 1290 RBI, 2,171 hits, 353 doubles)

Cal Ripken, Jr (.280 avg, 310 home runs, 1179 RBI, 2227 hits, 414 doubles)

Orlando Cepeda (.298 avg, 354 home runs, 1252 RBI, 2144 hits, 384 doubles)

4. Cooperstown Likelihood (what’s it going to take): Third base is a developing position in regards to Hall of Fame caliber players. There are 13 HOFers currently considered to be primary third basemen throughout their careers. Of them, the “magic number” rule (500 HRS, 3000 hits, etc) isn’t in play for that many at the position. Only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews have passed 500 homers, while George Brett and Wade Boggs are the only members of the 3,000 hit club. Beltre’s projection over the course of the remainder of his career put him short of both of those numbers, so the complete body of work is what he’ll have to lean on.

He’ll likely pass 400 home runs, which would put him in the top 5 all-time at third. It would be helpful to surpass Darrell Evan’s mark of 414 to pull him closer to his contemporary, Chipper Jones, who’s 468 have him third all-time currently at the position. If he averages 150 hits a year over the next four seasons, he’ll top 2,800 hits, which would a very strong case of placing him among the elite of bats to play the position. It would move him into range with a player that he has some in common with, due to his defensive acumen: Brooks Robinson.

Robinson, a 16-time Gold Glove winner, is the absolute standard defensively at the hot corner. Beltre, the standard bearer of his era, could present an intriguing case on his behalf by approaching (or surpassing) Hoover’s 2,848 hits, which currently stands as the fourth best total of all-time for the 3B. It also would pull Beltre past Chipper Jones, the preeminent offensive third baseman of his time.

Overall, there’s more work to do, but Beltre is currently in good range. For intangibles, not winning a major award in his career isn’t helpful, nor is not having a championship on his resume. But luckily he plays a position where there’s a lot of growth during his time, and he’s had multiple seasons of finishing in the top 5 in AL MVP race (2004, 2012). Advanced metrics show him already on the verge of being a candidate: Baseball-Reference’s JAWS meter places him as the 13th most productive 3B all-time, and there are only three players (Craig Nettles, Edgar Martinez and Scott Rolen) in between him and breaking into the elite area of the position manned currently by Paul Molitor and Brooks Robinson. Adding in his defense and continued offensive production at an average rate into his decline seasons, and Beltre has a much better than expected case for being a member of Cooperstown eventually.

So when it’s all said and done, when the question is asked, is Adrian Beltre In, Out or In-Between, as things stand already, in my estimation, he’s really the definition of IN-BETWEEN as it stands right now.

For more on the season as it unfolds (and some of everything else as it unfolds around me), follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan