December 19, 2018

Adrian Beltre Was the All-Time Great You Failed to Notice

Beltre’s eye-popping runs saved numbers are a reflection of his ability to make any kind of play in the field.

In one four-season span, Sports Info Solutions rated him as the best third baseman in baseball at turning balls hit down the third base line into outs, and in an entirely separate three-season span, he was the best third baseman at turning balls hit in the shortstop-third base hole into outs, according to that company’s plus-minus system.

“He was able to be great going in one direction without sacrificing excellence going in the other direction,” Mark Simon, a senior researcher for Sports Info Solutions, said in an email.

All of that leaves Beltre’s 3,000 hits as a middle-of-the-order slugger as something of an afterthought. But even as a batter, with easier to understand statistics, Beltre may be underappreciated.

To get an idea of why, you have to consider where Beltre spent the first 12 seasons of his career. He started at Dodger Stadium, which played as a pitchers’ park in all seven seasons he was there, and then he moved to Seattle’s Safeco Field, a notoriously difficult park where home runs go to die on the warning track. As a result, he spent the first 13 years of his career performing far better on the road than he did at home, with the most extreme season being 2001, when his on-base-plus-slugging percentage on the road was 200 points higher than his percentage at home.

Beltre may have spent the last eight years of his career in the Rangers’ hitter-friendly ballpark in Arlington, but he still finished his career with more hits, home runs and R.B.I. on the road than he had at home, and his .818 road O.P.S. is the 19th highest of any player who compiled 5,000 or more at-bats away from home, ahead of Hall of Fame infielders like Cal Ripken Jr., Derek Jeter and Paul Molitor.

When you add all of it together, Beltre easily backs up Schmidt’s praise. And in five years, it will be no surprise when he walks across the stage in Cooperstown as the newest Hall of Fame inductee. Hopefully no one will touch his head.

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