The Legacy of Adrian Beltre

When the Texas Rangers come to Seattle tomorrow to play the Mariners, third baseman Adrian Beltre won’t be suiting up for Texas due to a calf injury.

That’s unfortunate.

I suspect a segment of Seattle’s fan base is ambivalent to Beltre’s absence from the Rangers lineup. After all, the least productive period of his 20-year big league career occurred while wearing a Mariners uniform.

It’s true Beltre wasn’t the dynamic offensive force Mariners fans had hoped for after he signed a five-year/$64 million free agent deal in December 2004.

On the other hand, he wasn’t a bust in Seattle.

As a Mariner, Beltre won two Gold Gloves and averaged 21 home runs and 32 doubles annually. Moreover, there’s no denying he was clearly the greatest third baseman in franchise history until the emergence of Kyle Seager. The 38-year-old also rates as one of the best at his position ever.

All-Time Best Third Basemen (based on bWAR)
Player WAR G PA H HR BA OBP SLG
Mike Schmidt * 106.5 2404 10062 2234 548 .267 .380 .527
Eddie Mathews * 96.4 2391 10100 2315 512 .271 .376 .509
Wade Boggs * 91.1 2440 10740 3010 118 .328 .415 .443
Adrian Beltre ** 90.2 2720 11260 2942 445 .286 .338 .480
George Brett * 88.4 2707 11625 3154 317 .305 .369 .487
Chipper Jones ** 85.0 2499 10614 2726 468 .303 .401 .529
Brooks Robinson * 78.4 2896 11782 2848 268 .267 .322 .401
Ron Santo * 70.4 2243 9397 2254 342 .277 .362 .464
Scott Rolen ** 70.0 2038 8518 2077 316 .281 .364 .490
Graig Nettles 68.0 2700 10228 2225 390 .248 .329 .421
 * Hall of Fame        ** Not HOF eligible yet

On the field, Beltre is a defensive stalwart. Only the great Brooks Robinson has produced more defensive value (39 WAR) at third base than the four-time all-star (27.5).

Among contemporaries patrolling the hot corner, he’s equally impressive. Since 2014, Nolan Arenado — 13 years younger than Beltre — is the lone player with more defensive runs saved (54) than the five-time Gold Glove winner (42).

 

For those who don’t subscribe to sabermetrics, the Rangers’ third baseman also looks appealing through the prism of standard statistics.

Beltre already has more hits (2,829) while playing third base than anyone else in the history of the game. Only Mike Schmidt (509) and Eddie Mathews (461) have more home runs his 420. For those wondering, Alex Rodriguez logged more games, hits, and homers as a shortstop than third base.

Entering this season, the four-time Silver Slugger award winner ranks number-33 on the all-time hit list and trails Frank Robinson by one hit. Considering he’s under contract through 2018 with Texas, it’s plausible he finishes his career within the top-15.

Although currently on the disabled list, Beltre has been exceptionally durable. Before last week, he hadn’t missed an Opening Day since 2001 and has averaged 152 games annually since 2012. Only Brooks Robinson (2,834) has played more contests at third base than Beltre (2,598).

Clearly in the twilight of his career, Beltre hasn’t played like someone ready to hang up his spikes. Rather, he’s been historically good. Since 1961, only three players had a higher bWAR between ages 35-37. You’ve probably heard of them.

Top-5 Players Ages 35-37 (Since 1961)
Player WAR G PA H HR BA OBP SLG OPS
Barry Bonds 31.3 439 1883 452 168 .333 .512 .782 1.295
Hank Aaron 20.3 436 1810 480 129 .308 .397 .616 1.012
Willie Mays 19.6 441 1746 431 82 .281 .359 .501 .860
Adrian Beltre 19.3 444 1873 516 69 .304 .360 .489 .849
Roberto Clemente 17.5 342 1421 441 37 .336 .378 .512 .890

It’s likely the four-time all-star finishes his distinguished career in a Rangers uniform, which seems apropos since his Hall of Fame credentials were cemented deep in the heart of Texas.

Perhaps, by the time he reaches Cooperstown, any disappointment surrounding Beltre’s stint as Mariner will diminish.

It should.

Adrian Beltre was better in Seattle than perceived. He’s also an all-time great who’s fun to watch.

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Luke Arkins

Luke is a native New Yorker, who was sent to the Pacific Northwest by the Navy and then decided to stay. He grew up as a New York Mets fan and continues to follow them from afar, although he can be frequently found at Safeco Field observing the hometown team. You can follow Luke on Twitter @luke_arkins

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One thought on “The Legacy of Adrian Beltre

  1. Anonymous

    Especially a drag to not see a few Felix and AB battles tonight!

Thoughts?