ESPN ran an interesting piece on Carlos Beltran the other day, talking about the start of his career, his return to Kansas City for the All-Star Game this year, and his chances for the Hall of Fame. Maybe this shouldn’t surprise me at this point, but after reading the comments, there seemed to be a large gulf between what Hiram Martinez thought of Beltran’s Cooperstown odds and what the readers seemed to think.
I already have some thoughts on the matter; mostly, that Beltran had already established himself as a borderline Hall of Fame case last season and anything he adds from this year and on only makes his case that much harder to deny. Apparently, I am in something of a minority in this view. Granted, the ESPN comment section isn’t exactly full of people with an in-depth knowledge of the game and its history, but I think it serves as an interesting point for seeing where people stand. And opinions seemed to range from those similar to mine to “needs a few more seasons like this one” to “no way he makes it, even with a few more good years”.
Since I always love writing about Hall of Fame debates, I figure now is as good a time as any to examine where exactly Beltran stands. As of Wednesday morning, he stands at 1845 games played, 2001 hits, 322 home runs, and 300 steals. He stands sixth all time among switch hitters in home runs, 28 behind Chili Davis (a mark he is almost sure to pass next year if he stays healthy, seeing as he already has 20 this year). He also just became the eighth member of the 300 home run-300 double club. But volume of numbers aren’t everything-they may also just be a sign that a player held on too long. What about Beltran’s rates?
Those hold up really well, actually. He has a .284/.362/.499 slash line (average/OBP/slugging), good for a 123 OPS+, meaning he’s been a solid above average hitter. In addition, his 86.957 stolen base percent ranks top in history among players with more than 200 steals. Most fielding stats also have Beltran as above average as well.
Wins Above Replacement is obviously good for estimating a player’s place in history. Beltran has, in his 15 seasons, been worth 61.5 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference. Fangraph’s calculation of that stat has him at 64.5. Both marks leave him near the borderline for the Hall’s standards. Around 60 WAR is where players start getting serious consideration.
Where does this rank him among center fielders in history, though? Fangraphs has him 14th in history among players who spent a majority of their careers in center. Baseball-Reference has him even higher, at ninth. Looking at who is ranked ahead of Beltran might help us reflect on his case. The top four, on both sites, are Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, and Mickey Mantle. Both sites had Ken Griffey, Jr. and Joe Dimaggio nxt, although in different orders. After that, Beltran is in a cluster of players with similar career value: Kenny Lofton, Duke Snider, Richie Ashburn, Andruw Jones, and Jim Edmonds. Essentially, there are two tiers of center fielders; the absolute legends, and everybody else.
Even if there’s room for error in these rankings, there are eighteen center fielders currently enshrined in Cooperstown. Even being in the top fourteen would seem to warrant major Hall consideration, let alone the top ten. Is Carlos Beltran a top ten center fielder? I don’t know for sure, but he’s definitely worthy of the Hall.