Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre roped a in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game to reach 3,000 hits. Now that he’s reached this exclusive club, we’re bound to see plenty of columns around the ‘net that he’s one day headed to the Hall of Fame. It’s true. He will be a Hall of Famer one day, barring something unforeseen, but it was already true. The 3,000-hit barrier is just a relatively arbitrary measure that will make some people feel better about putting Beltre where he already belonged.
We’re talking about a guy who is already north of 600 doubles, 450 home runs, 1,600 RBI and 1,450 runs. He’s won five Gold Gloves at the hot corner along with four Silver Sluggers. He’s received MVP votes eight times, finishing in the top three twice and the top seven five times.
Uh oh, people are gonna scream because I’m gonna mention WAR. But I’m gonna mention WAR so you’re gonna have to deal with it. Beltre ranks 29th in baseball history among position players in WAR. Yes, he’s a top-30 all-time position player by that measure. He’s ahead of Wade Boggs, George Brett and Chipper Jones. In Jay Jaffe’s excellent JAWS method of determining rightful Hall of Famers, Beltre is crushing the average Hall of Fame third baseman and, in fact, ranks fourth all-time behind only Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews and Boggs. Brett, Jones, Ron Santo and Brooks Robinson immediately follow Beltre.
This is where some would cry out that this only shows the flaws in those stats, but it actually only shows that Beltre has been wildly underappreciated in his time.
I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth saying again: If Beltre gets to 500 home runs (I think he will), he’ll join Hank Aaron as the only player in MLB history with at least 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 500 home runs, 1,500 runs and 1,500 RBI. If we lower the home run threshold to 450, only Stan Musial and Carl Yastrzemski get added to the mix.
With no MVPs and very few years leading the league in anything, some might worry that Beltre is more “good” than “great,” but that’s moving the goalposts. In looking at the Hall of Fame, there are dozens of players with far inferior resumes to Beltre.
Plus, he is great. He has a better career average than Schmidt and Mathews. He has a better slugging percentage than Santo and Paul Molitor. He has more hits than all but 29 men who have ever played this game. He’s 15th in career doubles. He’s in the top 40 in home runs and RBI. He’s 21st in total bases and extra-base hits.
In looking through Beltre’s top similarity scores on baseball-reference.com, the following Hall of Famers come up in Beltre’s top 10: Andre Dawson (1st), Al Kaline (2), Chipper Jones (5, and I know he’s not in yet, but he will be when eligible), Billy Williams (6), Ernie Banks (8), Tony Perez (9) and Dave Winfield (10).
Beltre isn’t done, either. He’s signed through next season and is currently having a big season, piggybacking off last year’s .300/.358/.521 (129 OPS+) line.
Congrats on the 3,000th hit go out to Adrian Beltre, but he was already a Hall of Famer and arguably a top-five third baseman in baseball history. Now he’s simply polishing up that resume.