Once again Carlos Beltran is being discussed in regards to the Mets. This latest activity is due to comments that Beltran gave regarding his time with the team at a recent B.A.T. dinner. Beltran always has been a polarizing player among Mets fans and his most recent remarks have done nothing to bridge the divide between those who thought he was unappreciated and those who felt he was a choker.
I am firmly in the former camp but today I want to talk about Beltran in another manner. This offseason he signed a two-year deal with the Cardinals. If Beltran can stay healthy and produce during the span of that contract, he can strengthen what already is a solid Hall of Fame case. And barring a return to the Royals, Beltran will have spent more time with the Mets than with any other team in his career.
It’s entirely possible that 10 years are so from now that Beltran will go into Cooperstown wearing a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
For the benefit of those who feel like Beltran should not enter the Hall without a ticket, let’s look at his Hall of Fame resume. He’s a Rookie of the Year Award winner, a six-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner and his 88 percent lifetime Stolen Base percentage is one of the highest marks in MLB history. He’s been an outstanding postseason performer, with a .366/.485/.817 slash line in 101 PA.
According to Baseball-Reference, Beltran has a lifetime 60.4 WAR following last year’s 4.4 tally. There’s no hard and fast rule for lifetime WAR and the Hall of Fame but anyone who has accumulated 60 WAR certainly deserves a long look. Let’s look at the people already in the Hall who played the majority of their career in center field like Beltran did. The following list is HOF members with at least 50% of their games played in CF, sorted by WAR.
The first 16 players on this list were chosen for their playing career. Hanlon was elected as a manager, Wright made it as a pioneer/executive and Conlan’s enshrined as an umpire. Our 16 CF have the following WAR:
The average skews high due to the inclusion of inner circle HOFers Cobb, Mays, Speaker and Mantle. If we eliminate the top four and bottom four out of our 16-player sample, our average is 58.5, which tracks nicely with our median. Beltran is already above both numbers and could finish with over 65 WAR by the time his career ends. That would put him in the range of Snider, who everyone considers a no-brainer HOF selection.
Snider was an outstanding offensive player, even taking his home ballpark into account. His last season in Ebbets Field, Snider had 40 HR and a .955 OPS as a 30 year old. The following year in LA, Snider had 15 HR and an .875 OPS. But we can see by OPS+ how great Snider was offensively, as this stat neutralizes for park and league. Here are the top 10 OPS+ numbers for Snider and Beltran:
Snider: 171, 169, 165, 155, 149, 143, 140, 139, 137, 135
Beltran 152, 150, 144, 132, 132, 129, 125, 122, 114, 109
Essentially, Snider had Beltran’s career, plus three better seasons. But it should be pointed out that Beltran is still active and his career-best 152 mark came last season. If Beltran stays healthy, he will knock the bottom two OPS+ marks off his 10-best list during his time with the Cardinals.
So, how can Beltran be so close to Snider when the Duke laps him with the bat? Because there’s more to baseball than just hitting and Beltran stars in these areas while Snider – let’s just say he was a great hitter.
We already talked about what a phenomenal baserunner Beltran has been in his career. Snider had 99 SB and 50 CS in his career, so this is a big edge for Beltran. Defensively, the Gold Glove Award was instituted during the middle of Snider’s career and he never won one. Even if it had been around his entire career, it’s unlikely he would have been a recipient. Snider has a lifetime -2.1 dWAR. Meanwhile, Beltran checks in with a 7.2 dWAR.
When defense and baserunning are important components of your Hall of Fame case, it’s always a bit more troublesome for the voters than if the great majority of your value comes as a hitter, as is the case with Snider. Beltran’s career also lacks the narrative that Snider’s has. The Duke was one of three great CF in New York during the 1950s, he hit 4 HR in the 1955 World Series and had a 1.210 OPS in the series when the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees. Beltran had the monster 2004 postseason, but that ended in a loss in the NLCS.
But even if he retired today, Beltran would go down as one of the top 10 CF in MLB history.
It seems like during his inspired play last year, that more Mets fans were finally starting to give Beltran his due. There’s a good chance Beltran will reach the postseason again with the Cardinals and performing well again on the national stage will only help his case with the voters. Here’s hoping that voters recognize Beltran’s greatness with election to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot and that Mets fans rejoice when he goes in with a Mets cap on his plaque.