Remember the 2004 campaign when Adrian Beltre, at the age of 25, crushed 48 home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then the following offseason the Seattle Mariners forked over a very large sum of $12 million per year for the “one-hit” wonder. I recall thinking that it was a lot of money for a player that had ONE good year, one GREAT year, to be more accurate. But I wasn’t sure that it was a BAD move, because after all, Beltre showed some greatness already. Then after a down year, at least relative to what he had done the year before, and taking into account the large contract he signed, I grew skeptical of the signing. And a lot of other analysts/experts/fans/ignorant fans/economists were on board. And rightfully so. $12 million a year for a player that hit below average (OPS+, 93), and adding in his glove was roughly around average? That is just too much.
But…although Beltre struggled some his first year in Seattle, and has never come close to duplicating his 2004 numbers. He has been an above average player the past few seasons. Let us look at his Win Share totals the past few years. And we will stick strictly to third baseman. The top three “Win Shares” seasons between 2005 and 2007 go to none other than ARod, the best 3B in the game, with 39, 37, and 25. Let us eliminate the 37 and 39, for that is exceptional, a few of the best seasons of all time. And comparing any third baseman’s single season over each of the past three full season to that number is just not fair. But I will include AROD’s seasons.
Anyway, there are 14 starting third baseman in the AL alone. So, there should be about 42 “Win Shares” seasons amongst all of them (3 for each 3B). This is again, between 2005-2007. Adrian Beltre has two of the top 15 seasons in terms of Win Shares, with 19 and 18, respectively. Also take into account that if one were to exclude Arod’s top two seasons of ridiculousness, then the highest “Win Shares” total would be Arod with 25. So it looks much better if Beltre is not compared to the great outliers that ARod has put up. And Beltre’s “less than stellar” 2005 actually falls in at 21st out of the 42 total seasons by the AL’s 3rd baseman.
Aside from Win Shares, here are Beltre’s offensive outputs in terms of OPS+. 93, 105, and 112. This year his OPS+ sits at a nice 114. But remember, Beltre has one of the best gloves at the position, and he has also played in 149 games, 156 games, and 156 again in each of his past three seasons. In those same three seasons, Beltre finished fifth in John Dewan’s plus/minus system (defensive efficiency) behind Feliz, Inge, Rolen, and Crede. All of whom have good gloves.
Adrian Beltre’s counting numbers have been way down though. But some of that is opportunity, I believe. I haven’t looked at the individual opportunities that he has come upon, but his team finished 7th in Runs scored last year, 7th in OBP (AL). In 2006 the Mariners finished 13th in runs scored, and 13th in OBP. And in 2005 the Mariners were 13th in runs scored, and 14th in OBP. Funny how a team’s “runs scored” and OBP match up so well sometimes, huh? I think it is safe to say that Beltre hasn’t had many opportunities to pad his RBI totals in the three seasons that he has spent in Seattle. Part of the totals for the Mariners may lie in the fact that Safeco is a “pitchers park” but a larger part is that they simply don’t get on base enough. And Beltre definitely doesn’t help the cause, as his highest OBP since he arrived in Seattle has been .328. His strengths have been his slugging, and of course his “Gold” glove. But if you look back at his career he has never hit for much in the average category, and has never drawn many walks either. With the exception of 2004, where he batted .334 and drew 53 walks, 9 intentionally. The Mariners should have noticed those deficiencies in his game, which I am not sure that they did.
But overall, Beltre has been a decent-above average 3B while he has been in Seattle. He plays a lot, he hits for power, and he adds a very good glove. And once he comes off the books, the Mariners should be able to feel comfortable with the production they received for the money they they paid. Which I wasn’t sure they would have felt right after he had played out his first full season in Seattle.
And of course, do not forget the whispers…
NOTE: Sorry about the unoriginal title, but it was either that or simply “Adrian Beltre.”