On April 14, Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre scored his 1,000th career run. Oh, you didn’t hear about it? Well, that’s to be expected. The feat wasn’t particularly well publicized, and run milestones don’t seem to garner much attention anyway.
What, then, makes the 33-year-old Beltre’s 1,000th crossing of home plate so meaningful that one should put metaphorical quill to parchment and expound upon the landmark?
First, it’s a pretty impressive feat, even if it’s not particularly rare—he joins 29 other active members and more than 300 members overall. The active crew is riddled with greats like Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki—that’s a pretty good fraternity to be in.
Most importantly, however, is that it signals the Dominican third-sacker could be quietly putting together a Hall of Fame career.
Third basemen with 1,000 runs, 2,000 hits and 300 home runs are a pretty rare breed. Only four have posted those numbers since 1980, with Beltre and Cooperstown shoo-in Chipper Jones amongst the flock.
It's even more note-worthy when you compare the feat to first basemen.
In that span, more than twice as many first basemen have posted those types of numbers. Clearly, protectors of the hot corner with even decent power and hit-ability—by first basemen standards, at least—are hard to come by.
And Adrian Beltre is one of them, placing him in an elite group.
Of course, that's not to say that if Beltre were to retire today he would be a Hall of Famer. Sure, among his positional peers he is in a supreme cabal, but to the untrained eye, he is still only decent.
Since third basemen don’t often reach the “milestone” numbers like 500 home runs and 3,000 hits with regularity, they are often underappreciated and even considered inferior to players at other positions on the diamond.
They are somewhere between the historically über-defensive shortstop and second base positions and the über-offensive first base and right field positions. Being caught in the in-between is one reason third base is an underrepresented position in the Hall of Fame.
And that’s why Beltre needs to keep adding to his career totals and accolades before he can rightfully claim a spot in Cooperstown.
Yes, he has three Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers, but a couple more of each wouldn’t hurt. Sure, he’s been an All-Star twice, and though All-Star appearances aren’t always a huge indicator of a Hall of Fame career—Robin Yount was only selected to three and Bert Blyleven to two—it wouldn’t hurt for him to tack on a couple more to his resume. Although, he could toil on the ballot for over a decade as 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Blyleven did.
And while accolades are nice, they don’t mean nearly as much if statistics aren’t there to back them up. Yes, 2,000 hits and 300 home runs are good—fantastic, even, for third basemen—but they don’t jump out at voters and the layperson.
Fellow hot corner specialist Gary Gaetti had over 2,200 knocks and 360 longballs to boot, and though he is fondly remembered, no one is clamoring for his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Because of the position he mans, it is hard to say what Beltre needs to do to gain Cooperstown membership.
Mike Schmidt earned election after hitting 548 home runs and playing great defense, yet Ron Santo entered the Hall, albeit after a long wait, with 342 dingers and defense that was only slightly above average, according to Defensive WAR. It’s a variable position with variable “rules” for induction.
Instead, let’s look at what he is on pace to achieve, according to famed sabermatrician Bill James’ projection system called the “Favorite Toy.” And we can see if those numbers are enough to earn him the most prestigious call in all of baseball.
Using the tool, we find that Beltre is projected to hit 403 home runs and finish with 2,765 hits. And he’s heading towards nearly 1,500 RBI and over 1,300 runs.
Now those are Hall of Fame numbers, and, notably, they are not digits constructed from fantasy—they are what he is extrapolated to achieve.
In the history of the game, only four third basemen have hit more than 400 home runs. And only three have collected at least 2,700 hits. Yet not one has combined such power numbers with those hit totals—something Beltre is statistically projected to do.
Chipper might be the first to join that club—he stands only 80 hits away from 2,700, and he already has over 450 moonshots. But Beltre, being half of that guild of two, would be a no-doubter for the Hall if he reached those numbers.
Now, that’s not saying he has to reach those marks to be a Hall of Famer.
He could easily collect 2,400 hits and whack 350 home runs to one day earn election, but he’d have to wait a few years, just as Ron Santo did. (Coincidentally, Beltre is most statistically similar to Santo through age 32, according to Baseball-Reference.com.)
However Beltre’s career turns out, it’s hard to believe I’m talking about his blooming Hall of Fame prospects, and they said this guy people was washed up in 2005!