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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Beltran vs....

Peter Gammons' current ESPN.COM column discusses Carlos Beltran and how his skills have put him in an elite category among center fielders.

Gammons' criterion for Beltran's exalted status is his 2004 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). Beltran posted a .915 OPS last season in his combined AL and NL tenure, his all-time best by a wide margin. While a fine figure, however, this total would not have ranked near the top five in either league had he played a full season in one city.

Beltran's career OPS is .843. While he has improved over the years as an offensive player, especially in his strike zone judgement, he has also been quite inconsistent, batting .306 to .273 to .307 to .258 (!) over the last four years, and is moving into a ballpark--Shea Stadium--that will almost certainly strongly decrease his offensive production. Quite honestly, Beltran was never a premium player before 2004, and doing what he did last year, at age 27, is much less impressive than doing it at age 25.

Compare Carlos Beltran, then, to another contemporary center fielder who is ONE DAY older than Beltran. This center fielder has an career .837 OPS, having played most of his career in a ballpark that has significantly decreased his offensive production. This player is also an inconsistent hitter for average but has better strike zone judgement and has already hit more than 30 home runs five times in his career.

He is also quite possibly the best defensive center fielder in the history of baseball. His name is Andruw Jones.

2 Comments:

Blogger guyute1980 said...

Stu,

Your point is well stated and supported. Yet, I still maintain that Carlos Beltran's name belongs along-side the names of baseball's elite (perhaps somewhere near the bottom of that list at this point).

First off, your contention that prior to the 2004 season Beltran was not a premium players seems questionable. True, his 2004 was a break out season of sorts for Beltran, but prior to that he was a star for the Kansas City Royals. Over each his first 5 complete seasons in the majors beltran totaled 100 or more RBIs and scored 100+ runs (that seems like an elite first five seasons). His homerun total (139) for those season is nearly 28 per season. In an era of juiced balls and steroids the total might seem unexceptional, but, prior to the inflated numbers of Bonds, Sosa, and McGwuire, etc., averaging nearly 30 homers per year put you among the power elite in the league (especially doing so in your first 5 seasons).

Among his accomplishments in KC was a rookie season in which he drove in 108 runs and was awarded the rookie of the year award. In 2002 Beltran set the single season record for extra base hits by a switch hitter in the American League (80). In 2003 Beltran led the Royals in virtually every offensive category including average (.307), HRs (26), runs (102), RBIs (100), walks (72), triples (10), and Stolen bases (41), all at the tender age of of 26.

His career average is a very respecable .284, and his slight drop off last season may be attributable to the adjustment required by a change in leagues. Even with the drop off last season, his career average is favorable when compared with Andrew Jones who has hit .268 for his career. Beltran too has speed. He has stolen 40+ bases each of the past two seasons as compared with Jones who has 4, and 6 in 2003 and 2004 respectively. Besides base stealing and average, Beltran's numbers are all pretty comparable to those that Jones has accumulated (HR, RBIs, Runs, etc.--and Jones is no slouch).

What we have in Beltran is a player on the verge of super-stardom. though he strikes out alot, he is capable of hittering for average. His power numbers have consistently been around 30 HR 100 RBI, and, though he is not 25 (in which case you suggested his numbers from 2004 would be more impressive) he is 27, and there is no good reason to believe that his game will not improve.

Let us not forget either his stellar post-season play of a year ago. So often players with great regular season numbers are chastised and criticized for not performing in the big games. In the end, many feel, it is those games that in large part define your career. To the extent that that is true, Beltran is already a bonafied superstar with a an average in the low-mid .400s, 8 home runs, and 14 RBI in, I believe, 12 games. He is a big game player, and that is a big part of being among the elite of baseball.

To have a switch hitting 30-ish homer run, 100+ RBI guy who plays good defense and steals bases is to have a star in this league. At only 27, I fully expect Beltran to improve dramatically as a player, but, even if he only remains consistent in his production, he deserves consideration as one of baseball's elite.

1:42 AM, January 28, 2005

 
Blogger Stuart Shea said...

David D.,

Thanks for your excellent post. I appreciate the time you took to respond to the article.

Let me first say that I am impressed as hell with Carlos Beltran. He's always been a very good player, and he fully deserved the accolades he picked up during the post-season in 2004; it was one of the best post-season performances of our lifetimes. He also fully deserved the AL ROY in 1999, and as you pointed out, has excellent speed. Beltran is also a superb percentage base stealer, the best in the majors right now.

Nothing in my article should have been construed as a rip on Carlos Beltran. What I simply wanted to point out is that Beltran has some company around here when you start talking about the best center fielder in the game, or even the best player in the game, which he clearly is not, NLDS and NLCS performance to the contrary.

While post-season performance is important, I'm much more impressed with someone who can maintain superstar level over 162 games rather than 12. Carlos Beltran came to Houston last summer and joined a good team, where he had real support, and helped them win a playoff spot in his free-agent season. To some people, that, plus his postseason performance, plus the fact that he's going to New York and got a lot of money to do it, makes him a superstar.

I am simply suggesting that Andruw Jones, who has been the starting center fielder for a team that has won eight straight division titles while playing superb offense and defense despite endlessly listening to people whine about his "potential," hasn't received half of Beltran's ink, despite being arguably a greater and more consistent player.

9:52 PM, January 30, 2005

 

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