Congratulations are in order for Adrian Beltre. Last week, he became the newest member of the 400 home run club and only the 52nd player in MLB history to accomplish that impressive feat. Only three other active players – Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and David Ortiz – are in that company. To put it into historical perspective, Beltre is one of only four players to spend at least 75 percent of his career at third base and reach that milestone. The other three players are Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, and Chipper Jones. Two Hall of Famers and one soon-to-be HOFer. That’s some rarefied air. Or maybe that’s just the sausages and peppers that I had for dinner making a return visit. We’ll go with the former. Sorry to any of our girl readers who are (were) reading this. It was nice knowing you!
As impressive as that home run milestone is, Beltre produced those results in an unusual manner. Not quite as unusual as his head-touching phobia, but odd nonetheless. After leading the National League in home runs with 48 and posting career highs in runs (104), rbis (121), and batting average (.334) with the Dodgers in 2004, Beltre signed a massive free agent deal with the Mariners the following offseason. Here’s how he followed up that ’04 breakout campaign during his time in Seattle:
While solid, this isn’t the kind of production that conjures up the terms “fantasy stud” or “future Hall of Famer.” Actually, these are the types of numbers that the Mariners’ current third baseman, Kyle Seager, has produced in recent years and seems likely to produce over the next couple of seasons. Nothing flashy, but somewhat disappointing for a power-hitting stud like Beltre during what should have been his prime years.
Fortunately, Beltre picked up the offensive pace in a big way after leaving Seattle following the ’09 season. As I alluded to earlier, it’s uncommon for a player to produce his best results in his thirties as opposed to his mid-late twenties, which is considered prime time for a professional athlete. Fortunately, there’s a player who possessed a similar offensive skill set to Beltre and followed a similar career arc in terms of the aging curve. That player is Jeff Kent. Comp time! Let’s take a look at the offensive numbers that each player produced across his age 31-35 seasons respectively (1999-2003 for Kent and 2010-2014 for Beltre):
Poor Jeff Kent. He was a superstar in his own right, but was stuck in the substantial shadow projected by Barry Bonds’ massive cranium in San Francisco. As you can see in this table, Kent’s offensive production was very similar to Beltre’s in his early-mid thirties. Slightly higher walk and strikeout rates as well as more steals for Kent, but the batting averages, on-base numbers, power numbers, and run production are all very similar. Now let’s take a look at how Kent fared during his age-36 season in 2004 and what Beltre has produced thus far this year in his age-36 campaign:
Jeez, a declining Kent would be a late first round fantasy pick these days. Sigh. The good news is that Beltre might still be capable of approaching those numbers despite his slow start this season. His 9.4% K% is well below his career average (14.4%) and would represent the lowest mark of his entire career if it holds up. He’s hitting a few more fly balls than usual (41.8% this season; 39.5% career) and they’re being hit with authority (292.99 ft avg fly ball distance is 43rd highest in MLB, an 8.47 ft increase from last season). Beltre’s heating up with the weather as well. After producing a 10/2/2/1/.205 batting line in April, he’s improved that to a 11/3/13/0/.325 line in May, which falls in line with his reputation as a slow starter (April is historically his worst offensive month). It looks like the old man has some gas left in the tank.