Beltre's numbers could be enough for Cooperstown
Veteran third baseman has stats comparable to current Hall of Famers
If there's any justice in this world, Adrian Beltre's head will one day adorn a plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
And if the sculptor of said plaque has a particularly good sense of humor, a playful hand will forever hover over Beltre's head.
All right, so the second possibility is not exactly realistic, and it's evident from real-world interactions that Beltre would not take kindly to the notion of his sculptured scalp getting touched.
Beltre has also piled up enough numbers -- including his 2,500th hit Tuesday night in Arlington -- to pad his Cooperstown credentials.
Here's a look at Beltre by the numbers, both standard and advanced:
11: The number of Hall of Famers from the Major Leagues in the modern era who spent a majority of their time at third base: Home Run Baker, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Jimmy Collins, George Kell, Freddie Lindstrom, Eddie Mathews, Brooks Robinson, Ron Santo, Mike Schmidt and Pie Traynor. (Paul Molitor is listed by the Hall as a third baseman, but he spent significantly more games at designated hitter).
5: The number of those Hall of Famers who currently outrank Beltre in career WAR (per Baseball Reference). With a 72.6 mark, Beltre trails Schmidt (106.5), Mathews (96.4), Boggs (91.1), Brett (88.4) and Robinson (78.3). It is also worth noting that Chipper Jones, a sure-fire Hall of Famer once he's eligible, finished his career with an 85.0 WAR and that Alex Rodriguez has, to date, played more games at short than at third.
3: The number of those Hall of Famers who currently outrank Beltre in hits. Brett (3,154) and Boggs (3,010) both crossed the 3,000 plateau. Beltre, with 2,503 hits (he went 4-for-4 on Tuesday) trails Robinson by 345 hits and Jones by 223.
2: The number of those Hall of Famers who currently outrank Beltre in doubles. With 511, Beltre trails just Brett (665) and Boggs (578). Jones finished with 549.
2: The number of those Hall of Famers who currently outrank Beltre in home runs. Schmidt hit 548 and Mathews hit 512. Jones finished with 468, while Beltre is currently at 384.
4: The number of those Hall of Famers who currently outrank Beltre in RBIs. Jones drove in 1,623 runs in his career, the most all-time for a third baseman. Brett (1,596), Schmidt (1,595), Mathews (1,453) and Robinson (1,357) are the only current Cooperstown members ahead of Beltre (1,343) in this count.
1: The number of those Hall of Famers who currently outrank Beltre in career defensive WAR (as calculated by Baseball Reference). This is an imperfect system, as defensive metrics aren't known to be reliable, but it does add a little perspective to what Beltre has accomplished at the hot corner. Among all third basemen in history, only Robinson (38.8) and Buddy Bell (23.0) outrank Beltre (21.8) in this tally. He is 34th among all players at all positions in dWAR.
So in the context of his position, it's hard to label Beltre as anything other than a Hall of Famer, whether or not he gets to 3,000 hits.
Of course, that doesn't mean his candidacy is a slam dunk, because the Baseball Writers' Association of America often considers players in the context of their times. Beltre could be hurt by some (mostly arbitrary) issues: He's never finished higher than second in the MVP Award vote (he's been in the top 10 four times), he wasn't an All-Star until 2009, he's, strangely, won just four Gold Glove Awards, and he's never won a World Series.
But if the context of the times is important, there is one more advanced stat worth citing:
2: The number of "active" players who outrank Beltre in career WAR. Here, Rodriguez still loosely qualifies with a 116.0 mark, while Albert Pujols is second at 94.5. Beltre, at 72.6, just barely surpasses a certain sure-fire Hall of Fame shortstop at 72.3: Derek Jeter.
It's already a pretty strong case for Cooperstown. And with a .321/.363/.488 slash line in his age-35 season, Beltre is clearly not done making his case -- or getting in the face of those who touch his head.