Bob’s Keltner List – Adrian Beltre (August 2012)

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in the game?
Tough standard, but no.

2. Was he the best player on his team?
Almost never. In ’04 he was. In ’10 he was.

3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position?
This is sort of the crux of the discussion of this thread, isn’t it? But the answer for most of his career has been no. While he was in the NL, Chipper Jones was the premier 3rd baseman. I doubt if very many thought he was the best during his Seattle years. It’s only been since 2010 that he’s in the running. Wright, Longoria, Beltre, Zimmerman, Arod. Beltre is the only one who has stayed healthy all three years, so maybe he is the recent best. But before the season starts, I’d say most people would rather have Wright or Longoria, but it’s close. I’ll give him a qualified yes to this question.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of races?
With the Dodgers, only 2004. Never with Seattle. Like the last question, only in the past three seasons has he been on pennant contenders. To answer the question: overall, no; recently, yes.

5. Was he good enough to play regularly past his prime?
At 33, Beltre is just now entering the age when this question becomes relevant. We won’t be able to answer this question for a few years.

6. Is he the very best player in history not in the HOF?
Another tough standard, but obviously the answer is no. Chipper, Derek Jeter, ARod, Pujols and likely a dozen or so active players are more HOF worthy. And that doesn’t count the recently retired like Bonds, Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, and again, at least another dozen or so who rank ahead of him.

7. Are most of the players who have comparable career stats in the HOF?
Of his ten best comps at BBR, none are in the Hall, tho there are a number of viable lesser candidates like Rolen, Cey, Boyer, Lynn. If he can continue post age 33 to do what he has done, his comps will change. But as he now stands, if his career were to end today, he’s probably not a HOFer. Comparing thru age 32, he has some HOF comps, 6 of 10 headed by Santo and Ripken. Beltre is having a fine career. He just needs more to be a HOFer.

8. Do the player’s numbers meet HOF standards?
Not yet, but they are starting to get close.

9. Is there evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested in his stats?
Again, this is where the discussion is centered. Some of the newer fielding metrics have him in the stratosphere. Some of the more conventional fielding metrics have him in the “very, very good” range, perhaps a A- grade, instead of A+ or A++. John Dewan, in the 2012 BJHandbook, says that since 2003 Beltre has saved 156 runs defensively, about 17 per season. Maybe he has. I do find it a little odd that a “historically great” defensive player has only 3 Gold Gloves (I know, I know, Gold Gloves aren’t exactly a great measurement, but still….). Beltre is not a great hitter, having an OPS+ of 111, merely a good hitter. The question is: does his great fielding compensate for the hitting difference between some of the guys we’ve been mentioning? Part of the problem is that prior to 2010, Beltre was having a Terry Pendleton type career, great fielder average to mediocre hitter. In the past three years he’s turned it on to get into the HOF discussion.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall but not in?
We’re discussing someone mid-career, or rather we’re still discussing someone who is in their peak, so this question is sort of moot for the moment. It’s a little hard to compare active players in their prime with finished careers. Part of the problem is that we’re anticipating more, but we just don’t know how much. I’d say that of the recently retired and about to retire players, Beltre currently ranks behind Chipper, Nettles and Rolen; and depending on tastes, Darrell Evans, Ken Boyer, Buddy Bell and Ron Cey. And Edgar Martinez if he’s considered a 3rd baseman. Hack, Groh, Leach and Williamson? The game was too different to know with any real confidence, so I’ll keep them out of it. But there are currently a number of 3rd baseman who rank ahead of Beltre.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he win any?
One MVP caliber season, 2004, when he came in second. He came in 9th in 2010 and 15th in 2011. I would assume he’ll get some voting love in ’12.

12. How many all-star-type seasons did he have? How many did he play in?
He’s played in three, ’10, ’11 and ’12. Depending on how one defines “all-star season”, 4 for sure, and maybe 4 where he might have been (but wasn’t, and probably shouldn’t have been), a couple with LA and a couple with Seattle; but I’ll say 4. And four is not a lot for a HOF type.

13. If this man were the best on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
I struggle with this question. Or rather, a lot of you guys don’t agree with my answers to this question. I am a lot harder grader on this question than a lot of you. And Beltre is going to be one. I don’t think that a team with Beltre being the best player could win the pennant. A team whose best player has an OPS+ in the 125-135 range, Beltre’s current range, is not going to win the pennant very often. Let’s take a team in the hunt, say this year’s Orioles. If they were to get Beltre over the off-season, would anybody say “Well, the Orioles sewed up the ’13 race”, like what happened when the Angels got Pujols (and Wilson) or the Tigers got Fielder? Beltre is a nice addition to a team, but not THE guy.

14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change to game in any way?
Not that I can think of, altho to many he is one of the poster children for not signing a “career year in his walk season” player.

15. Did he uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the HOF instructs us to consider?
Nothing leaps to mind of anything negative.

***

Beltre is in the midst of building a potential HOF resume. He hasn’t done enough yet. If he can duplicate his past three seasons, he’d likely move into the “strong consideration” area. He’s going to have to stay healthy and productive for a little while longer for a serious HOF run.

***

I spent way too much time on this, but I was curious. I wanted to know why Win Shares and WAR are so different in assessing Adrian Beltre’s career. I looked at this; I looked at that; I looked high; I looked low. In total, I probably spent 6 hours looking hither and yon for some insight.

First conclusion: there isn’t much predictability between WS and WAR. It really is like comparing apples and oranges. Two players with 50 WAR can have a wide divergence in Win Shares, and vice versa.

Second conclusion: Just as WS needs Loss Shares, WAR needs a “context” number. Unfortunately for me, I know of no such stat. After struggling to figure out one, I gave up.

Third conclusion: Myachimantis (for some reason, I always read this as “my aching mantis”) earlier said in a post that if players have comparable numbers of games played or plate appearances they should have similar WAR and WAA rankings. I looked at players who had between 8000 and 9000 PAs, and ranked them according to WAR and WAA. And while it is generally true, it’s not exactly true. I’m not positive I know why it isn’t, but it probably has something to do with pinch hitting or defensive replacement, designated hitting and defensive position, altho I couldn’t make hide nor hair of it.

End of conclusions. I had probably spent two hours by now, and I was no closer to understanding why Beltre’s WAR and WS were so far apart.

But then I had a mental breakthru. Since I had WAA, if I could figure out “decisions”, I could have a Win/Loss record. I divide Games Played by 5 to figure out Decision Shares. I figured why not try the same thing with WAA? I’ll spare you all the math, but the basic formulas are 1) Games divided by 5 gives Decisions, 2) Decisions divided by 2 plus WAA equals Wins, and 3) Decisions minus Wins equals Losses. I’ll do Mike Schmidt as an example. Schmidt played 2404 Games, for 480.8 Decisions. 480.8 divided by two plus 73.8 WAA equals 314.2 Wins. 480.8 Decision minus 314.2 Wins equals 166.6 Losses. I looked at 30-some third basemen, the guys who BJames had in his Top 25, plus a few others. I’ll share the data since I have it. The players are ranked by WAA Wins. The second column is WAA Losses. The third column is Fibonacci Points based on the WAA Wins and Losses.

329.3 249.9 268.6 Brooks Robinson
321.4 220.0 292.2 George Brett
314.2 166.6 352.9 Mike Schmidt
306.0 230.6 249.9 Paul Molitor
302.8 237.2 235.4 Graig Nettles
301.5 186.5 301.3 Wade Boggs
301.2 193.4 291.2 Chipper Jones
297.7 180.5 302.5 Eddie Mathews
293.0 244.4 208.3 Darrell Evans
273.1 207.9 220.3 Buddy Bell
261.1 187.5 225.6 Ron Santo
246.2 158.0 238.2 Scott Rolen
244.1 166.9 222.2 Edgar Martinez
242.7 174.3 209.7 Adrian Beltre
236.3 179.5 191.1 Robin Ventura
234.9 171.9 198.6 Ken Boyer
234.6 169.2 201.7 Sal Bando
233.5 181.1 183.9 Ron Cey
232.9 198.3 160.4 Tommy Leach
219.0 176.6 163.6 Bob Elliott
218.6 169.0 172.9 Stan Hack
218.3 203.5 127.8 Ed Yost
209.5 163.7 163.4 Matt Williams
204.3 183.9 127.9 Pie Traynor
198.8 146.2 167.2 Jimmy Collins
194.5 120.5 194.1 Frank Baker
193.8 141.4 164.4 Heinie Groh
139.1 080.7 146.4 John McGraw
123.7 085.1 111.9 Al Rosen
Among these guys, Beltre ranks 14th in WAA Wins and 13th in Fibonacci Points. It looks like Beltre will need 2, maybe 3, more healthy and productive seasons to crack the Top 10. Just using this measurement, it looks like this generation of 3rd basemen will need to crack 250 Fibonacci Points (okay, Molitor has only 249.9, but was he really a 3rd baseman?) to be an automatic HOFer. If one looks only at WAR, one can see why one might speculate on Beltre’s HOF chances. He’s right on the cusp.

Of course, this didn’t really help me answer my original question, the disparity between WAR and WS for Beltre. Then I had another brainstorm. Would it be possible to correlate oWAR and dWAR to Win Shares? I took 16 modern 3rd basemen and did multiple regression with oWAR and dWAR compared to WS. While the results weren’t exactly satisfying, here are the 16 guys, in order of how far predicted Ws is from actual WS. The columns are oWAR, dWAR, predicted WS, actual WS, and the difference between the latter two.

50.5 -0.5 296 363 +67 Darrell Evans
72.6 -7.8 369 414 +45 Paul Molitor
42.3 38.8 318 356 +38 Brooks Robinson
80.4 01.2 410 432 +22 George Brett
87.6 17.6 459 467 +08 Mike Schmidt
47.6 20.9 314 321 +07 Graig Nettles
89.3 05.4 449 450 +01 Eddie Mathews
43.4 23.0 301 301 -0- Buddy Bell
84.1 -1.4 420 414 -06 Chipper Jones
47.3 06.1 293 280 -13 Ron Cey
49.4 20.4 320 304 -16 Scott Rolen
78.4 12.9 418 394 -24 Wade Boggs
62.9 -9.8 330 305 -25 Edgar Martinez
62.4 08.6 353 324 -29 Ron Santo
52.0 10.5 316 279 -37 Ken Boyer
53.9 08.0 320 283 -37 Sal Bando
And where does Beltre place on this list? Last. Dead last.
41.0 21.4 290 244 -46 Adrian Beltre

I don’t have a firm conclusion, but it’s not fielding that WS undervalues Beltre. It’s everything. If it were just fielding that was the difference, it would be hard to explain why Brooks is +38 and Edgar is -25. Of the 6 guys who have +15 dWAR, 3 have more WS than predicted, 1 right on the money and 2 that have fewer WS than predicted. Of the 5 who have dWAR below 5.0, 3 have more WS than predicted, 2 have fewer. Basically, the same ratio. So I can’t say with any conviction that WS “undervalues” fielding.

I looked at 8 additional guys who have good defensive reputations, having won multiple Gold Gloves, to see if there is a bias. Here are their numbers:
25.4 09.8 216 248 +32 Tim Wallach
13.0 12.9 174 202 +28 Terry Pendleton
25.4 15.3 224 249 +25 Gary Gaetti
33.7 12.4 251 241 -10 Matt Williams
02.5 14.4 137 124 -13 Aurelio Rodriquez (the original ARod)
11.9 05.2 160 135 -25 Frank Malzone
22.4 02.1 195 166 -29 Doug Rader
29.3 06.5 226 176 -50 Eric Chavez
So, Chavez is “penalized” even more than Beltre. Anybody predict that? But looking at these 8, I don’t see any reason to believe that WS undervalues defense.

I didn’t really get an answer to my question: why is there a difference? I mean, I have an answer. WS undervalues Beltre across the board compared to WAR. I just don’t know why WS undervalues Beltre across the board. Or conversely, why WAR overvalues Beltre. It also explains why Bill ranks Darrell Evans so high, which I’ve never understood.

I can’t say I really learned anything; however, I did have one of my tenets reinforced: never look at just one Great Stat for THE answer. They only provide AN answer.

There is a step in my thought process that I left out in my long post above. After figuring out that I might be able to estimate Decisions to figure WAA Wins, and before I realized I could figure out WAA Losses (you’d think they’d go hand in hand. but for some reason they didn’t), I compiled a list of Win Shares minus WAA Wins. Here’s that list, in order of the variance. Columns ae Win Shares, WAA Wins and the difference between the two:

467 314.2 152.8 Mike Schmidt
450 297.7 152.3 Eddie Mathews
414 301.2 112.8 Chipper Jones
432 321.4 110.6 George Brett
414 306.0 108.0 Paul Molitor
301 194.5 106.5 Frank Baker
316 218.6 097.4 Stan Hack
328 232.9 095.1 Tommy Leach
394 301.5 092.5 Wade Boggs
272 193.8 078.2 Heinie Groh
274 198.8 075.2 Jimmy Collins
363 293.0 070.0 Darrell Evans
274 204.3 069.7 Pie Traynor
287 219.0 068.0 Bob Elliott
207 139.1 067.9 John McGraw
324 261.1 062.9 Ron Santo
185 123.7 061.3 Al Rosen
305 244.1 060.9 Edgar Martinez
304 246.2 057.8 Scott Rolen
267 218.3 048.7 Eddie Yost
283 234.6 048.4 Sal Bando
280 233.5 046.5 Ron Cey
279 234.9 044.1 Ken Boyer
272 236.3 035.7 Robin Ventura
241 209.5 031.5 Matt Williams
301 273.1 027.9 Buddy Bell
356 329.3 026.7 Brooks Robinson
321 302.8 018.2 Graig Nettles
244 242.7 001.3 Adrian Beltre

This was the point I was at when I realized that comparing WS and WAR was apples to oranges.

***

Just for fun, I used the 3rd baseman regression analysis formula for ARod, Jeter and Ripken.
107.7 11.9 526 467 -59 ARod
091.0 -8.3 437 400 -37 Jeter
072.8 34.5 426 427 +1 Ripken

Oh, what the heck, three more
111.9 -10.1 513 565 +52 Mickey Mantle
131.3 18.1 623 642 +19 Willie Mays
126.6 -4.9 574 643 +69 Hank Aaron

I’ll stop there. I’m not really sure it “works” for third basemen. I’m pretty darn sure it doesn’t really work for shortstops or outfielders.

***

I think I had a mathematical epiphany. Somebody, please, check my thinking. I think I’ve figured out how to translate WAR into a win/loss record. Tell me where I went wrong.

We have Wins Above Replacement, but we don’t know the number of Decisions; if we can figure out Decisions, we can figure out the corresponding Losses. We know that a replacement level player has a .320 winning percentage, or W/D=.320.

My epiphany: can’t we subtract WAA from WAR, add that to W, divide by D and get what an average person would accomplish? Isn’t the difference between WAA and WAR the difference between Replacement Level and Average? The equation becomes (W+WAR-WAA)/D=.500, right?

And since we know WAR and WAA, doesn’t this become a simple algebraic “2 equations, 2 unknowns” situation?

Or in other words, Decisions equals (WAR -WAA)/.18. Let me use a few examples.

Adrian Beltre has 59.5 WAR and 35.0 WAA. (59.5-35.0)/.18 equals 136.1111 Decisions. Let me make a chart, columns are WAR, WAA and Decisions:

59.5 35.0 136.111 Adrian Beltre
103.0 73.8 162.222 Mike Schmidt
50.4 26.2 134.444 Ron Cey
72.7 39.7 183.333 Brooks Robinson
11.7 -9.5 117.777 Aurelio Rodriguez
30.8 14.1 92.7777 Ken McMullen

Based on their career lengths, don’t the Decisions seem proportionally correct? We’re used to seeing a larger number of decision, so they may seem a little out of whack. But didn’t Brooks have a career about twice as long as McMullen’s?

And of course, now that we have Decisions, we can figure out Wins and Losses. Multiply D by .320 and add in WAR. That gives WAR Wins. Decisions minus WAR Wins equals WAR Losses. Then you can do either Winning Percentage or Fibonacci Points. This chart is WAR Wins, War Losses, Winning Percentage and Fibonacci Points:

103.055 33.055 .757 148.03 Beltre
154.911 07.311 .955 295.53 Schmidt
093.422 41.022 .695 117.32 Ron Cey
131.366 51.966 .717 173.53 Brooks Robinson
049.388 68.388 .419 001.71 Aurelio Rodriguez
060.488 32.288 .652 067.64 Ken McMullen

Am I on to something useful? It seems to work for these 6 third basemen.

 

 

 

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