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Beltre's First Good Season Wasn't 2004
2004-11-19 14:36
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

The common knock on the free agent credentials of Adrian Beltre is that he has had only one good year, while Carlos Beltran has a proven track record.

It ain't exactly true. In 2000, at the age of 21, Beltre on-based .360, slugged .475, OPSed .835, posted 50 extra-base hits, including 20 home runs, and walked a career-high 56 times in 138 games.

That season, he put Beltran, who is almost exactly two years older, to shame. Beltran on-based .309, slugged .366, and had 15 doubles, seven home runs and 35 walks in 98 games.

Perhaps it is true that 2004 was Beltre's only great year. And certainly, Beltran was the better player from 2001-2003. It's safe to say that a team signing Beltran should feel confident he will deliver an OPS of .840 or better, as he has the past four seasons, and hopeful he will come in with an OPS of .900 or better, as he has the past two seasons.

Still, the idea that Beltre should be the subject of some immense amount of skepticism based on his resume, at least compared to Beltran, is overblown:

Both Beltre and Beltran started their careers solidly, suffered a dip, then rebounded to become better than ever.

Both Beltre and Beltran had exactly two seasons with OPSes of .800 or better before turning 26.

Both Beltre and Beltran have had one injury-plagued season, and both have shown they can play full seasons.

Beltan's two best OPS seasons before turning 26 were .841 and .876; Beltre's are .835 and 1.017.

This is not to say that there aren't areas where Beltran is significantly better than Beltre. For one thing, Beltran may be the best basestealer in the game today, with a remakrable 192 steals in 215 career attempts. Secondly, Beltran has had healthier career walk totals than Beltre, always good insurance against a slumping hitter.

We won't know who the better bargain is until the contracts are notarized and the dollar signs released. For now, most major league baseball insiders and outsiders seem to have decided that Beltran is the less risky player. But I continue to feel that people are inflating the risk of Beltre suffering a steep decline - and remember, any kind of shallow decline still leaves him at All-Star caliber.

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