The pros and cons of Adrian Beltre

First, it’s important to remember that Beltre’s 2009 season was negatively impacted due to a wince-inducing injury:

Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre might miss the rest of the season after taking a hard one-hopper to his groin off the bat of a White Sox player Thursday night.

Manager Don Wakamatsu said the Gold Glove third baseman is out indefinitely, and might need surgery because of bleeding in a testicle. Beltre does not wear a protective cup because he says it’s uncomfortable.

Beltre played in only 111 games in 2009. He appeared in just 38 games after the All-Star Break, though, he hit better than the first half. Looking only at his offense in 2009, there isn’t alot to like:

  • 8 HR
  • 44 RBI
  • .265 BA
  • .304 OBP
  • .683 OPS

Looking back at his Seattle tenure (I’m purposely ignoring his 2004 year with the Dodgers as the 48 home runs and .334 BA are such outliers, it defies all logic), Beltre settled into a pretty consistent level the first four years of his deal. His four-year averages (2005-2008):

  • 151 games
  • 24 HR
  • 88 RBI
  • .266 BA
  • .319 OBP
  • .773 OPS

These are solid numbers, especially in Seattle’s spacious ballpark. So we know this about Beltre’s offense: He’ll fit nicely batting 7-9th, hitting a reasonable amount of home runs with a mediocre average and OBP. Beltre won’t be expected to carry the Boston offense; they have enough bats to do that. Slotting Beltre near another reasonably powered, low average/OBP bat in Mike Cameron might make for some quick innings, however.

The beauty of Beltre lies in his glovework. The RedSox will have an excellent defensive infield with Beltre, Scutaro, Pedroia and Youkilis, moving left to right. That’s VERY good. Being able to punt an infirmed and declining Lowell significantly improves their defense. Beltre’s defensive stats, per fangraphs.com:

Season Team Pos G GS Inn PO A E DP FP RF/G RF/9 DG exO Arm DPR RngR ErrR UZR UZR/150
2002 Dodgers 3B 157 154 1372.0 120 294 20 18 .954 2.6
2.7
145 280 -0.9 21.1 -0.6 19.6 20.2
2003 Dodgers 3B 157 150 1346.0 112 309 19 33 .957 2.7
2.8
174 342 1.0 12.5 0.2 13.7 11.9
2004 Dodgers 3B 155 154 1340.1 120 322 10 32 .978 2.9
3.0
148 280 1.0 16.1 5.9 23.1 23.3
2005 Mariners 3B 155 155 1325.2 140 271 14 25 .967 2.7
2.8
134 261 -0.5 7.0 1.9 8.3 9.4
2006 Mariners 3B 155 155 1358.0 136 323 15 31 .968 3.0
3.0
156 304 0.2 14.2 1.8 16.2 15.6
2007 Mariners 3B 147 146 1279.1 121 287 18 24 .958 2.8
2.9
147 284 -0.1 -3.8 0.7 -3.3 -3.4
2008 Mariners 3B 139 137 1208.1 100 272 14 27 .964 2.7
2.8
121 237 0.7 11.9 0.0 12.7 15.7
2009 Mariners 3B 111 110 988.1 103 224 14 17 .959 2.9
3.0
103 198 1.2 14.3 -1.2 14.3 21.0

There’s no mistaking it: Beltre is a superior defender, when he’s not taking a grounder off his berries. I mean, you better be damn good if you are going to play 3B in the majors without a cup. That’s confidence.

By contrast, here’s Lowell’s defensive stats:

Season Team Pos G GS Inn PO A E DP FP RF/G RF/9 DG exO Arm DPR RngR ErrR UZR UZR/150
2002 Marlins 3B 159 159 1400.1 150 286 14 36 .969 2.7
2.8
154 300 0.9 -11.8 0.8 -10.1 -9.8
2003 Marlins 3B 128 128 1109.2 84 243 9 27 .973 2.6
2.7
150 293 0.7 -5.6 4.7 -0.1 0.0
2004 Marlins 3B 154 153 1326.0 117 272 7 30 .982 2.5
2.6
153 296 0.9 -14.7 7.7 -6.2 -5.9
2005 Marlins 3B 135 126 1126.2 107 243 6 34 .983 2.6
2.8
130 252 -0.3 -7.6 6.8 -1.1 -1.2
2006 Red Sox 3B 153 148 1298.2 143 313 6 39 .987 3.0
3.2
154 299 -0.6 1.1 7.3 7.7 7.7
2007 Red Sox 3B 154 150 1324.1 105 264 15 34 .961 2.4
2.5
137 264 0.7 5.8 0.8 7.3 8.0
2008 Red Sox 3B 110 108 935.2 80 217 10 20 .967 2.7
2.9
107 208 0.1 10.4 0.5 11.1 15.6
2009 Red Sox 3B 107 105 895.0 82 174 9 11 .966 2.4
2.6
102 195 0.6 -13.3 2.3 -10.4 -14.4

Last year, Lowell was recovering from hip surgery (similar to ARod). Before that, Lowell’s defense was quite good. His 2008 was ON PAR with Beltre’s 2008, though Lowell appeared in only 110 games. Injuries are indeed taking their toll on Lowell. Would it be impossible for him to rebound from this season’s thumb surgery and with a year of rehab on his hip to resume playing above-average defense? He’ll be 36 this season.

Lowell’s four-year averages with Boston:

  • 135 games
  • 19 HR
  • 87 RBI
  • .295 BA
  • .350 OBP
  • .829 OPS

This is the typical “better to dump a year too early than a year too late” trade, but Lowell’s four years with Boston compare well with Beltre’s four year (excluding 2009) trend with Seattle.

And then there’s the “how much better off are the 2010 RedSox versus the 2009 RedSox, using WAR:

2009 2009
2009 RedSox WAR 2010 RedSox WAR
Varitek/VMart 3.1 VMart 4.9
Youkilis 5.6 Youkilis 5.6
Pedroia 5.2 Pedroia 5.2
Green/Gonzalez 0.8 Scutaro 4.5
Mike Lowell 1.2 Beltre 2.4
David Ortiz 0.7 David Ortiz 0.7
JD Drew 4.7 JD Drew 4.7
Jacoby Ellsbury 1.9 Jacoby Ellsbury 1.9
Jason Bay 3.5 Mike Cameron 4.3
26.7 34.2

We can agree that we don’t think that Marco Scutaro will post an MVP-caliber 4.5 WAR again (fangraphs allows “fans” to post their projections and with 98 submissions, the consensus points to a 2.6 WAR for Scutaro in 2010). Using the fans’ 2010 projections from fangraphs along with the 2009 analogs from above, it doesn’t take much to see that the Sox are going to be much better:

2009 2009 2010*
2009 RedSox WAR 2010 RedSox WAR 2010 RedSox WAR
Varitek/VMart 3.1 VMart 4.9 VMart 5.2
Youkilis 5.6 Youkilis 5.6 Youkilis 5.6
Pedroia 5.2 Pedroia 5.2 Pedroia 5.9
Green/Gonzalez 0.8 Scutaro 4.5 Scutaro 2.6
Mike Lowell 1.2 Beltre 2.4 Beltre 4.1
David Ortiz 0.7 David Ortiz 0.7 David Ortiz 2.0
JD Drew 4.7 JD Drew 4.7 JD Drew 4.3
Jacoby Ellsbury 1.9 Jacoby Ellsbury 1.9 Jacoby Ellsbury 3.8
Jason Bay 3.5 Mike Cameron 4.3 Mike Cameron 3.5
26.7 34.2 37.0

Will Beltre’s WAR jump that high? Will Ellsbury’s DOUBLE? Sure, we can see Scutaro’s regression as likely, if not inevitable. If JD Drew can remain healthy and deliver another great year, Theo’s going to look even smarter than people are already making him. And getting a cheaper, shorter-term committment in Cameron to replace a higher priced Bay looks pretty darn savvy. It definitely helps when you can bury your mistakes (Lugo, Renteria, Lowell) in other teams’ backyards, though!

No matter what, the fact remains: The 2010 RedSox are going to be formidible. And we haven’t discussed the addition of John Lackey in that rotation.

Get ready for more epic battles, Yanks fans, along with four-hour games.

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.