When Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, each raised the numerical bar for membership.
When Adrian Beltre is elected several years down the road, he’ll raise the bar, too.
There has been a discussion in recent years that because there are so many qualified candidates, each Hall selection should be a bar-raiser.
Among the 15 Hall of Famers who played catcher in at least half their games, Rodriguez ranks third with a 68.7 career bWAR, trailing only Johnny Bench (74.9) and Gary Carter (69.8). The midpoint is Cubs great Gabby Hartnett, who is eighth at 53.8.
The idea is that new Hall of Fame catchers should equal or exceed Hartnett (which Rodriguez does) and not merely exceed the lowest-ranking member, former White Sox catcher Ray Schalk (28.4).
Numbers look gaudier at other positions because of differences in playing time and career length. Raines (68.9) ranks fifth among 19 enshrined left fielders, with Chick Hafey (63.1) at the midpoint and Ted Williams (123.2) at the top. Bagwell (79.8) is fifth among 18 first basemen, behind leader Lou Gehrig (112.3) and above the midway dividing line between Willie McCovey (64.4) and Jake Beckley (61.8).
What about Beltre, who on enshrinement day became the 31st player in major-league history to reach 3,000 hits?
Of the six players with 3,000 or more hits who aren’t in the Hall, two are still active (Beltre and Ichiro Suzuki), two are recently retired and not yet on the ballot (Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez), one is ineligible (Pete Rose) and one has been caught up in the debate about the use of performance-enhancing drugs (Rafael Palmeiro).
Beltre, with a .286 batting average and an .820 OPS, has 454 home runs, including a career-high 48 for the Dodgers in 2004. He has been superb in the field, with a 27.9 defensive WAR at third base, second in baseball history to Brooks Robinson’s 39.0.
The combination of stellar offense and defense gives Beltre a 92.4 career bWAR. There are only 12 Hall of Famers who played at least half their games at third. Beltre would rank third behind Mike Schmidt (106.6) and Eddie Mathews (96.2). The upper half/lower half dividing line would lie somewhere between No. 6 Ron Santo (70.5) and No. 7 Frank ‘‘Home Run’’ Baker (62.7).
In addition to Beltre, five other active players have bWARs above the Hall midpoint for their positions: first basemen Albert Pujols (99.9) and Miguel Cabrera (69.7), center fielder Carlos Beltran (70.1) and second basemen Chase Utley (65.1) and Robinson Cano (64.6).
A bWAR in the top half of Hall of Famers isn’t a guarantee of election, though metrics are becoming more influential as the electorate changes. One recent top-half miss was former Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell.
But the four players featured Sunday — the three enshrinees and Beltre with No. 3,000 — are elites among elites, with metrics that rank high even compared with Hall of Famers.
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