With the conclusion of the 2008 baseball season, there are lot of things I could talk about. The playoffs, a NLCS preview, even a look into the offseason. Instead, I'd rather do something that takes a bit more effort, but might be an interesting read.
Carlos Beltran turned 31 this past year, and concluded his 11th season in the bigs. His career totals include 263 homers and 275 stolen bases, as he approaches the 300-300 club, of which there are only 6 members(coincidentally, all outfielders). He's was the 1999 A.L. Rookie of the Year, a four time All-Star, a two time Silver Slugger, and will likely win his third consecutive Gold Glove. The question is, could he be on the verge of a Hall of Fame career.
Let's start with the 300-300 club thing. The six members include Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds, Steve Finley, Andre Dawson, Reggie Sanders, and Willie Mays. Of that group, Mays is enshrined in Cooperstown, and Barry Bonds will likely join his godfather there someday. Finley and Sanders arent eligible yet, but won't get in. Bobby Bonds was a good player for a long time, but did not have a career worth of the honor. Dawson has received some support, but has fallen short.
So entry into the 300-300 club is no guarantee. But Beltran has some years to go. How can we figure out where he'd rank? That's where Bill James comes in.
Years ago, Bill James created something called Favorite Toy. It's a formula he created that allows you to project what a player will produce for his career, based on previous production and age. I will detail the formula below, using Beltran's stats.
According to Favorite Toy, Beltran has 5.4 expected seasons left(40-31*.6). In his last 3 seasons, Beltran has hit 26, 33 and 41 homers respectively, giving him a weighted average of 30.83333 homers per season(26*3+33*2+41=185/6=30.83333). Now we multiply the two(expected seasons and weighted homers per season and arrive at a career projection of 402.5. We'll round up to 403 for simplicities sake. Beltran needs 137 homers for 400, so according to another part of the formula, he has an 83% chance or reaching that.
What about his stolen base numbers? The expected age stays the same, and his weighted stolen base totals are 23.16666. Using the formula, we see that Beltran has 125.1 stolen bases left, just giving him 400 for his career. He has a 50% chance of reaching this goal, which is reasonable considering that most players tend to slow down as they get older.
If Beltran manages to reach both of these goals, what would his Hall of Fame chances look like? I'd say pretty good, as the only player with 400+ in both categories is Barry Bonds. Looking at other statistics, he projects to get close to the 2500 hit mark, and 500 doubles mark. Put all of that together, and he would make an interesting Hall of Fame candidate.
Working against him is his reputation. He's somehow picked up the reputation of an underachiver, and a lot of that is based on his playoff record. In 2004 he hit 8 homers in 12 games. Of course, its an impossible pace to keep up, but the fact that he doesn't produce like that, especially since he earned a $117 million contract from the Mets after that performance, puts him in a poor light. The other playoff performance is an image burned into the minds of Mets fans: his taking strike 3 from Adam Wainwright with the bases loaded and 2 outs in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Overlooked is the fact that he hit 3 homers during that series.
So the real question remains, is Carlos Beltran a Hall of Fame caliber player. As of right now, I'd say no. His OPS is a tad on the low side(for perspective, Jay Buhner, Carlos Pena, and Pat Burrell are right behind him). But if he continues putting up the numbers he has the last 3 seasons, he'll certainly have a case.