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December 15, 2006
  
Historical Perspective: Carlos Beltran

Following up a disappointing 2005 season where he played through injuries that negatively affected his game, Carlos Beltran put together one of the finest campaigns in Mets’ history for 2006. In fact, I tried to drum up support for his MVP candidacy over at SB Nation in their first annual ballot, but to no avail.

Eric presented me with the task of finding out where Beltran’s superb 2006 performance ranked in the rich annals of Mets’ history, so I decided to put together a Top 40 of individual seasons for positional players. For this task, WARP3 was the deciding statistic. For those who are unfamiliar, WARP3 is Wins Above Replacement Player, adjusted for playing time and difficulty. That way the differences across eras are smoothed out somewhat in order to achieve a more accurate representation. The other statistics used in the table are Equivalent Average, Batting Runs Above Average and Fielding Runs Above Average. There are a few caveats in the list, which I will get to momentarily, but for now, here is the Top 40 according to WARP3:

Rk  Player             Year   EQA  BRAA  FRAA  WARP3
----------------------------------------------------
1   Edgardo Alfonzo    2000  .325   48    17    11.9
2   Carlos Beltran     2006  .328   52    18    11.8
3   Bernard Gilkey     1996  .323   50    17    11.3
4   John Olerud        1998  .342   63    15    11.2
5   Robin Ventura      1999  .301   32    22    10.6
6   Keith Hernandez    1984  .321   47    19    10.5
7   Gary Carter        1985  .308   37    10    10.3
8   David Wright       2006  .313   42    11    10.2
9   Howard Johnson     1989  .340   69   -17    10.2
10  Darryl Strawberry  1988  .332   61    -8     9.8
11  David Wright       2005  .311   40     4     9.5
12  Keith Hernandez    1985  .304   35    19     9.5
13  Keith Hernandez    1986  .321   46    12     9.5
14  Darryl Strawberry  1987  .335   60    -8     9.4
15  John Olerud        1999  .310   40    15     9.0
16  Cleon Jones        1969  .326   43    13     8.8
17  Todd Hundley       1996  .304   33    -1     8.8
18  Edgardo Alfonzo    2002  .306   29    10     8.4
19  Gary Carter        1986  .288   19    13     8.4
20  Kevin McReynolds   1988  .317   44    -1     8.4
21  Darryl Strawberry  1990  .312   40    -1     8.2
22  Edgardo Alfonzo    1997  .293   22    14     8.2
23  Cliff Floyd        2005  .297   27    12     8.1
24  Ron Hunt           1964  .293   21     9     8.0
25  John Olerud        1997  .311   37    10     7.9
26  Howard Johnson     1991  .311   44   -18     7.8
27  Mike Piazza        2000  .327   44   -11     7.8
28  Jose Vizcaino      1995  .251   -6    24     7.7
29  Mike Piazza        1999  .303   31    -4     7.7
30  Mike Piazza        2001  .319   41   -12     7.7
31  Dave Magadan       1990  .326   42     4     7.6
32  Bud Harrelson      1971  .250   -7    17     7.5
33  Cleon Jones        1971  .311   35     7     7.5
34  Edgardo Alfonzo    1999  .299   33   -15     7.5
35  Howard Johnson     1988  .301   30    -5     7.5
36  Lance Johnson      1996  .297   32    -9     7.5
37  Keith Hernandez    1987  .295   27    10     7.4
38  Kevin Elster       1989  .252   -5    24     7.4
39  Mike Piazza        1998  .341   43    -5     7.4
40  Tommie Agee        1969  .286   20    10     7.4

As you can see, early Mets teams have sparse representation, with Ron Hunt, Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee the only representatives of the 1960s squads, and Jones and Bud Harrelson for the 70s teams. Also, the loftiest finish for a pre-1980 Met is #16 for Jones’ 1969 on the Miracle Mets. The rest of the list is a collection of 80s, 90s and 2000s Mets who dominate the upper portion of the table.

Most of the list was not a surprise; after all, it was fairly obvious who the stars of the 80s powerhouse Mets were, as well as the more recent Mets teams. What was a bit more shocking was Bernard Gilkey’s inclusion on the list, at all. Never mind that he was ranked third in Mets’ history, and that I was nervous enough in seeing that as I went through and put together my list that I checked Beltran’s 2006 numbers just to make sure he was not ranked lower.

Gilkey’s inclusion this high on the list is due not just because of his year with the bat, which I have no argument with − after all, fluke seasons happen − but with his glove. Granted, fluke defensive seasons happen as well, but this is well out of line with the rest of his career to the point where I question the statistic measuring it. Now, I chose WARP3 because my other option for historical comparisons was Win Shares, and I am happy with my decision. That does not mean WARP3 is infallible of course, and I feel like Gilkey is benefiting from some of the caveats. His 1996 season defensive value accounts for 30 percent of his career defensive value; doesn’t that seem a bit off? It is likely that it was a fluke defensive season where he managed to gain some extra value that he normally would not have, just like he did with the bat, but I wanted to throw that out there to stymie any arguments that may arise about the nature of the list in a general sense.

With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the other four seasons within the top five Mets seasons of all-time.

#5: Robin Ventura, 1999

Ventura is one of my favorites from my childhood; he just missed landing in the Top 40 a second time with his 2002 season, which would end up as his last productive one. He was signed as a free agent prior to the 1999 season to play third, moving Edgardo Alfonzo over to second base. Alfonzo’s bat was more valuable at second than the hot corner, and Ventura’s output made the signing look that much better overall.

Ventura posted the fourth best offensive campaign of his career, hitting .301/.379/.529 with 32 homeruns while also earning 22 FRAA, his last great defensive season and third best overall at third base. He was worth 10.6 WARP3 in 1999, and only 9.9 combined from 2000-2001 before the Mets traded him to the Yankees. In somewhat unrelated news, Ventura is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate at third base when measured against the average value already inducted. If Ron Santo were to make it to Cooperstown, Ventura’s candidacy would actually take even more of a hit.

#4: John Olerud, 1998

Olerud appears on the list three consecutive years, from 1997 to 1999. 1998 was far and away the most productive of the three campaigns, with Olerud hitting .354/.447/.551 and crossing the 20 homerun mark for the third time (out of five) in his career. His defense was also fantastic, as he posted 15 FRAA at first base, a figure he would only best twice in an 18-year career.

Like Ventura, Olerud is a viable Hall of Fame candidate by statistical measures, although I am almost positive he will receive almost no support. He’s currently ranked #11 all-time at first base according to JAWS – see an explanation of JAWS here − right behind another former Met, Keith Hernandez, and directly in front of Mark McGwire. If McGwire is not let in due to suspicious activity, it would be interesting to see if someone like John Olerud received more support, especially considering how long the BBWAA has allowed Steve Garvey’s undeserving career to linger on the ballot. I mention Garvey because he used to hit .300 a lot, and do little else. Olerud did more than hit .300 (hence my reverence) but also managed to post shiny batting averages and drive in 100 runs a few times, the things some voters are still paying attention to.

#2: Carlos Beltran, 2006

Finishing the year with the second highest value among all Mets position players in history seems like a nice way to say I’m sorry for not earning my contract in 2005. This is what Beltran can do when healthy; 11.8 is the highest WARP3 total of his career, and I’d like to point out that FRAA might be underselling his defensive abilities by a few runs. I know he did not swing at that curveball that everyone knew was coming against Adam Wainwright, but the Mets would not have been there without their best player in the first place.
He just finished up his age 29 season, and he is a power/speed combination guy, meaning he should age somewhat gracefully and productively. If Beltran remains healthy, he will more than likely be a Hall of Famer. Less than halfway through his career, he is about a season and a half short of entering the Top 50 centerfielders of all-time, ranked by JAWS. Enjoy one of the better players you will see in your lifetime as he patrols centerfield for the Mets.

#1: Edgardo Alfonzo, 2000

Alfonzo was moved over to second base during the 1999 season, and there his bat flourished as he hit .304/.385/.502. He improved even further in 2000, helping carry the Mets all the way to the World Series with a .324/.425/.542 line, along with a .444/.565/.611 against St. Louis in the NLCS.

Unlike how Beltran should age, Alfonzo put on some weight and lost his ability to play ball at an elite level. He posted four of the top forty seasons on this list (1997, 1999, 2000 and 2002) but fell off the planet after heading to the Giants. In the five seasons following his departure from the Mets, he only accumulated 7.3 WARP3, and even posted a negative total during his last season. Chances are good that Alfonzo’s days in the majors are numbered, but hey, at least Bernard Gilkey wasn’t #1 on your list. Alfonzo had a fine career, but considering his skills have seemingly disappeared at age 32, his chances at Cooperstown are about the same as mine.


39 Responses to “Historical Perspective: Carlos Beltran”

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  1. Comment posted by the loose cannon on December 15, 2006 at 12:04 am (#195253)

    Gilkey wasnt the Same after MIB

  2. Comment posted by birdos on December 15, 2006 at 1:18 am (#195330)

    i find it interesting that Jose Reyes is no where to be seen on there, although I believe for the stats used, it makes sense.

  3. Comment posted by Scott Kazmir’s Ghost on December 15, 2006 at 1:29 am (#195331)

    my physical therapist let me turn my shoulder just enough to watch carlos freeze up at that school yard curve ball in game 7; man i think i would have at least taken a swing at it. but i don’t hit anymore over here in the al; thank god… peace out……

  4. Comment posted by NCMets on December 15, 2006 at 1:29 am (#195332)

    nice piece. What about my man Reyes. I would think he would havw been top 50 last year

  5. Comment posted by NCMets on December 15, 2006 at 1:31 am (#195333)

    schoolyard curveball?! That was what u call a hammer

  6. Comment posted by AlexP on December 15, 2006 at 1:47 am (#195334)

    I don’t think FRAA is the best measure of defense out there. I’m not very well versed on this, but I’ve seen articles that suggest there are much better fielding metrics available.

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  8. Comment posted by Eric Simon on December 15, 2006 at 1:51 am (#195335)

    nice piece. What about my man Reyes. I would think he would havw been top 50 last year

    Reyes’s WARP3 last season was 7.2. I don’t know his exact rank but it would have been just shy of this list.

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  10. Comment posted by Eric Simon on December 15, 2006 at 1:53 am (#195336)

    I don’t think FRAA is the best measure of defense out there. I’m not very well versed on this, but I’ve seen articles that suggest there are much better fielding metrics available.

    This is true, but FRAA is readily available at Baseball Prospectus for historical seasons, something that can’t be said of other defensive metrics like, say, UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), PMR (Probabilistic Model of Range), Win Shares, +/- (Plus/Minus), etc. Zone Rating and Range Factor are available, but they are nothing to write home about.

  11. Comment posted by Raskolnikov on December 15, 2006 at 6:56 am (#195338)

    Gilkey and Hundley tore up the league in 1996. It was a 3 man show, along with Lance Johnson. Everyone else on that team stunk.

    We’ve come a long way.

  12. Comment posted by SMHalps on December 15, 2006 at 7:40 am (#195340)

    Nice piece. Gilkey’s season seamed increadible as it was happening. I have no problem with his being rated so high. I do wonder about the lowness of the early players rankings. Is this a bias in the system? Does the lower offence of those times compress player rankings? Agee for 2 years was great, as was Jones in 1969. The “low” ratings for Piazza and McReynolds (in 1988) jibe with my memory. Mike always seemed to be slightly behind his reputation (still an easy HOF’er though),although what is the replacement value for a catcher? Kevin Mac in 1988 seemed to be enjoying an overhyped (in the press) season. For those that were there, Staw was the much better player. Mex in 1984 seems about right, but I swear he made the whole team better when he came over from St. Louis. Too bad you can’t give credit for that. Finally, I think you are missing the boat on Garvey. While active he was thought of as a future HOF’er. He drove in 100 runs, got 200 hits, hit 25+ homers season after season, in a tough hitters ballpark in an era when those numbers put him amoung the league leaders. He was a very good fielding first baseman (ignore Total baseball’s trashing of his D), who couldn’t throw. Lastly, his teams won. Counts big in my book.

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  14. Comment posted by 86Forever on December 15, 2006 at 8:15 am (#195341)

    Good morning, Geekville!

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  16. Comment posted by 86Forever on December 15, 2006 at 8:21 am (#195343)

    I found the discussion of BRAs and FRAUs and WARP SPEED all very interesting. Sort of like a recap of a Russ Meyer movie.

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  18. Comment posted by 86Forever on December 15, 2006 at 8:22 am (#195344)

    I actually thought the Met who sported the best BRA - and seemed most like a FRAU - was Rusty Staub. Your article proved me wrong.

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  20. Comment posted by 86Forever on December 15, 2006 at 8:24 am (#195345)

    I also thought you might want to look at another key statistic for fielding - Putouts Against National league Teams In Eastern division Series, or PANTIES. I believe you wil find Gilkey also excelled there as well.

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  22. Comment posted by 86Forever on December 15, 2006 at 8:26 am (#195346)

    I was also surprised, in going through my record books, that the Mets leader in Groundouts Against the Yankees (or GAYs) was Mike Piazza. Disappointing.

  23. Comment posted by Ramon in Southwest Germany on December 15, 2006 at 8:39 am (#195347)

    Good morning Zitologists. It is a 2:36 in Stuttgart and you all know that I am working hard to spread the word around Europe. Say no to Borito!

  24. Comment posted by RealityChuck on December 15, 2006 at 8:40 am (#195348)

    Throwing out Gilkey brings your entire methodology into question. If it’s wrong about him, why is it right about anyone else?

    If you’re going to analyze mathematically, you can’t pick and choose the results you get. Gilkey as #3 is as legitimate a conclusion as any of the others found by this method.

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  26. Comment posted by MetsFanSince71 on December 15, 2006 at 8:53 am (#195349)

    LMAO, 86

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  28. Comment posted by MetsFanSince71 on December 15, 2006 at 8:54 am (#195350)

    86Forever–
    did you see the “exclusive video” link i posted yesterday of you buying a Christmas tree??

  29. Comment posted by Brian on December 15, 2006 at 8:59 am (#195351)

    RealityChuck,

    I think this is more of a “Wow - Gilkey! Let me check the numbers. Ok, Gilkey it is” kind of thing where it very suprising when you look at the list after the numbers tell you the results, than “Must remove Gilkey from the list” kind of reaction (what a run on sentence).

    This might be a good example of why some baseball people hate the numbers guys. Everyonce in while the numbers might tell you to sign Gilkey (or Gil Meche)

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  31. Comment posted by 86Forever on December 15, 2006 at 9:05 am (#195352)

    MFS, I just waent back and saw it — hilarious!

    Of course, I am way hotter than that dude. :)

    Gown still on. I’ll shout it loud and proud until that burn-out surfer signs with the Rangers …

    LET’S GET BAKED!!!!!!!!

  32. Comment posted by Ramon in Southwest Germany on December 15, 2006 at 9:19 am (#195354)

    Borito (n.) In Zitology, Borito is the two-headed god of pitching and success. Chief above all gods, even the Goldenchild D-Wright, it is widely held that Borito was created to delver MetsNation to the Promised Land. Much like Taoism, Zitology strestses the ammalgamtion of opposites and Borito is the key conceptual figure whose existence represents a combination of the forces of light and dark.

    According to Zitologist creationist myth, Borito is the fusion of two oppositing forces in the third level of the Zitologist Underworld (see free agency). The first force is Zito, an eccentric Western god of lefty 12-6 curveballs and light. The second force is Boras, the dark greed mongering demon and promiser of riches. In Zitologist folklore, once Zito was able to escape his 6 year imprisonment in the West, the two forces coalesced to create a two-headed Messiah able to deliver vitory for an annual sacrifice of of around 16-17 million for 6-7 years. (see Zitology, polytheism, the Goldenchild, Taoism)

  33. Comment posted by garrybl on December 15, 2006 at 9:37 am (#195359)

    Re Gilkey’s stats.
    My recollection is that there was at least a season where he had a spectacular number of outfield assists….(I seem to remember him throwing Piazza out when he could not make it from second to third on a hit to the outfield).
    Do assists distort the stats — often people run on a below average arm, and this far removed from the action I cant recall how Gilkey’s arm strength was considered.

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  35. Comment posted by marc normandin on December 15, 2006 at 11:49 am (#195490)

    I’m not removing Gilkey from his spot. I’m simply using his season as the example for the things that may be wrong with using WARP3 for this list.

  36. Comment posted by senor_mike on December 15, 2006 at 12:17 pm (#195518)

    Great article Marc.

    I wonder what Beltran’s final WARP3 would have been had he not mangled his leg in Houston in early September. Every single month up until that point he had posted a .978 OPS or better, and was sitting at 1.012 at the time of the play.

    In September he ended up sitting out 10 games and posted a .768 OPS, finishing with a .982 OPS on the year.

    Considering what Beltran had done up to that point in the season and where it put the Mets in the standings, I personally would consider his 2006 the most impressive single Met season of all time.

  37. Comment posted by Bring Back Edgardo on December 15, 2006 at 12:47 pm (#195529)

    It feels like the other guys in the top 5 all had better years than Beltran, and I’m not just saying that because of his last at-bat of the season. Maybe it’s a combination of expecting too much from him and that he had a lot of support from the Reyes, Delgados and Wrights, but that’s how it feels to me. Call me a hater.

  38. Comment posted by ed in westchester on December 15, 2006 at 12:50 pm (#195532)

    Ramon enjoy Germany.
    Zito will be a Met when you get back.
    Funny stuff by the way.

  39. Comment posted by ed in westchester on December 15, 2006 at 12:53 pm (#195533)

    I hope we will see a lot more of Beltran on this list.
    Wright also.

  40. Comment posted by ed in westchester on December 15, 2006 at 1:13 pm (#195537)

    To me the fact that Beltran was able to rank so high with all the competition is impressive. Look how many great players we have had, and this guy hits #2 on the list, even while missing some time.
    Great article.

  41. Comment posted by Josh on December 15, 2006 at 2:25 pm (#195607)

    I don’t know why it’s a problem that Gilkey is so high, he did have a great season in ‘96. Very surprised Piazza’s best season is only 27th.

  42. Comment posted by argonbunnies on December 15, 2006 at 2:50 pm (#195625)

    Marc, fun article. But I think the rankings are beyond meaningless. Howard Johnson scores a BRAA of 69 and winds up behind David Wright’s BRAA of 42? Because of some whack defensive metric that credits Wright with saving 11 runs relative to avg, and HoJo with costing 17?

    The BRAA numbers relate to statistical truths than can be coroborated by other means (e.g. OPS+).

    Fielding Runs are somewhere between “sketchy” and “100% random”. Most consistent-looking defenders see their Fielding Runs fluctuate wildly from year to year.

    I think a more accurate ranking would be to apply a “giant grain of salt” weighting system, wherein one tenth of FRAA are added to BRAA.

    I will do so in my next post.

  43. Comment posted by argonbunnies on December 15, 2006 at 2:59 pm (#195632)

    Okay, I lied, I dunno how to fabricate WARP3 numbers, so I’d just be adding BRAA + FRAA. So, I’ll just complain without providing a solution.

    One more complaint:

    I thought the “above average” referred to the player’s position, but clearly it doesn’t. If it did, Piazza would probably have the top 2 spots on this list.

  44. Comment posted by Raskolnikov on December 15, 2006 at 6:05 pm (#195832)

    Too bad you can’t give credit for that. Finally, I think you are missing the boat on Garvey. While active he was thought of as a future HOF’er. He drove in 100 runs, got 200 hits, hit 25+ homers season after season, in a tough hitters ballpark in an era when those numbers put him amoung the league leaders. He was a very good fielding first baseman (ignore Total baseball’s trashing of his D), who couldn’t throw. Lastly, his teams won. Counts big in my book.

    Nah, Garvey is one of the most overrated players in baseball history. He didn’t really do anything particularly well except for hitting .300. For a more detailed analysis, look up Bill James’ old abstracts during the ’80s or his Historical Abstract.

    Basically, what Olerud did during his peak seasons completely obliterated anything Garvey did during his peak. It’s a shame that Olerud’s peak didn’t last longer.\, or we might be talking about a HOF candidate.

  45. Comment posted by hasan on December 15, 2006 at 7:00 pm (#195839)

    LMBO 86forever. !!!! nice stat categories

  46. Comment posted by argonbunnies on December 15, 2006 at 9:00 pm (#195845)

    Ramon, I am sending your definition of Borito to all my Mets buddies. Great stuff.

  47. Comment posted by Jose Reyes, RBI Machine on December 17, 2006 at 6:13 pm (#196647)

    Hey guys. I miss this site. Remember last year when I wasn’t in law school and got to post here all the time? Well, since I’m on a trip down memory lane, and this thread is allowing me the opportunity to do so, I will recap my single most common comment from last offseason.

    BRING BACK FONZIE!!

    Oh, we did? And he stinks? How sad…

  48. Comment posted by Jose Reyes, RBI Machine on December 17, 2006 at 6:14 pm (#196648)

    By the way, great article. I’m surprised by Gilkey’s season, but not that much. I’m really surprised, however, to see Piazza ranked so low.

  49. Comment posted by Andrew on December 18, 2006 at 1:54 pm (#196923)

    great base ball player gret outfeild jumped over fence to catch a home run ball so the other team will not win and yes the mets did win that game and by everyones luck they almost got to the world serious but the stupid cardinals hit a homerun just at the end of the game and the cardinals won and the mets lost.

  50. Comment posted by carlos beltran on December 18, 2006 at 1:56 pm (#196924)

    great base ball player gret outfeild jumped over fence to catch a home run ball so the other team will not win and yes the mets did win that game and by everyones luck they almost got to the world serious but the stupid cardinals hit a homerun just at the end of the game and the cardinals won and the mets lost..ie

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