The question was brought up by a Twitter follow of mine, Josh Reese, who works in Houston sports:
Bonus #Astros question of the day.— Pivoting 2 Video (@MrJoshua) August 17, 2017
Is Carlos Beltran a hall of famer?
The reaction among his comments was overwhelmingly in favor of Beltran's status as a surefire future Hall of Famer. My initial reaction was that he's a good player, but not ultimately destined for the Hall. Like any good baseball question, though, this is the kind of thing we figure out with statistics.
Arguments in Favor
Beltran's career triple crown numbers are...solid. He has a career batting average of .279 with 2,724 hits, 435 HR, and 1,587 RBI. The numbers are eerily similar to HOFer Andre Dawson (.279, 2,774 438, and 1,591). Obviously the numbers don't cross the magic thresholds of 3,000 hits and 500 HR (neither of which I expect Beltran to surpass before retirement), but they're very good.
He also raised his game during the playoffs, upping his average to .323 across 55 postseason games and mashing 16 home runs, including 8 bombs in two series with the Astros in 2004.
Beltran has been a big-time run producer, notching seven seasons of at least 100 runs and eight seasons of at least 100 RBI. Again, very good numbers.
Of course, the Hall of Fame isn't for players who are "very good." It's for the ultimate elite in baseball history. Andre Dawson's numbers were accumulated in a much weaker offensive era, a period when baseball went from 1978 through 1989 without anyone hitting 50 home runs. During Beltran's career, 22 different seasons of 50+ home runs have been recorded.
Also worth noting is that the Hall of Fame, historically, has been meant to reflect the players who were at the top of the game during their careers. The players who most frequently are elected to the Hall of Fame are those who have league-leading statistical seasons, MVP seasons, Cy Young seasons, etc.
Albert Pujols is a great example. He'll undoubtedly be a Hall of Famer, and probably a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He finished first in MVP voting three times, and four other times he finished second or third. He led the league in HR twice, R five times, SLG three times, and a number of other top finishes. Beltran has led the league once...in games played. He did win Rookie of the Year, which puts him in such elite company as Raul Mondesi, of embezzlement fame.
Tying It All Together
In the end, the argument usually ends up somewhere in between. This time, we've got a pretty fair comparable player we can use to determine what we should think about Beltran: Gary Sheffield. Sheffield came into the league a little bit earlier, but his playing prime was right around when Beltran's was. He won a single batting title, but overall shared Beltran's lack for individual accolades. He generated impressive power numbers during a period when everybody was generating impressive power numbers.
His final tallies come in at a .292 batting average, 2,689 hits, 509 home runs, and 1,676 runs batted in. I think you can fairly compare the two players, and I think the final verdict is going to be that Sheffield, while a very good player, is not a Hall of Famer. He picked up just 13% of the vote last year, in his 3rd year on the ballot. I don't expect he'll get anywhere near the late surge that Tim Raines or Bert Blyleven got. In the end, he'll likely be left on the outside looking in, as a member of the Hall of Really Good.
That's my call for Beltran as well.
Verdict: Not a Hall of Famer