Article from the archives—Adrian Beltre: What 1,000 runs scored means for Rangers third baseman

On April 14, 2011, Adrian Beltre—a future Hall of Famer who was anything but a sure thing at that point—scored his 1,000th career run. It’s not a huge feat, as mentioned in this article, but I decided to memorialize it with some prose anyway. Usually I wouldn’t post something like this, because really all it does is announce something (that happened 10 years ago), but there were enough fun facts and trivial information throughout that I thought you’d enjoy reading it.

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Adrian Beltre turned it on in his 30s after slashing just .271/.327/.459 in his teens and 20s. (Wikipedia).

Just the other day, on April 14, Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre scored his 1,000th career run. Oh, you didn’t hear about it? Well, that’s to be expected—the feat wasn’t particularly well-publicized and run milestones don’t seem to garner much attention anyway.

What, then, makes the 33-year-old Beltre’s 1,000th crossing of home plate meaningful, or worth noting, or so valuable that one should put metaphorical quill to parchment and expound upon the landmark?

First, it’s a pretty impressive feat, even if it’s not particularly rare—he joins a club with 29 other active members and over 300 members overall. The active crew is riddled with greats like Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki—that’s a pretty good fraternity to be in.

Most importantly, however, it signals that the Dominican third sacker could be quietly putting together a Hall of Fame career.

Third basemen with 1,000 runs, 2,000 hits and 300 home runs are a pretty rare breed—only four have posted those numbers since 1980, with Beltre and Cooperstown shoo-in Chipper Jones amongst the flock. Compare that to first basemen: In that span, more than twice as many initial sackers have posted those types of numbers. Clearly, third sackers with even decent power and hit-ability—by first base’s standards, at least—are hard to come by.

And Adrian Beltre is one of them, placing him in an elite group.

Of course, that is not to say that if Beltre were to retire today he would be a Hall of Famer—sure, among his positional peers he is in a supreme cabal, but to the untrained eye, he is still only decent.

Since third basemen don’t often reach the “milestone” numbers like 500 home runs and 3,000 hits with regularity, they are often underappreciated and even considered inferior to players at other positions on the diamond. They are somewhere between the historically uber-defensive shortstop and second base positions and the uber-offensive first base and right field positions. Being caught in that in-between segment of the baseball spectrum is one of the reasons why third base is an underrepresented position in the Hall of Fame.

And that’s why Beltre needs to keep adding to his career totals and accolades before he can rightfully claim a spot in Cooperstown.

Yes, he has three Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers, but a couple more of each wouldn’t hurt. Sure, he’s been an All-Star twice and, though All-Star appearances aren’t always a huge indicator of a Hall of Fame career—Robin Yount was only selected to three and Bert Blyleven to two—it wouldn’t hurt for him to tack on a couple more to his resume, lest he toil on the ballot for over a decade as 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Blyleven did.

And while accolades are nice, they don’t mean nearly as much if statistics aren’t there to back them up. Yes, 2,000 hits and 300 home runs are good—fantastic, even, for third basemen—but they don’t jump out at voters and the layperson. Fellow hot corner specialist Gary Gaetti had over 2,200 knocks and 360 longballs to boot and, though he is fondly remembered, no one is clamoring for his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Because of the position he mans, it is hard to say what Beltre needs to do to gain Cooperstown membership. Mike Schmidt earned election after hitting 548 home runs and playing great defense, yet Ron Santo entered the Hall, albeit after a long wait, with 342 dingers and defense that was only slightly above average, according to Defensive WAR. It’s a variable position with variable “rules” for induction.

Instead, let’s look at what he is on pace to achieve, according to famed Sabermatrician Bill James’ projection system called the “Favorite Toy,” and see if those numbers are enough to earn him the most prestigious call in all of baseball.

Chipper Jones finished with 468 home runs and 2,726 hits. (Wikipedia).

Using the tool, we find that Beltre is projected to hit 403 home runs and finish with 2,765 hits. He’s heading towards nearly 1,500 RBI and over 1,300 runs. Now those are Hall of Fame numbers and notably, they are not digits constructed from fantasy—they are what he is on pace to achieve per the extrapolation system.

In the history of the game ever, only four third basemen have hit over 400 home runs. Only three have collected at least 2,700 hits. Yet not one has combined such power numbers with those hit totals—something Beltre is statistically projected to do.

Chipper might be the first to join that club—he stands only 80 hits away from 2,700 and he already has over 450 moonshots—but Beltre, being half of that guild of two, would be a no-doubter for the Hall if he reached those numbers.

Now, that’s not saying he has to reach those marks to be a Hall of Famer. He could as easily collect 2,400 hits and whack 350 home runs and one day earn election, but he’d have to wait a few years, just as Ron Santo did. (Coincidentally, Beltre is most statistically similar to Santo through age 32, according to Baseball-Reference.com).

However Beltre’s career turns out, it’s hard to believe I’m talking about his blooming Hall of Fame prospects. To think: This was a guy people thought was washed up in 2005!

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Beltre went on to score a lot more than 1,000 runs in his career and beat the projections set forth in the article handily. He is the only third baseman, and just one of 11 players, to finish with over 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. Having done so, he ranks among names like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial.

Max Muncy’s 2019 was pretty unusual (introducing the Muncy Ratio).

Max Muncy, the father of the Muncy Ratio. (Wikipedia).

Slugging infielder Max Muncy doesn’t match up with some of the names who have done it, but in 2019 he achieved a thrice-in-a-decade feat.

That year, he had 122 hits and crossed the plate 101 times, an astonishing hit-to-run ratio of 1.21, which was accomplished by only two other players in the 2010s (minimum 100 hits).

In 2011, Curtis Granderson scored 136 runs on 153 hits and in 2017, Aaron Judge scored 128 runs on 154 hits. Since 1950, the Muncy Ratio, as we’ll call it, happened just 25 times, and only 46 times since 1900.

But, historically, it isn’t rare. In the small ball, high-steal, often wonky days of  19th century baseball, it happened 114 times. Ross Barnes did it first in 1873, when he had 125 runs on just 138 hits, then he did it again in 1876, with 126 runs and 138 hits.

In 1884 Billy Hamilton, the renowned speedster, had 198 runs on 225 hits, and Hall of Famer King Kelly nearly hit the magic ratio of 1:1 in 1885, scoring 124 runs on 126 hits.

If a Hall of Famer couldn’t do it, some lesser names could. Emmett Seery—whose claim to fame still hasn’t been established nearly a century-and-a-half later—scored 104 runs and had the same number of hits for the long-since forgotten Indianapolis Hoosiers in 1887.

Honestly, if we were discussing this feat in the 1800s, no one would be impressed. Eight men scored more runs than had hits between 1884 and 1890 alone. George Gore did it twice. Seery’s accomplishment is unique, sure, but the Muncy Ratio—the very reason for this article!—eh, it’d be nothing to write home about about.

Harry Stovey achieved the Ratio more than anybody. (Wikipedia).

Harry Stovey managed it eight times, including four years in a row. Bid McPhee, a Hall of Famer, and George Gore—who should be in the Hall if you ask the right folks—did it five times each. Even Tom BrownTom who??—did it four times.

Then the 20th century dawned. The Ratio, which was achieved eight times from 1895 to 1899, didn’t occur again until 1911—it happened four times that decade, and Donie Bush owns two of its instances.

It saw a resurgence in the high-flying 1920s and 1930s, occurring 15 times. Of course Babe Ruth accomplished it, three times in fact, but so did Oscar Charleston and Cool Papa Bell, twice, each. In 1930, Max Bishop, known for being a walks machine, was the first player to score more runs than have hits in a season since 1890. That year, he trotted home 117 times on just 111 hits. He was also the last player to manage a hit-to-run ratio of less than one-to-one.

As offenses came down to earth, the mark again became a rarity. Only two men did it in the 1940s, none in the 1950s, two in the 1960s and one in the 1970s, with Jim Wynn the only man to do it that decade. He also achieved it in 1969.

Rickey Henderson and Eric Davis tried to bring the trend back in the 1980s and it worked, sort of. Both did it twice, and Henderson did it five times overall.

As the game became offensive again in the 1990s, it saw an uptick in the hit-run phenomenon. It was achieved six times by four players in that ten-year span.

Then 2000s Barry Bonds happened. With hurlers pitching around him at record rates, he was getting on base with superhuman frequency—and, with guys like Jeff Kent batting behind him, scoring a lot. He accomplished the feat four times in a five year span, but still doesn’t own the most impressive season of those who did it that decade: In 2000, Jeff Bagwell led the league with 152 runs scored on just 183 hits.

While nearly all the players who reach the Ratio rank as very good-to-great and have or had All-Star potential, sometimes a total outlier crops up and joins the club. In 2005, David Dellucci did just that, scoring 97 runs on just 109 hits. It was one of only two seasons in which he had 100-plus knocks.

And here we are today. Max Muncy was the last player to reach the ratio he established, and though he’s managed it just once, he’s gotten close in other years, as well. In 2018, he had a hit-to-run ratio of 1.41-to-1. This year, he’s at 1.31. And last year, had he played a full season, he would have bested the Muncy Ratio with a mark of 1.08.

Fernando Tatis, Jr. is on the verge of qualifying for the Muncy Ratio. (Wikipedia).

There are a few factors that allow for the phenomenon to unfold. Drawing walks is key—58 of those who achieved it had on-base percentages of .400 or better when they did. Speed helps, too, especially for those who hit a lot of singles or don’t have a good eye at the plate. Sixty-nine of the players who achieved the Muncy Ratio had stolen at least 40 bases.

Home runs contribute. By dint of what they are they achieve a H:R ratio of 1:1 each time they’re hit. And triples, they’re not quite home runs, but they get a player as close to scoring as possible without going all around the bases. Sixty-two of those who managed the Ratio had 10 or more when they did it.

And most importantly, batters need other solid hitters in the lineup to drive them in—a triple is only a run scored if someone else pokes one into the outfield or himself hits a big fly. Otherwise, it’s a wasted opportunity.

Sure, it’s a novelty, the Muncy Ratio. But those who achieve it, in the 21st century at least, are in fairly rare territory. And though the club’s membership might expand by two this year, with Fernando Tatis, Jr. (98 H, 83 R) and Joey Gallo (81 H, 70 R) right at its doorstep, do recall—

It’s a group neither Willie Mays, nor Joe DiMaggio, nor Frank Robinson, nor Hank Aaron, nor Ken Griffey, Jr., nor Lou Brock, nor Ty Cobb ever managed to joined.