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Jeff Sullivan on Adrian Beltre

Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing and SBN is a big Adrian Beltre guy.  Given that Jeff followed him closely for five years when Beltre was a Mariner, I thought you'd be interested in hearing what he had to say about Beltre.

And thus, after the jump, you will find a guest post from Jeff on Adrian Beltre...

Hey there you guys. Adam asked if I could provide a link to a Beltre summary piece over at Lookout Landing, but I volunteered instead to write up a guest post because Adrian Beltre is a topic near and dear to my heart. That won’t come as a surprise to some of you, as I think we’re pretty well known for being big Beltre fans, but we’re also pretty well known for being big Mariners fans so it’s not like our standards of quality are very high. I wanted to take this opportunity to explain why I think Beltre really is a good player, and a guy you’re going to love.

The biggest drawback with Beltre – and the thing I think people hold against him – is that he clearly has the talent to be better. He showed it in 2004. When a guy hits 48 home runs at the age of 25, people generally aren’t going to be satisfied if he never again reaches 30. You can see it in Beltre’s numbers, and you can see it in Beltre’s skillset – the raw ability is there for him to be a perennial MVP candidate, and for him to fall short rubs a lot of fans the wrong way.

But if you focus less on what Beltre’s capable of and more on how he actually performs, you’ll see there’s a lot to like. Offensively, you know what you’re getting. He just had the year he had with Boston. He struggled to hit in Safeco with Seattle, but over the course of his Mariners career, he batted .277/.326/.471 on the road. He’s an aggressive hitter, and he gets himself out on outside sliders, but he has good plate coverage and a ton of strength. This is a guy who’s hit multiple home runs from his back knee. When Beltre connects, it’s like when Nelson Cruz connects.

He’ll have his slumps and his ugly at bats against righties with dynamite breaking balls. That’s just part of the package. It’s all the flailing that makes people wish he could act a little more disciplined. If you can accept the flailing, though, rather than having it serve as a source of frustration, then overall you’ll come away pleased. He’s productive, if not spectacularly so.

And then there’s the defense. I don’t need to tell you about Beltre’s defensive reputation, and even if you don’t put much stock in the available metrics, it’s clear from watching him work around the bag that he has something most players don’t. His arm is remarkably strong and remarkably accurate. He has range to both sides and keeps himself balanced. And I don’t think there’s ever been a guy better at charging bunts and weak grounders down the line. He’ll sprint in out of nowhere, barehand the ball, and make an impossible throw to first base, and then he’ll go back to the bag and do it again. Some guys can pull this play off some of the time. With Beltre, it’s a near guarantee. When referred to in text, the play should probably bear his name.

That’s the performance stuff. That’s most of what makes him so appealing. But then there’s the rest of the package. The self-appeals to first base. The occasional happy feet shuffle when he sits back on an offspeed pitch. The whole head-touching thing. The durability and determination to play through pain, such that he once remained in the game and scored the winning run after tearing a testicle.

Adrian Beltre is just a treat to watch. He’s a treat to watch first and foremost because he’s good, but also because he so clearly just enjoys what he does. He has a lot of fun playing the game, and he does little to hide it. We want our favorite players to act professional, but we also like to see their personalities shine through, and I think Beltre’s a guy who’s going to fit right in with the Rangers’ young clubhouse. The claw and the antlers – if those things survive, Beltre’s going to take part, and he’ll often be caught with a smile on his face. He’s both one of the most intense players I’ve ever watched, and one of the most playful.

I don’t know if Beltre’s going to be worth what the Rangers are giving him in the long run. He turns 32 next April, and he’s never been one to take it easy on his body. There’s a chance he ends up breaking down. But he’ll be a big help in the immediate, and assuming he adapts happily to the ballpark, he could and should end up being among the team’s most popular players. He’ll produce runs, he’ll save runs, and he’ll do all those little things to remind you that players are people, and some people are awesome.