A number of players have been reaching milestones lately. A-rod crossed the 3,000 hit mark, as well as the 2,000 RBI mark. Mike Trout became the youngest to reach both 100 HR and 100 SB in a career. Prince Fielder hit his 300th HR. And, these are all great achievements, and perhaps one day all of these will be in the Hall of Fame (though, Rodriguez is gonna have to wait quite a while, I imagine). But, today, I want to draw your attention to a couple players that you might not realize are as good as they are. Not because you’ve never heard of them. Not because they haven’t been All-Stars. But, because you may not realize what their career is shaping up to be. One batter and one pitcher whose careers are very much on a Hall of Fame pace – and, I’m not sure too many are paying attention.
Adrian Beltre. While it may seem as though Beltre has been around forever – he’s only 36. Which, if he can stay healthy, means he has a solid 3+ seasons left in the tank. And, as his career stands right now, he has 401 HR and 2,657 hits. Let’s start with the hits. If Beltre finishes this season with just 125 hits (the 2nd fewest of his career since he became an everyday starter), because he’s been injured, he would only need 90 hits per year the next three seasons to crack 3,000. But, a realistic drop-off in production over the next three years has him going over 3,100 for his career – somewhere in the Tony Gwynn/Robin Yount neighborhood.
Only 29 batters in the history of the game have eclipsed 3,000 hits. Though, by the time Beltre were to accomplish the feat, it would probably be 30 (Ichiro figures to beat him to the punch). But, what is likely even more impressive, is the fact that Beltre will also finish his career with 450+ HR. If he didn’t hit another HR this year, he would only need 17 per season the next three years to cross that barrier. There are only 8 players ever to have 3,000 hits and at least 450 HR – Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Carl Yastrzemski, Eddie Murray, Dave Winfield, Rafael Palmeiro (though his stats are highly questionable), and A-Rod (whose stats are questionable, but not nearly as bad as Palmeiro).
And on that list of eight players, do you know how many are third basemen? – one. Sort of. Rodriguez still hasn’t played as many games at third as he has at short. But, Beltre has spent his career at the hot corner – winning 4 Gold Gloves in the process. He has the potential to go down as one of the best all-around third basemen of all time! But, who, outside of the state of Texas, even knows this?
Zack Greinke. Pitching in the shadow of Clayton Kershaw has been one of the best moves of Greinke’s career. Since joining the Dodgers, Greinke is 37-14 with a 2.50 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 438 K’s in 474.2 IP. It has also helped him stay well on pace for some impressive career numbers. Like Beltre, I think most people think of Greinke as a veteran that’s getting on up there in age. But, he’s only 31 years old, and doesn’t actually have a ton of innings already logged (just 1,966.2 in his career). You see, Greinke came up at the age of 20, in 2004. He had a couple rough years as a starter, and went back down to AA in 2006. When he came back in 2007, he spent the majority of that year in the bullpen, before really catching on as a full-time starter in 2008, at the age of 24.
Through what we’ll call 11+ seasons (2007 hardly counts), Greinke has 128 wins and 1,770 K’s. Now, I understand that projecting a pitcher who potentially has 7-8 more seasons left is very difficult to do. But, let’s say that Greinke played 8 more full seasons (beyond 2015), and finished with 20 years in the big leagues. Where were other 20-year pitchers at this point in their career? Through 2032 IP, Fergie Jenkins had 135 W’s and 1650 K’s. Through 1902 IP, Curt Schilling had 110 W’s and 1739 K’s. Through 2060 IP, John Smoltz had 129 W’s and 1769 K’s. Do you see where this is heading?
Zack Greinke could become just the 17th pitcher ever to record 3,000 K’s in a career – 14 of whom are already in the HOF. He’s also on pace for at least 225+ wins. Playing with arguably the best pitcher in the game on his team has caused many to overlook Greinke’s talent. But, don’t be surprised if he goes down as one of the all-time greats, when it’s all said and done.