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Premier Defenders on Hall of Fame Ballot

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The 2024 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot features two of the best defensive players to appear on a ballot since Defensive Runs Saved was first tracked in 2003.

Adrián Beltré ranks No. 1 among third basemen in our time tracking the stat with 200 Runs Saved. He’s one of only two players to reach 200 Runs Saved at a position, along with Andrelton Simmons (201 at shortstop).

Beltré led third basemen in Runs Saved in 2008, 2010, and 2016 and finished second in 2003 and 2004. He won The Fielding Bible Award in 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2012.

Beltré played mostly in an era in which SIS credited fielders for positioning as part of their Runs Saved total. Under that system, from 2003 to 2006, he rated an MLB-best 51 plays better than average specifically on balls hit to the right of where a third baseman typically played.

But he could get outs on balls hit to a variety of spots.

From 2008 to 2010, he made an MLB-best 48 more plays than average on balls hit to the left of where a third baseman typically played.

Beltré’s defense combined with his 3,166 hits and 477 home runs elevates him to a plateau among the most skilled players in MLB history. His 93.5 bWAR rank 3rd all-time among those whose primary position was third base, trailing only Mike Schmidt (106.8) and Eddie Mathews (96.0).

Beltré ranks 7th among third basemen in the offensive component of WAR but vaults past Chipper Jones, George Brett, Wade Boggs, and Paul Molitor because of his defense. He’s a lock to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, Chase Utley, also on this year’s ballot, ranks 2nd in Defensive Runs Saved among second basemen since the stat was first tracked in 2003. He trails only Mark Ellis.

Utley led second basemen in Defensive Runs Saved once, when he totaled 30 in 2008. That matches the most by a second baseman in any season. He won a Fielding Bible Award in 2010. Utley had a clear defensive peak. From 2005 to 2010 he saved an MLB-best 115 Runs Saved at second base, an average of 19 per season.

For most of his career, Utley was most successful at getting to balls hit to the right of where second basemen typically played, the exception being in 2008 when he was 32 plays better than the average defender on balls hit to the left of average positioning. That +32 is the best for any infielder on balls hit to either the left or right since such data was tracked in 2003.

In fact, Utley finished the season +46 on all balls, the highest single-season plays saved total by an infielder. To learn more about Utley's excellence, click here to read an article written by SIS co-founder John Dewan in 2009.

Utley ranks 19th in the offensive component of bWAR among those whose primary position was second base but jumps to 15th in WAR among those at the position when other components (including defense) are factored in.

He’s an interesting Hall of Fame candidate in that his career offensive numbers are light compared to other electees. But over the 6-year period of 2005 to 2010, his offense combined with his defense and baserunning to make him one of the game’s most complete players. His 45.5 bWAR in that time ranks 2nd to Albert Pujols (52.1)

We’ll do a more comprehensive review of the Hall ballot at another time. But we felt these two players deserved a special salute particularly for what they did on the defensive side.

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