A few years ago, JC Bradbury introduced the idea of predicted OPS - PrOPS - a metric that takes a player's offensive peripheral stats and BIP profile and uses them to calculate a luck-independent expected batting line. The metric isn't perfect, as it can run into trouble when dealing with, say, a speedster or a plodding slugger who defy the norm a little bit, but it seems to work pretty well for Adrian Beltre:
2004-2007, Real: .283/.335/.497
2004-2007, PrOPS: .286/.336/.501
With that in mind, I present to you the following:
2008, Real: .244/.321/.469
2008, PrOPS: .299/.366/.552
I think we've known for a while that Beltre's been the victim of a nasty rash of bad luck, but it's the magnitude that's startling. Beltre has the sixth-lowest BABIP in baseball despite an above-average LD%, and when you account for that and adjust his batting up to what he "deserves", he comes out looking amazing. His .918 PrOPS is seventh-best in the AL and second only to Josh Hamilton among players at skill positions. Throw in his 5 < x < 15 defense and you have a guy who'd be a legitimate MVP contender given standard luck and a better team. And to think that people claim he's a bust.
Now, it's only been two months, and because Beltre's 2008 PrOPS is so much higher than what he's had in the recent past (.758, .816, .790 in Seattle), he's probably due for some regression. But this is still the best version of Adrian Beltre we've had in four years, low batting line be damned, and only Alex Rodriguez stands in his way of being the best third baseman in the American League. Forget the anomalous 2004; at 29, Beltre appears to be reaching his peak, and his peak is terrific.
Adrian Beltre is a star player. Possibly the most underappreciated star player in the league. It's too bad that only upon his inevitable departure will more people come to realize just how much he brought to this team.