We all mourn the passing of Dodger great, Duke Snider. Snider is a Hall of Fame player and an icon for a glorious era in baseball. There is no doubt that Snider deserved the comparisons with Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle at his peak and there is no doubt that Snider should have won the MVP award in 1953. And it also seems a bit fitting that one of the best center fielders of our time, Carlos Beltran, is in the news a day after Snider's passing. Beltran, coming off of various knee ailments the past couple of years, has said he'll move to right field for the Mets this season. The duality of the stories led this Fan to start thinking about how the two players compare. Of course, comparing players from different eras is always dicey, but, regardless, it's a fun exercise.
Carlos Beltran has already played more games in center than Snider did. Snider also moved to right as he got older. The Duke played over 797 games in center. Beltran has already played over 1,500 games at that position. The Duke scored 67.5 wins above replacement (WAR) according to baseball-reference.com and 71 for Fangraphs. Beltran, who is currently five years younger than when Snider retired, has a 54 WAR for Fangraphs and 56.5 for baseball-reference.com.
Snider clearly has Beltran on the offensive side. The Duke compiled a 140 OPS+ over his career, Beltran is sitting at 118 and doesn't look to improve upon that in his latter years. The Duke averaged 30 homers per 162 games while Beltran has averaged 28. The Duke averaged 27 doubles per 162 games and six triples. Beltran has averaged 35 doubles and seven triples. But the Duke has Beltran on career batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.
Carlos Beltran has been a much better base runner over his career with 289 stolen bases against only 39 times when he was thrown out. The Duke stole only 99 bases but the times he was thrown out are incomplete since the stat wasn't recorded before 1951. But in the times it was recorded, the Duke was thrown out 50 times. That Beltran has a higher doubles and triples rate also shows his base running skills.
It's in the field that Beltran really shines over the Duke. The outfield assists are really close with 123 for Snider versus 108 for Beltran. Beltran's career fielding percentage is .986 and the Duke's was 985. Where Beltran nearly catches Snider is in the total zone ratings with Beltran's career zone runs sitting at 76 while Snider finished with a negative number.
Duke Snider was a better offensive player than Carlos Beltran, but Beltran is the better base runner and fielder. If Beltran can play five more years and stay relatively healthy, he should be able to catch Duke Snider in WAR for his career.
This exercise was in no way intended to demote Snider as a player. The man was truly an icon and rightly so. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame as one of the great center fielders of all time. The point of this post is that Carlos Beltran has been a great player and sometimes that gets missed by familiarity since we've seen him every year. It's probably the right time for Beltran to move out of center. But make no mistake about it, the guy is the premier center fielder of our era.