Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran enters the 2013 season with a strong chance to upgrade his status to the elite level among switch-hitting run producers in baseball history.
Barring injury, Beltran this year will move into the top 10 all-time career RBI leaders among switch-hitters. Beltran ranks 11th. He needs two RBI to move ahead of ex-Cardinals second baseman Frankie Frisch (1,244).
Over the last two seasons, Beltran, who turns 36 in April, has averaged 90 RBI per year. If he matched that average for the 2013 Cardinals, Beltran would finish the season ranked seventh in career RBI for switch-hitters.
Here are the top 11 career RBI leaders among switch-hitters:
1. Eddie Murray (1,917 RBI): Consistent rather than dominant, Murray only once led a major league in RBI for a season. That was in strike-shortened 1981, when he produced 78 RBI for the Orioles.
2. Chipper Jones (1,623 RBI): In 19 years with the Braves, Jones drove in 100 or more runs in nine seasons, including eight in a row (1996-2003), but never led the National League in RBI.
3. Mickey Mantle (1,509 RBI): In 1956, when Mantle won the Triple Crown by also leading the American League in batting average (.353) and home runs (52), he had 130 RBI, two more than Al Kaline of the Tigers. It’s the only time Mantle topped the American League in RBI.
4. George Davis (1,440 RBI): A big-league shortstop from 1890-1909 for the Cleveland Spiders, New York Giants and Chicago White Sox, Davis was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
5. Ted Simmons (1,389 RBI): In 13 seasons with St. Louis, Simmons produced 929 RBI, seventh-best in Cardinals history.
6. Chili Davis (1,372 RBI): In his only season of 100 or more RBI, he knocked in 112 for the 1993 Angels.
7. Ruben Sierra (1,314 RBI): One of three Puerto Rican natives on this list (Beltran and Bernie Williams are the others), Sierra led the American League in 1989 with a career-high 119 RBI for the Rangers.
8. Pete Rose (1,314 RBI): Primarily a leadoff batter, Rose had a single-season career best of 82 RBI in 1969 for the Reds.
9. Bernie Williams (1,257 RBI): The center fielder had five seasons with 100 or more RBI for the Yankees.
10. Frankie Frisch (1,244 RBI): In 11 years with the Cardinals, Frisch drove in 100 or more runs once, with 114 in 1930.
11. Carlos Beltran (1,243 RBI): In 2012, his first season as a Cardinal, Beltran had 97 RBI, second on the club to the 102 by fellow outfielder Matt Holliday.
(Note: Of the top 5, only Chipper Jones and Ted Simmons aren’t inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Jones, who retired after the 2012 season, is a shoo-in when he becomes eligible in five years. Simmons’ status among this select group is further evidence he belongs in the Hall of Fame.)
On May 2, 2012, Beltran had a career-high seven RBI in the Cardinals’ 12-3 victory over the Pirates at St. Louis. Batting cleanup and swinging left-handed, Beltran had two three-run home runs and a run-producing single in his first three at-bats _ all against starter A.J. Burnett. Boxscore
Beltran had entered that game in a 3-for-32 slump. “I’ve been searching at the plate, trying to find my swing, trying to feel comfortable, trying to go out there and have quality at-bats,” Beltran told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Hitting is about feeling.”
Said Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire: “It’s a timing thing with him, and a timing thing is one swing away.”
Beltran ranks third in career home runs among active switch-hitters and seventh all-time. The top seven are Mantle (536), Murray (504), Chipper Jones (468), ex-Cardinal Lance Berkman of the Rangers (360), Chili Davis (350), Mark Teixeira of the Yankees (338) and Beltran (334). A 17-homer season for Beltran in 2013 would move him ahead of Davis.
In 2012, Beltran hit 32 home runs. Rip Collins, with 35 in 1934, is the only Cardinals switch-hitter to slug more in a season.