While talking to Texas Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan yesterday, he intimated to me that when his team missed out on signing Cliff Lee last offseason, it had to switch to Plan B. He and his staff identified the best way to improve the Rangers' pitching was not to go out and sign another pitcher, but rather go hard after third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Ryan said he and his staff felt that Beltre was the best defensive third baseman in the American League and his range would help significantly the team’s young starters. Indeed, the two-time Gold Glover’s defense has been superb, committing just 11 errors in 312 chances. His zone rating and defensive runs saved numbers have been baseball’s best at third base since 2003.
Last night, Beltre gutted out five innings after fouling a ball off his left knee, and it could be a blow to the Rangers' defense if he is not 100 percent. Rangers manager Ron Washington has Beltre in the Game 4 lineup, and don’t be surprised to see Austin Jackson or Ramon Santiago drop a bunt to try and test Beltre’s mobility. Game 4 starter Matt Harrison whiffed just 6.1 men per nine innings this year, which means he relies on his defense a lot, and Beltre has been crucial to his success.