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POLL: Jeff Kent and the Hall of Fame

Posted by Andy on August 10, 2010

Next up in our debate is Jeff Kent, as per orders from the boss.

Kent was one of the best second-basemen of all time, in terms of offensive production. He also played in a high-run scoring era, so we'll need to determine how much that helped his raw numbers.

He was a 5-time All-Star, 4-time Silver Slugger winner, and he won the 2000 NL MVP. He also benefited from batting behind Barry Bonds for most of his years in San Francisco.

Kent didn't start hitting really well until about age 30 and was considered a top prospect for a long time, even while in the majors. Evidence to this fact includes the list of players he was involved in trades for: David Cone, Carlos Baerga, and Matt Williams.

Click through to read more about Kent's career and vote in the poll.

Let's get right to it.

For Jeff Kent in the Hall of Fame:

  • All-time, Kent is in the top 10 for OPS+ for 2nd baseman (minimum 1000 career games):
    Rk Player OPS+ G From To Age PA R HR RBI BA OPS Tm
    1 Rogers Hornsby 175 2259 1915 1937 19-41 9475 1579 301 1584 .358 1.010 STL-NYG-BSN-CHC-TOT-SLB
    2 Nap Lajoie 150 2480 1896 1916 21-41 10460 1504 82 1599 .338 .846 PHI-PHA-TOT-CLE
    3 Eddie Collins 141 2826 1906 1930 19-43 12037 1821 47 1300 .333 .853 PHA-CHW
    4 Joe Morgan 132 2649 1963 1984 19-40 11329 1650 268 1133 .271 .819 HOU-CIN-SFG-PHI-OAK
    5 Jackie Robinson 132 1382 1947 1956 28-37 5802 947 137 734 .311 .883 BRO
    6 Larry Doyle 126 1766 1907 1920 20-33 7382 960 74 793 .290 .765 NYG-TOT-CHC
    7 Bobby Grich 125 2008 1970 1986 21-37 8220 1033 224 864 .266 .794 BAL-CAL
    8 Charlie Gehringer 124 2323 1924 1942 21-39 10237 1774 184 1427 .320 .884 DET
    9 Danny Murphy 124 1496 1900 1915 23-38 5978 705 44 702 .289 .742 NYG-PHA-BTT
    10 Jeff Kent 123 2298 1992 2008 24-40 9537 1320 377 1518 .290 .855 TOT-NYM-SFG-HOU-LAD
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 8/9/2010.
  • Notice a few names NOT on the list above: Roberto Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, Lou Whitaker, Craig Biggio, and Alfonso Soriano.
  • Jeff Kent is 111th all-time in WAR with 59.6, but 14th among 2nd basemen. For batting runs only, he's 6th all-time among 2nd basemen.
  • From 1998 to 2002, Kent experienced a great peak with the 22nd-best OPS+ in baseball (142) and highest among all major-league 2nd basemen.
  • Kent had 4 top-10 MVP finishes (and one win) despite playing his peak in the large shadow cast by Barry Bonds.
  • He hit well in numerous playoff appearances, including 3 HR and 7 RBI in two different series (2002 WS and 2004 NLCS) including one memorable walk-off homer (pictured above.)

The bottom line, no matter how you look at it, is that Kent was one of the best offensive second basemen in baseball history and was, for a time, the very best playing the game.

Against Jeff Kent in the Hall of Fame:

  • Despite his good rankings among 2nd basemen, Kent's overall career ranks are not particular impressive: WAR (111th), WPA (145th),hits (101st), runs (112th), his only top 50 finished are RBI (48th) and doubles (22nd).
  • Kent's peak came when Barry Bonds was hitting ahead of him, getting on base a ton. I don't have the numbers, but I would have to think that Kent hit with runners on a lot more than many other players. That means he saw better pitches and had more RBI opportunities. Here's one quick look: Kent had 4,819 of his 9,537 PAs with runners on. That's 50.5%. Chase Utley, part of a powerful lineup and today's equivalent to Kent, has a percentage of just 46.9%. Imagine how much lower it is for 2Bs not hitting in the middle of the order.
  • He was nothing special as a fielder (near 0 career fielding runs.)
  • He never won a World Series and tanked in a couple of series (2008 NLCS and 1996 ALDS, although it's hard to argue against the rest of his playoff record.)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 at 7:30 am and is filed under Hall of Fame, Polls. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

122 Responses to “POLL: Jeff Kent and the Hall of Fame”

  1. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    Kent might make it. I might become the world's first Jewish-American Pentecostal Pope soon. Don't count on either one happening soon, though.

  2. I am looking forward to this discussion and I will post more later. But two things come to mind very quickly. One, Kent allowed you to get an A+ (for a middle infielder) bat into the lineup. Two, I think this poll may end up making a case for Bobby Grich.

    When he played for the Mets, I remember Kent as a hustling 2nd baseman. There was no dog in him. He seemed very good at chasing down pop flys.

  3. I'm fairly certain Kent will get in.

    You're arguing from a SABRmetric POV, This is what the voters will see, he leads 2B in homers, is one of the leaders in RBIs, and top in slugging IIRC.

    But there are many cases against Kent too that makes him a hard pick, like stated his numbers aren't overwhelming, it's not like he was Robby Alomar good defensively with his numbers either. Add in the fact that he played during the steroid era and that casts a shadow of doubt over his power. Also there have been plenty of more than strong rumors that he is kinda an a-hole maybe even a clubhouse cancer.

  4. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Ha, when Kent was a Met a guy I know called him exactly that: a dog. He even woofed to make his point. Years later he was stunned Kent won an MVP.

    Andy's opening reminds me of Thom Brennaman a few years ago. I've quoted it before but I can never help myself, the guy is such an over-the-top doofus. "Jeff Kent is probably the BEST hitting second baseman in the HISTORY of the game."

  5. FWIW, I'm not sure Kent deserved his MVP. Bonds, who ultimately came in 2nd, probably deserved it over him that year. He still had a remarkable season, but I'm not sure he had the best in the NL that year.

  6. Yeah, seconded on Bobby Grich. Makes one wonder what the Orioles would have done if they had held onto him in favor of Rich Dauer. They finished in second place four out of their first six post-Grich seasons. Grich's OPS was about 100-250 better than Dauer in all but 1 of those seasons. However, Grich probably wouldn't have made the difference in the 1979 WS, since Dauer put up Grich-like numbers vs. the Pirates that series.

    As for Kent, the thing about the RBI's and Bonds got me thinking about the OBP of players hitting ahead of batter, and the likelihood of hitting the batter one slot, two slots, three slots (etc) ahead of you home is. Bonds got on base ton, but it usually came in the form of just reaching first base, where it is unlikely to score from if Kent gets a hit; or in the form of a HR, which completely clears the bases. Then again, Bonds hit a ton of 2Bs and good number of 3Bs which should have been easy RBI for Kent. I'm sure there's some way of quantifying this. Another way of thinking about this is who gets the most benefit of a star hitting in front of them, the on deck or in the hole batter behind them?

  7. Scott (#3), You are definitely right about the rumors of Kent being an a-hole and clubhouse cancer.
    And Twisto (#4), I wonder if the Met guy you know felt he was a dog because he (Kent) was such a pain in the A kind of guy.

    Looking up Kent's numbers I was surprised that his HOF Monitor and HOF Standards numbers are so high. Also of note, that of the ten most similar players on his list, only one, Sandberg is a second baseman. Although that somehow seems right, he was a 3baseman's bat at 2ndbase.

    As for Kent and steroids, I always assumed that his increase in power was due to leaving Shea Stadium for friendlier hitting ball parks.

  8. @StephenH - LOL... the first thing I thought when I looked at that table of OPS for 2d baseman, was "Oh yeah, Bobby Grich - fine, underrated player." The second thing I thought was "Holy crap, Eddie Collins has hellacious numbers." I don't know how much you can trust fielding run estimations for a guy who debuted over 100 years ago, but SIX seasons of 9+ WAR is mind-boggling.

    @Johnny Twisto - "I don't use the word 'hero' very often... but you, Mr. Simpson, are the greatest hero in the history of the world." :D

  9. I started watching baseball regularly in the mid-70's and I don't really remember ever being all that impressed by Grich (to the extent that he would be discussed within the context of the HOF - I knew he was an All-Star here and there and a solid everyday 2B with more than average infielder power). But somehow his OPS+ and WAR numbers have him ranked really high among 2B, which is very surprising to me.

    Obviously, the reason we bring up Grich, is because I think there are many of us who at least have considered Kent a Hall of Famer over the past several years, but have not necessarily considered (or really could consider) Grich for the HOF.

    But if you look at the OPS+, Grich was actually a "better" (or whatever adjective the OPS+ statistic proves out) hitter than Kent, and we know Grich was am MUCH better fielder than Kent, so it would be hard to put Kent in based on that. I think the stats actually hurt Kent more than help Grich in this instance.

  10. No question Kent gets in. All time leader in HR for a 2nd baseman and 8 100 RBI seasons. His production as a middle infielder will put him in there. Does anyone know who will be on the ballot with him in his 1st year of eligibility?

  11. I think it's more remarkable to say that Kent had a .897 OPS with RISP, than he had a lot of AB with RISP. Opportunities come, you'll have to use them the best way as you can, and he did, especially in a Giants line up that didn’t count on a reliable bat after Bonds and Kent.

    Or, we have to make a case with Foxx or Cronin batting behind Ted Williams.

  12. Library Dave Says:

    As an Astros fan, I wonder if the 2005 World Series would have turned out differently with Kent at second and Biggio back in the outfield (LF instead of Chris Burke?).

    Kent was no doubt an excellent player, but for me, he just doesn't seem "special" enough for the HOF. More a gut feeling than anything based on stats. I do think he'll make it eventually though, for the fact that he did bring a legit big bat to the middle infield.

  13. Grich was stuck in two pitcher's parks, Memorial-The Big A, so his traditional numbers look a little low. His strengths were in on base percentage and slugging not batting average. Batting average was the big stat of the day but now we know that on base is more important.

    He was a superb defensive player at an important defensive position (2b).

    Mike D.C.,

    The Orioles could have been a dynasty from 1977-1983 if they had held onto Grich. They might have won the division in ('77, '80, '81, '82), to go along with their '79, '83, WS and A.L. pennant. And really they should have won the '75-'76 divisions. They had B. Robinson and P. Blair getting way too many plate appearances.

  14. I don't think Kent would be a bad selection, but I don't think I'd vote for him, either. His career WAR is squarely on the borderline, but his peak just isn't quite strong enough for me to put him across the line.

  15. I have to think Kent will get in eventually. Like Sandberg and Alomar (he's getting in next year, right?), he'll likely have to wait a year or three to get elected. Eventually though I think the voters will look at all the home runs and decide that's enough to warrant his induction.

    Now if the voters decide that playing in the steroid era diminishes his offensive prowess enough, maybe he falls short.

  16. In addition to Grich, I'd put Lou Whitaker in the hall before Jeff Kent (and I'm definitely not a Tiger fan). Whitaker's OPS+ is 116, but his WAR is actually considerably higher than Kent -- 10.3 more wins in a difference of 92 games played.

    I think Kent will get in, but he'll get in solely because he produced offensive numbers at a position that doesn't often do it. He did so by sacrificing defense. Whitaker was an all-around player, he just got stuck on a team that didn't often do much.

  17. i think the biggest obstacle to him getting in the Hall is that he was a jerk to both teammates and the people who will vote for him.

  18. I'd have no problem with Kent getting into to HOF but after Alomar, Biggio, Whitaker & Grich. Also, while I know his name doesn't show up on the Mitchell report (at least not on the lists I've seen) I'm really suspicious of his power surge at age 30, after being in San Francisco for 1 year. I know he & Bonds hated each other but that doesn't mean they couldn't have both been juicing.

  19. Whitaker was on a good Tiger team that was pretty good for a number of years-- won WS in 84. Also, Whitaker was a platoon player for his last 3 years and even during his prime he sat against the toughest lefties. While I do give the nod to OBP guys, RBI's and Batting average guys make a significant impact. I think Kent should get in, but he's no shoo-in given his attitude.

  20. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Didn't often do much? The Tigers were over .500 almost all of Whitaker's career.

  21. There's 18 second basemen in the HOF, and the HOF career WAR median is (59.95) somewhere between Ryne Sandberg and Joe Gordon. Kent is right there at 59.4.

    The HOF Median Peak at 2b, (Best 7 seasons) WAR is (44.7), which is pretty high compared to the career median. I think this has something to do with WW2 and segregation. Robinson, Doerr, Gordon, and Herman all lost time because of WW2 or segregation. Kent's peak (37.4) is quite a bit lower. That peak/career disparity might be something unique to 2b.

    The peak/career median comes out to 51.6 and Kent's peak/career average is 48.4, just a tad lower. I put Kent and Randolph right at the Median point for HOF caliber 2b. around the 15th-17th best 2b of all time.

    It's seems like Kent took a long time to establish himself as a full-time player. He had over 9500 plate appearances in the big leagues but only 2300 by the time he was 29 years old. The strike of 94-95 had something to do with this and and being on 4 different teams before he was 30 also contributed to this.
    Only having 24% of his career plate appearances by age 29 limited his career WAR.

    There's also an odd spike in Kent's career. From the ages of 24-29, he had an ops+ of 106+. From the ages of 30-39, he had an ops+ of 133+. Maybe he started taking steroids when he came to S.F.

    I put the bar at 2b around 47 WAR Peak/Career, so I would vote for Kent and the underrated Willie Randolph who both reach 47 right at the borderline.

  22. Randolph wasn't a HoFer either. Good player, but not HoFer even though I'd like to say he was.

  23. duskrequiem Says:

    JR, the players who will be on the ballot for the first time along with Kent are Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Mike Mussina. On the ballot for the 2nd time may be Curt Shilling.

  24. Schilling has not been on the ballot yet. He pitched in 2007.

    This upcoming HOF vote is going to be very very interesting. Blyleven and Alomar seem like shoo-ins, but I cannot see how Maddux won't get in on his first ballot, as could Glavine (300 wins) and Frank Thomas (2 MVPs etc). Could FIVE guys get in? Doesn't seem likely.

  25. "Kent might make it?"

    Are you guys high? Have the sabermetrics stats gone to your head? Kent is a sure-fire HOFer without question. He may not be a first ballot, but neithe was Alomar and those two are two of the best hitting secondbasemen of all time.

  26. BTW a year and a half ago when Kent announced his retirement, I made a post with some great user comments:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/1023

  27. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    I don't see how his overall ranks are less impressive than his ranks among second basemen. A typical roster has 14 players on it who are roughly equivalent to every day value, 5 starting pitchers, 8 position players (9 in the AL) and maybe a closer.

    That's 14 or 15 spots that get enough play to put up significant WAR. So, if you are 10th among your particular position (except SP), the expectation, all else being equal is that you might be about 140th overall.

    Kent's numbers among 2Bs are in the 8-15 range, and his number among all players for WAR/WPA are in the 100-150 range. For batting numbers, as opposed to total value, you'd drop pitchers and be comparing to 8.5x, but those still seem in line, you'd expect numbers in the 65-120 rank range, given his rank among 2Bs, and that's what he has.

    So all in all, that seems perfectly normal. You would expect him to do better overall if he was a 1B or LF/RF where more production than average is expected. 2B is a position where the average player is expected to do about or a hair less than average overall, so his ranks seem to align about right.

    The only stat I think you can clearly discount based on hitting behind Barry Bonds is the RBIs, and presumably most people on B-R would be ignoring that anyway, and looking at something like OPS+ that won't be affected much by people batting in front of you.

    The one thing that could be, is that Barry had a tendency to clear the bases and put himself on second or all the way home, and Kent being the next best bat on that team by a big margin, he might have gotten more walks than he deserved. A quick look at OBP-BA for before, during and after playing with Bonds gives the following:

    Before: .57
    During: .71
    After: .69

    So he gets a lot more walks playing with bonds than before (although not a huge number, he had a pretty good OBP already in his early career).

    But after he leaves SFG and no longer has Bonds on his team, he's still drawing a lot of walks. I conclude that he didn't get a lot of extra walks playing with Barry. His numbers went up because he was entering the prime of his career, and he just got better.

    His BA/OBP/SLG after leaving the giants is pretty close to his career average, even though it includes his last few years before retiring, which you normally expect to be weaker. So I suspect the playing with Bonds affect is overblown. I'm sure it was worth something, but if it was a big deal, I'd expect it to show up bigger when we split out his SFG numbers from the rest.

  28. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Andy am I misreading your #24? Maddux, Glavine, and Thomas aren't going to be on this ballot with Blyleven and Alomar. One way or another, there's no way Blyleven will ever be on the same ballot as the first three.

  29. Oh I misunderstood #23. That's what happens when I try to comment while doing my real work.

  30. All I know was that Rogers Hornsby was pretty good!

    For what it's worth, Kent's career offensive numbers are pretty similar to Jim Rice. Very similar on hits, homers, TBs, etc. Slightly lower career OPS+ (123 vs. 128 for Rice). Rice played LF. Just saying.

  31. @23-Thank you for that list. I thought all of those guys were retired at the same time. That would be some Hall of Fame class if Maddux, Glavine and Thomas all made it on the first ballot. Kent won't get in on that ballot. It will take a few years.

    @24-I agree with Andy-Alomar and Blyleven should be shoo in's next year. Blyleven has waited long enough and Alomar will get the bump next years from those clowns who don't vote for first time eligibles. Also, Maddux may surpass Ryan and Seaver for highest vote total too.

  32. "From 1998 to 2002, Kent experienced a great peak with the 22nd-best OPS+ in baseball (142) and highest among all major-league 2nd basemen."

    I'm not seeing that as a plus. I read that as a guy whose HoF credentials are based almost entirely on hitting was during his peak years only the 22nd best hitter in baseball. Sure he's the top 2B, but there's also 2 SS ahead of him.

  33. he will make it, his best years may have been while batting behind bonds, but is was also in a pitcher's ball park where no other right handed hitter has put up his kind of power numbers.

    he did play in the steroid era but his has yet to be implicated or tied to ped's. living in the bay area, i would definately disagree that he was a cancer in the club house, he was definately an a-hole to the media, which is why he may have had seem to be a "cancer". his one dugout incident with bonds occurred because bonds was dogging it and not running out pop flies or chasing down balls in the outfield. he played hard and well enough on d, otherwise he would not have been playing 2b, much like soriano for example.

  34. @32
    I thought that was an odd comment as well. That wasn't his top OPS+ season, either. He was 4th in the NL in 2000 with an OPS+ of 162 behind Bonds, Sheffield and Helton.

  35. 32, 34: I'm giving Kent credit here for being a second baseman. It's just not that common to see a 2B rank so high for such a long period of time. It's definitely true that Kent won't make it from a purely offensive perspective--he was never one of the very best hitters in the game in the sense of being among the top 5 feared hitters. But once you add in his position, a rank like 22 looks pretty good to me.

  36. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Andy, duskrequiem was talking about when Jeff Kent first comes up for a vote in 2014. Schilling will be on the ballot a second time at that point if he is not elected in 2013.

    Of course Maddux is a sure first ballot guy, and this will be a problem for Kent, when he comes up the same year. Maddux should get 95%+, and Kent will probably be around to draw a pile of votes and make everybody else's life harder for some time. Glavine, Mussina and Frank Thomas will all go in ahead of him, so I really doubt he makes it in 2013.

    This next year where Blyleven and Alomar are hoping to get in, there are only four new candidates with legit HoF resumes: Bagwell, Brown, Walker and Palmeiro. Of the four, only Bagwell is likely to get in on the first ballot, IMO. Walker and Brown are underappreciated for all the reasons discussed in their respective POLL threads last week and last month. They may not make it at all, and if they do, it will probably be after much campaigning and if it's not by 2012, it'll be after the clear cut guys coming up the next 4-5 years are already in.

    Palmeiro has the kind of career numbers that would often get him in quickly, but lots of guys will pan him because of PEDs and his vote total in 2011 will probably be fairly low.

    That means, to get bly and alomar in, they'd need to elect three guys, which doesn't happen often, but is hardly unprecedented. I'm guessing one of them makes it, and the other waits. Fortunately 2012 will be a down year, it looks like the only guy coming up with any play at all is Bernie Williams, who was a nice player but no HoFer.

    For those of us who think Walker, Brown and Bly belong, we should be pushing hard to get them in by 2012, as 2013-2015 will generate a murderous backlog of worthy players.

  37. Chase Utley will be in the Top 10 by the end of this season or the beginning of next (1000 games played minimum; Utley is at 963; current OPS+ of 129). I think they are somewhat comparable, though I believe Chase to be the better player. Is Utley a sure thing for the HOF based on his stats to date?

  38. @35 Andy: Uncommon sure, but HoF worthy? I give the guy credit for being a power hitter at a position normally saved for slap hitters, but it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Positional Oddities.

    The way I see it, there's 3 ways to look at every player: hitting, fielding, intangibles. I'm not a big fan of intangibles so I'm throwing that out right now (which actually helps Kent because he doesn't have many intangibles). So to make the HoF, you've either got to be a HoF hitter, a HoF fielder or a good enough combination of great hitter and great fielder. As you mentioned above, Kent's career Rtot is right around 0, so he was an average fielder. His hitting stats fall under great, but are certainly short of HoF worthy in their own rights. In this case, average fielding + great hitting < HoF quality.

    Now if he were a good to great fielding 2B, then you could make a very nice case for him. Basically what I'm getting at is that I don't view him as the greatest hitting 2B, I view him as a great hitter who happened to play 2B. I don't think he should get such a big bump because he happened to play 2B. Unless you can prove to me that being a 2B made it that much harder for him at the plate.

  39. I think Utley has a HOF peak already, but he'll need several more solid years to get his career WAR into borderline range. Six more seasons averaging 3-4 WAR would get him in the 55-60 range.

  40. Djibouti, I don't disagree. I guess the issue is whether you feel that defensive positions need to be represented in the HOF somewhat equally. I simply cannot imagine myself talking about best 2B from 1990-2010 without calling out Kent as one of the top names, and for me that's good enough to put him in the HOF. I understand if others do not feel the same way.

  41. Andy said

    "Despite his good rankings among 2nd basemen, Kent's overall career ranks are not particular impressive: RBI (48th).."

    Maybe when you amass all the 2B not named Hornsby or Lajoie who have more RBI than him, he looks a little better

  42. #41 correct for run scoring environment, too, and the fact that Kent hit cleanup a lot.

  43. @38,

    While I understand your point to a degree, and it certainly has some merit, however I do not think you can simply just compare 2B to LF, RF and 1B. Don't you agree that some compromise would be best? If not, then all we would have is a Hall of mostly outfielders and 1B and just a few 2B.

  44. You have to adjust for positions to some degree #38. I do have a problem however when a walk is nearly as important as an RBI or HR.

  45. @Andy; In terms of defensive representation, it's a tough call. On the one hand, the Hall would look weird if the balance was thrown off greatly. On the other hand, the Hall of Fame is about the best of the best. You can make a good argument for including 'best of the best of their time', but once you get down to 'best of the best of their time at a specific position' it starts to get a little fuzzy. Kent is undoubtedly one of the best 2B of the last 2 decades, but it was a pretty sparse 2 decades for 2B. In fact, I would argue that 2B has been in serious decline for a good 4 decades now.

    Look at the last 20 years worth of 2B elected to the hall:
    1990 Joe Morgan (no argument here, one of the best all time)
    1991 Rod Carew (really only half a 2B)
    1991 Tony Lazzeri (VC selection from the 20s/30s)
    1997 Nellie Fox (VC selection from the 50s/60s)
    2000 Bid McPhee (VC selection from the 19th century)
    2001 Bill Mazeroski (VC selection from the 60s/70s, highly debatable)
    2005 Ryne Sandberg (made it on 3rd vote)
    2006 Frank Grant (SCNL selection)
    2009 Joe Gordon (VC selection from the turn of the century)

    So 4 guys who have played since the 70s are in the hall. One is arguably a 1B, another is a highly debated selection by the VC, and a third was a borderliner who had enough support to make it. Only 1 real lock in the group. So while position-wide parity looks good, sometimes we've got to consider that there just aren't that many good players at a position over a given time span. Kent was one of the best 2B of '90-'10, but who else is on the list? Alomar and ...?

  46. Johnny Twisto Says:

    and Biggio. Those three guys all peaking at pretty much the same time is a pretty impressive group.

  47. Johnny Twisto Says:

    And now we have Utley, one of the best few players in MLB, Dustin Petunia who has won an MVP, Cano who could win an MVP this season.

    Also in that previous generation were Knoblauch, an excellent player until he suddenly lost it, Durham who was very good for several years, Boone who had a couple huge seasons.

  48. @Matt Y: Expanding more on my last comment, I agree and disagree at the same time. I agree that each position is different and you can't compare the position of 2B to LF. However, we have ways of comparing the players who played these position through stats such as WAR. In fact, you should be able to view most offensive stats in a bubble without considering position. Sure, traditionally the middle infield is guys who don't hit as well as say LFs, but there's no reason why the position of 2B should preclude a player from being able to hit well. In other words, players don't hit poorly BECAUSE they're 2B.

    To use an admittedly extreme example, if we decided to limit the HoF to 100 players and keep a balance we'd want about 11 players from each position (9 players not including the DH for this example, and of course the fact that there's more pitchers than at any other position, let's just play pretend for a second). Now say that it just so happened that the top 100 players all time in WAR were all LFs. Should we take the top 11 LFs, induct them, and then skip the next 89 LFs so that we could include other positions? If not, then how many LFs should we take? And what if the top 2B all time is 400th in WAR? Should we include 11 guys that were 400th or worse in our Hall of 100 greatest players?

  49. Not really that sparse given we had Alomar, Kent and Biggio --sounds about right that these 3 go in --comparatively speaking Kent's numbers are well in the Hall when compared to the vast majority of second basemen of any era?? Aren't they? I do think he'll have some trouble but will end up getting in after being on the ballot for 8-10 years or so.

  50. @48,

    No, I agree, but I'm always of a place of compromise. I don't think you need to have a said number of guys in the Hall from each position. So, yes, I agree and disagree like you. Kent has no large holes in his resume that are too hard to overcome, thus he'll get in. His sabermetrics are there, his raw numbers are there, his playoff numbers are there, his defense was average and he has an MVP. He has no real holes. His attitude was poor at times, but he'll get in eventually and he'll deserve it.

  51. Jeff Kent is a HOFamer....PERIOD! 1st all time in HR and 3rd among 2nd baseman. a .290 career average and a .500 career SLG%. His 162 game average looked like this:

    .290/356/500 27HR, 107RBI, 39 doubles, 93 runs scored...sorry but I'll take that stat line all day long for my 2nd baseman.

    Also, his career numbers most resemble 5 HOFamer(Ernie banks, Billy Williams, Carlton Fisk, Ryne Sandberg, Jim Rice) and 2 should have/will be's(Chipper Jones and Ron Santo).

  52. I meant 3rd among 2nd baseman in RBI's and 1st all time in HR...sorry.

  53. David in Toledo Says:

    OPS+ (and most of the rest of the stats cited, I believe) measure a 2nd baseman's offense.

    But fielding in the middle infield should not go ignored. Bobby Grich was awarded four Gold Gloves and was capable of playing shortstop (for at least several years). Lou Whitaker took home three GG's.

  54. Yeah, count me as one of the people who doesn't see much to debate on this. Kent was one of the best hitting second basemen ever - not of his generation, but ever - and was competent enough defensively. My feeling right when he retired was that he was a HOF'er. He may not get in first ballot, but I don't have much doubt he'll get in after a few years. As other posters have mentioned, I look at Alomar, Biggio, and Kent as the second basemen of this generation that will go in.

  55. I think in a case for a HOF 2b, it's good to compare him with other HOF 2b.

    Here's a list of most of the top 30 second basemen of all-time. I might have missed one or two. The "X" or "+" means they're in the HOF. The first column is their career WAR. The second column is their peak (7 seasons). The third column is an average (career+7 best)/2. It should be noted that their is no compensation for WAR Credit, or segregation in Robinson's case. The N/E stands for not eligible for the HOF.

    Rogers Hornsby+ 2B X 127.8 76.6 102.2
    Eddie Collins+  2B X 126.7 68.2 97.45
    Joe Morgan+  2B X 103.5 62.7 83.1
    Nap Lajoie+  2B X 104.2 59.4 81.8
    C. Gehringer+  2B X 80.9 52.5 66.7
    Rod Carew+  2B X 79.1 49.3 64.2
    F. Frisch+  2B X 74.8 47.3 61.05
    J. Robinson+  2B X 63.2 53.7 58.45
    Bobby Grich  2B 67.6 43.9 55.75
    Craig Biggio  2B N/E 66.2 42.1 54.15
    Ryne Sandberg+  2B X 62 44.7 53.35
    Lou Whitaker  2B 69.7 36.8 53.25
    Roberto Alomar  2B 63.5 38.3 50.9
    Joe Gordon+  2B X 54.9 44.8 49.85
    Jeff Kent  2B N/E 59.4 37.4 48.4
    W. Randolph  2B 60.5 35.0 47.75
    Billy Herman+  2B X 55.6 36.3 45.95
    Bid McPhee+  2B X 57.9 32.4 45.15
    Cupid Childs  2B 47.2 39.5 43.35
    Johnny Evers+  2B X 48.4 34.8 41.6
    Tony Lazzeri+  2B X 48.3 34.5 41.4
    Bobby Doerr+  2B X 47.7 34.9 41.3
    Nellie Fox+  2B X 44.4 35.8 40.1
    Larry Doyle  2B 47.2 31.8 39.5
    C. Knoblauch  2B 41.2 36.2 38.7
    Buddy Myer  2B 44.4 30.6 37.5
    Schoendienst+  2B X 40.4 30.4 35.4
    Lonny Frey  2B 38.7 31.7 35.2
    Del Pratt  2B 40.8 29 34.9
    Jim Gilliam  2B 39.1 30.1 34.6
    Davey Lopes  2B 39.3 28.2 33.75
    Dick Mcauliffe 2B 35.1 28.4 31.75
    Bill Mazerowski 2B X 26.9 20.4 23.65
    ---- ---- -----
    Median HOF 2B: 59.9 44.7 51.6

    Mazerowski was such a bad choice, basically Frank White. Schoendienst was an odd choice as well. He was elected as a player but they gave him Mangager's credit for the '67-68 Cardinals. I can't think of another person that was elected as a player but received manager's credit. Maybe a 19th century guy I can't think of. As a player he's nowhere near a HOF caliber 2b so I can't see how manger's credit should shorten the gap.

  56. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Frank Chance may have received managerial credit.

  57. Kent put up some great offensive numbers, but probably spent his career playing out of position. Defensive ability is too important to overlook at second baseman. I wouldn't vote for him to enter the HOF.

  58. John Q #55. Nice list, thanks for providing it. Even though I don't like the over reliance on WAR it is a very good list. While I lean towards Kent for the Hall, your list makes it clear he is NOT the best 2nd baseman NOT in the Hall. Kent should go in after Grich, Biggio, Whitaker and Alomar.

    Maz was a weak choice, but as the player generally noted to be the best ever at turning the double play, and turning two is one of the key jobs of a 2nd sacker, there is something about his inclusion that makes sense.

    As for Schoendienst, I don't think he got a bump from being a manager. I think he got in due to consistent, mid level support from the BBWWAA (I think he averaged 30% while eligible for their vote), and too a campaign by Sports Illustrated that pushed a number of Veterans for the Hall. They compared them to similar players (I think using triple crown stats. And possibly in Schoedienst's case, they complained about the lack of middle infielders. I think most of those players got in. Chuck Klein and Schoendienst and possibly Johnny Mize included.

  59. I found a copy of the article I mentioned. Here is the link..

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1092282/index.htm

  60. Johnny Twisto Says:

    StephenH, if you were voting, would you not vote for Kent, although you think he's deserving, because Grich is not in yet, although Grich would not be a choice on your ballot?

  61. Djibouti there is a huge flaw in your argument. You say playing second base shouldn't preclude a player from being able to hit well. But it clearly does (to a point). Take David Ortiz for an example. He can hit. But 85% of his PAs have come as a DH and the rest as a 1B. Can you really see him playing 2B? SS? C? Clearly some fielding positions require more skill and a certain physique. There is not one size fits all. Therefore you don't get middle infielders hitting 500 home runs. Usually they perform other roles (hit for average, get on base, steal bases, do the small things). This combined with their defense is just as important to a team as a slugging DH who hits 40 HRs.

    To use your example, if we only consider offense without the context of position then we would end up with 100 OFs and 1Bs (and these days DHs). I think it is better to include all defensive positions. Why exclude the best 2nd baseman all time in favour of the 100th best outfielder (to use your example). Does the 100th best outfielder deserve to be in the hall of fame?

  62. Johhny Twisto: To answer your question. I don't have a vote, so I tend to write my posts in the perfect world vacuum. In that world, I would vote for Grich before Kent. But IF I had a BBWWAA vote, I would consider the ten best candidates on that year's ballot. From that list I would eliminate anyone who is not HOF worthy. I do think Kent is worthy. So yes, I would vote for him.

    I once had a guy caddy for me, who was a retired baseball writer for Newsday, and a BBWWAA voter. I played bad golf as all I wanted to do was talk HOF with him. This was a year or two before Gossage got in. He was on the NO side of Gossage. He was NO to Jack Morris as well. I wish I could remember more of his opinions.

  63. Totally understandable for the bad golf #6. I would have been doing the same thing. I can understand no for Morris, but for Gossage too --maybe he wasn't a big believer in the closer. A couple Polls ago, someone said they wouldn't vote for Mo either b/c he was a closer. I think the logic was how can you vote for a pitcher that barely pitchers more than 1000IP for their career. Surprisingly, no one responded to that post. I guess everyone thought what i thought, that it was preposterous to think Mo wasn't a HoFer. Anyone remember that post?

  64. StephenH #58-59. Interesting article. Indeed on the "Out" list but Long got in eventually (6 within 5 years of the article).

    The "In" crew they were compared to included some of the most underachieving Hall members, and even then 4 of the SI choices had a lower WAR than the "In" player at that position (Lombardi < Bresnahan, Wilson < Kiner, Long < Wallace and Schoendienst < Evers).

    Mathews, Mize and Snider were legitimate choices, but the rest of the "Outs" were just as weak, if not more so, as the "Ins". Two wrongs don't make a right!

  65. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I don't remember that Matt. I don't think it's an unreasonable position to feel anyone with as few IP as Rivera should not be in the HOF. On top of that, most relievers have been failed starters, so one might wonder why reward these pitchers who weren't good enough to do the more important role?

  66. From a historical perspective, Kent's numbers strongly suggest he's a HOFer. What will work against him is the period of time in which he played. Offense was so dominant that even as a 2nd baseman he may not get credit from enough voters. In particualar, and as mentioned, he wasn't really considered much of a ballplayer until he turned 30, and his offense really rose as overall offense in the game increased, so some voters might penalize him for that and perhaps suspect that he was one of the many to take PEDs.

    I don think he'll get in, but it may be more difficult than one would think considering his numbers and position.

  67. Typo in last line. I do think he'll get in.

  68. Heh. I thought "I don think he'll get in" was the ultimate attempt at hedging. :)

  69. Stephen H,

    Good article, I kind of forgot that Joe Rudi was on the Angels. I liked those late 70's-80's Angels hats and Uniforms. I always liked the hat with the "Big A" and the state of California on the sleeve.

    I'm still kind of shocked that it took Duke Snider so long to get in the HOF. The way he's defied today, you would have sworn he was a first ballot HOF.

    I pasted those WAR numbers from a spreadsheet I have. I should have removed the tabs and put slash marks on the numbers so they're easier to read.

    I used to have win shares on a spreadsheet but I lost them a year ago.

    In most of the measurements, it looks like Biggio, Grich, Alomar and Whitaker should be solid HOF caliber players. Kent and Randolph tend to come up right on the borderline. I think Randolph is one of the most underrated players of my lifetime and never received enough credit for those Yankee teams and he should have won the gold glove a few times. Randolph had a .373 lifetime on base percentage which is 15th all time among 2b with at least 4000 p.a.

  70. Let's not forget he was in that great ESPN commercial years ago. I think that should get him in

  71. #55, looking at the WAR list, shouldn't we first be wondering why Willie Randolph is not a HOFer?

    I don't think Willie is a HOFer, but his WAR numbers are right in line with Kent's, and not too far off of Grich and Whitaker, who seem to have groups pushing for them.

    #65, I don't think you're suggesting that relievers shouldn't be elected to the Hall because most were "failed relievers," but you're suggesting it's a legitimate question to ask. Or am I wrong there? I'd agree it's okay to ask the question (all questions should be asked), but I don't agree that they shouldn't be elected just because they pitched less innings than starters. They need to be judged on their own merits, and closers are in a class to themselves. Granted, the bar much higher for a closer to be considered, but there are some who can make it.

    There are pitchers who have been successful as starters, but that does not mean they would be great closers. Perhaps good closers, maybe, but not great. Andy Pettitte's won 240 games, but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be a better closer than Mariano Rivera. And I'm sure there are relievers who have been great closers but wouldn't be successful starters. That's probably the bulk of them. And then there's another class that no one ever talks about, which are great relievers who might have been successful to even great starters, but we'll never know. Two names I'll throw out on that front are Rivera and Billy Wagner. Decisions and circumstances pushed both into the pen so early that they never got fair shots at being starters. Rivera started all of ten games in 1995, and pitched quite poorly. He was sent back to the minors and as his arm got stronger his velocity reached the mid-90s. Came back up and pitched a two hitter against the White Sox and while he never was sent back to the minors, he was used inconsisently as occassional starter and bullpen guy for the remainder of '95. He established himself in '96 as a set-up man, but we'll never know what he might have been as a starter. With the increased velocity, his great cutter which he developed over the next year, and great control, I'm pretty sure the Yankees gained the greatest closer of all time, but they may have also missed out on a Cy Young Award-level starter. Same with Billy Wagner. His fastball was legendary and he was quite good as a starter in the minors. Came up aa a reliver and never started started a single game. Do we know he wouldn't have been a good to great starter? Someone looked at his size and declared him a starter. Fortunately the Yankees never did that with Ron Guidry, or the Expos never did that with Pedro Martinez. Both would have been great relievers, but fortunately both got the opportunity to start.

    Rivera's a HOFer.

  72. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Correct, I was just saying that I could understand that perspective, not that I share it.

    I agree that not any good starter could be a great closer. I wrote in another thread a few weeks ago that I doubted even Randy Johnson could have been as good as Mariano Rivera in the same role, just because it's hard to imagine pitching much better than Rivera has. (I do think Johnson had a better chance of matching Rivera than Rivera had of matching Johnson, however.)

    As good as Rivera has been, there still remains the question of how valuable his role is. Tangotiger has suggested one could apply LI to a reliever's innings; doing that gives Rivera the equivalent of just over 2000 IP, which is still fewer than Koufax, just more than Dean. But Wagner comes in at only about 1600 IP, with lower quality. Is that enough? If Rivera is the only guy under the current reliever model who is good enough for the HOF, do we stop electing relievers when no new Rivera comes along?

  73. Matt Young Says:

    Great points #71, but I don't think Rivera or Wagner would have been great starters unless they developed more pitches. As for asking the question about relievers vs. starters, yes that's OK, but relievers should go into the Hall on their merits just like LF's should--or maybe LF 's should never go in b/c they wouldn't make it as a CF or leadoff guys shouldn't go into the Hall b/c they were failed #4 hitters. Anyway, back to Rivera and Wagner, I don't think they'd be greats starters b/c they basically throw 1-2 pitches. I laugh when people bash AJ Burnett b/c "he's yet to put it together given his stuff is "electric". Yeah, the two pitches he has are electric, but if ones not working he's done --the hitter can just sit on the one. This is why he can never go deep in the game when he has his B-stuff --he needs to have both pitches working. The better question is, why hasn't he learned a serviceable third pitch at this point in his career? Yes, he tinkers with a change-up, but he barely uses it. That's the better question. It's pretty tough to be a great starter if you don't have a third or fourth pitch like most do today. Back to relievers, it's one thing to be a great reliever with 1-2 great pitches and pinpoint control, but to do that for 6-7 innings with 1-2 pitches, I think not. We'll never now though since Mo is perhaps the first first ballot reliever ever....maybe the last too.

  74. Matt Young Says:

    Hoffman is a given and Smith is borderline, but he should make it if we value closers, but admit he's very controversial since the closer role is still pretty murky. Personally Snith is a coin-toss. Wagner has a decent resume, but likely won't make it unless he does another year or two and perhaps wins a championship, however that ERA+ of 185 is ridiculous even for only 900 IP.. I laugh when people bring up Franco as a candidate. Quiseneberry is the most underrated reliever ever IMO, with Lyle not too far behind. There are a handful of relievers today that could make a run, but it's tough to sustain as a dominant closer for 10+ years. I do see that Hoffman is getting a chance to close again and he did get his 597 the other day.

  75. Matt Young Says:

    HoF monitor seems to do a decent job of gaging a HoFer closer --I know, it doesn't determine how worthy you are. WPA does a decent job as well. Mo's WAR is 52+, which is amazing for a closer.

  76. Johnny Twisto Says:

    As for asking the question about relievers vs. starters, yes that's OK, but relievers should go into the Hall on their merits just like LF's should--or maybe LF 's should never go in b/c they wouldn't make it as a CF or leadoff guys shouldn't go into the Hall b/c they were failed #4 hitters.

    Well if a left fielder can't make it in center, he has the bat to carry his position, or no, he won't make it.

    The leadoff/cleanup comparison makes more sense. Batting leadoff or cleanup is not a position. Any batter could bat anywhere. Are you arguing that more #8 hitters should be inducted? Of course not.

  77. One way to appreciate Rivera's value might be to look at WPA, a stat in which he ranks sixth all-time (keeping in mind that "all-time" for WPA means since 1950). Only Clemens, Maddux, Seaver, Pedro, and Randy Johnson are ahead of him. Only two other relievers are in the top 25--Hoffman at #17 and Gossage at #24 (Smoltz and Eckersley are at #10 and #25 respectively, but they of course accrued much of their value as starters). Every eligible pitcher in the top 34 in WPA is in the Hall of Fame, except for Bert Blyleven, Billy Pierce and Bret Saberhagen. (For what it's worth, Billy Wagner is currently at #33.)

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/wpa_def_career.shtml

  78. Matt Young Says:

    Twisto, agreed on all points. Closer is overrated, but the argument that no closer should go in b/c they don't pitch much more than 1000 IP is very weak IMO. The bar for closers should be higher, but not impossible. If one could assign a WAR range for HoF closers it be b/w 25-35.

    DavidJ,

    Wilhelm is also on the WPA list at #27 and a WPA of 30.12, but of course he was different kind of closer/reliever in a way.

  79. Matt Young Says:

    Fingers is the only HoF closer that doesn't meet a 25-28 borderline HoFer/HoFer WPA cutoff --he ranks only #83 and his WPA is 16.15. I guess he had bad defenses behind him.

  80. Correct that, Bruce Sutter's WPA is 18.3.

  81. Matt, I think it's more that Fingers is simply overrated. In addition to his WPA, his WAR (24.4) is also low compared to other elite closers--Rivera is around 50, Gossage around 40, and Hoffman around 30. Even Sutter, who pitched more than 600 fewer innings than Fingers did, has slightly more career WAR (25.0). Wagner, who's pitched only about half the number of innings that Fingers did, has 28.8 WAR. Fingers's Rdef is +21, which means he actually had above-average defensive play behind him. His unimpressive WPA is just one more indicator that he's probably not deserving of his place in the Hall.

  82. So Kent had 0 fielding runs and Alomar had -30 fielding runs at second base. How is it that Alomar was a better fielder? Is he better just because he won gold gloves? The numbers show that Kent was a better hitter and better fielder than Alomar. Kent obviously should get in before Alomar.

  83. Total-Zone/War has Roberto Alomar as a below average fielder which is very interesting because it would go far against the main stream view of him which is as one of the best defensive second basemen of all time.

  84. this will happen right after a man from my home state makes it as president

  85. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Don't ignore Fingers's great postseason performance during the three straight Oakland titles. 1.55 ERA in 46 IP.

    Pzw and John Q, for some reason the advanced stats have always been down on Alomar's fielding. It's enough to make me think he wasn't as brilliant as some say, but conversely since almost every observer thought he was a great defender, I don't put complete stock into the numbers.

    Purple, no idea what you're talking about.

  86. Justin Jones Says:

    Roberto Alomar has always been an overrated fielder; Ryne Sandberg (or even a Fernando Vina, Pokey Reese, etc) would make routine plays that Alomar would have to dive for, thereby making Alomar look like a more spectacular fielder than he actually was. The Gold Glove system of judging is a pretty haphazard one, as we all know.

    As to Kent's HoF candidacy...by the numbers, he's a marginal candidate, I could see voting him either way. Kent is an inferior player (Career WAR: 61.9), in my opinion, to both Bobby Grich (74.1) and Lou Whitaker (74.3), neither of whom seem to be headed to the Hall any time soon. The Win Shares system does nothing to disprove that analysis. Kent was like a poor man's Rogers Hornsby, a guy who had a barely acceptable glove for a 2B, but was allowed to stay there his whole career because of his bat. Grich & Whitaker were both good hitters, and good fielders.

    Kent was by all accounts a clubhouse nuisance at best, cancer at worst, and a confirmed liar and knucklehead (remember when he hurt himself washing his truck...err, I mean riding his motorcycle?) 377 HRs and 1500+ RBI are great totals for a second baseman, but Kent's career almost perfectly circumscribes the biggest hitting era in baseball history, thereby taking them down a notch in my eyes. Even contributing nothing with his glove and putting his hitting into context, Kent probably rates as one of the Top 15 or 20 second basemen of all time.

    His numbers aren't overwhelming or convincing enough to override my admittedly subjective antipathy towards him as a player, and so I would not vote for his induction.

  87. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Purple Says: this will happen right after a man from my home state makes it as president

    I'll guess that you're from either Delaware, Maryland, or Michigan (all states with a county named Kent), or, just maybe, from the Second Spanish Republic (1931-39).

    It's late and I'm punchy. Vote Grich in and then we'll discuss Kent.

  88. Twisto, Justin Jones,

    Good Points, I never really looked at Alomar's advanced numbers before but I assumed they were at least above average for the amount of GG he won. I think he would easily rank as the most overrated fielder of all time. I also think Winfield was a very overrated defense player when he was on the Yankees. Mattingly also looks like an overrated defensive first basemen. Mattingly was good but didn't deserve those 9 GG and wasn't in the class of a Hernandez, Power or Wes Parker.

    Alomar was good at turning double plays and he was flashy but like you said Justin, he may not have had very good range at the position.

    I really don't like the gold glove because it's not based on anything except a subjective perception and it really reinforces ideas that may not be true or may be completely opposite. It also seems very arbitrary.

    Willie Randolph never won a GG because he had Frank White in the same league. Robin Ventura won 6 but they gave the award to Wade Boggs in '94-95 and he deserved it in '90 when they gave it to Kelly Gruber. John Olerud only won 3 GG, partly because J.T. Snow was winning 6 in a row when he didn't deserve to win any.

  89. Mattingly also looks like an overrated defensive first basemen. Mattingly was good but didn't deserve those 9 GG and wasn't in the class of a Hernandez, Power or Wes Parker.
    -----------------------

    I've yet to see any advanced defensive metric that can actually rate 1b-man or catchers with any accuracy. I study and follow all of them, but I don't trust the data on those positions.

  90. @John Q:

    I think that two of the biggest problems with the Gold Gloves is that a) they are sometimes (often?) influenced by a player's hitting, and/or b) they reflect this desire on the part of people to anoint an individual who fills the role of "defensive star".

    I think that if Alomar were an average to poor hitter, he probably wouldn't have won many, if any, of his GGs. Or in the case of another incredibly overrated player, Omar Vizquel--in the rush to find the "next Ozzie Smith", baseball men have given 11 Gold Gloves to a guy who, to them, was superficially similar. In reality, of course, Ozzie was twice the player that Vizquel is--70.3 WAR to 48.9, 326 Win Shares to 265--and in 300 fewer games. Ozzie notched 1,000 more chances in the field in 1,000 fewer innings. Total Zone has Ozzie at over 100 runs better than Vizquel, in 1,000 fewer innings. Ozzie played the vast majority of his innings on unpredictable and unforgiving Astroturf in big stadiums; Vizquel has played most of his career on grass, in the much smaller ballparks of the 90s/00s. Didn't mean to go off on a Smith/Vizquel tangent there, but I think Viz is a perfect example of a player, like Alomar, who is a good fielder in some respects, being ridiculously overrated.

  91. re: #89

    I think that Win Shares does a pretty good job with Catcher/First Basemen, although there is a degree of estimation involved, subtracting team pitching strikeouts from team catching putouts, and so forth. Ultimately in these cases, and with fielding in general, the trained eye is an indispensable element of evaluating the defensive quality of a player.

    For example, look at the two starting first basemen of the 1986 World Series, Bill Buckner and Keith Hernandez. In '86, Buckner had 157 Assists that year in 1191 defensive innings; Hernandez had 149 in 1302 innings. Just looking at them on paper, they seem comparable in most fielding categories, with Buckner seeming even better in some. Supplemental information is required--Buckner played in 153 games that year, 4 more than Hernandez, but had fewer innings because he was always replaced in later innings for a better glove man. Hernandez was graceful, athletic, with a strong, accurate throwing arm; Buckner hobbled around on broken knees, and really couldn't get to anything that wasn't hit right at him, and most of his assists were lobs to the pitcher covering first base. For that season, Total Zone rates Buckner as -3 runs, Hernandez at +9 runs; this isn't bad, but it also doesn't express with enough clarity the chasm that lay between the fielding abilities of these two men.

    I agree that most defensive metrics should be viewed with a healthy skepticism, and the more varied the approach in evaluating a player's defensive skills, the better.

  92. I know a few of the BBWAA voters. It seems like he could make the grade. One voter won't back anyone with less than five All-Star game appearances. Kent also has 1500+ RBIs and 375+ HRs. Not bad for a second baseman. My only concern is the postseason. Had the Giants won it all in 2002, I think it would be a lock. Still, I think Kent will make it.

  93. Here's another argument against Jeff Kent: he's a terrible percentage baseball player.

    His BB:K ratio was 801:1522. Terrible. His career as a base-stealer was 94 swipes in 154 chances, 61%. Terrible. His 224 career GIDP are 53rd all-time; his career OPS+, 123, is 266th all-time. Kent only started driving in runs by the boat-load when managers lost their senses and began intentionally walking Barry Bonds 100-200 times per year, thus preventing pitchers from, well, pitching to Kent honestly, as it were. Perhaps we can discount Kent's high GIDP rate because of his always batting with men on base, but then, we'd have to discount many of his RBI as well for that very same reason, wouldn't we?

    While we're on the subject of Kent's OPS+, I think it would be instructive to take a look at who surrounds him on that all-time list--Bill Madlock, Hank Sauer, Ted Kluszewski, Glenn Davis. True, Tim Raines has the same career OPS+, but he was clearly the superior player to Kent (largely because he was a much better percentage player).

    I'm not saying that Kent was a terrible baseball player or anything; you don't rack up 344 career Win Shares by being terrible. However, when the argument progresses from "Good vs. Bad" to "Good vs. Hall of Fame", the distinctions are more precise, and it is fair to weigh many small pieces of evidence either for or against a borderline candidate. In the case of Jeff Kent, all of the little things seem to argue against him.

  94. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    John Q@88: "I think he would easily rank as the most overrated fielder of all time."

    Oh I wouldn't go that far. There are still a ton of people who think Jeter is a great fielder, and he pretty much defines the "barely acceptable" line for SS. In fact, he's probably a bit below it, but his bat is so good for a SS that he plays (and makes the hall) anyway.

  95. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Justin, I'm not getting how having men on base would prevent a pitcher from pitching honestly to Kent. First of all, what kind of "not pitching honestly" do you mean? Does that mean he'd be pitched around and walked more because Bonds was often on second? what? I suppose, Barry was good enough on the bases, that he puts some pressure on the pitcher to watch his leads which would help whoever bats after him a bit. The main adjustment I can see pitchers making with men on is to favor ground balls over flies in hopes of DPs and FCs, and fewer SF and HRs, but I'm not sure that helps the batter's stats very much.

    The main thing Kent gets from having BB on base for him a great deal, often in scoring position, is way more RBIs than he might have otherwise. But the saber stats don't consider RBIs at all, so that doesn't affect them.

  96. Matthew Passaro Says:

    Of course Kent does not belong in the Hall. He was never the best second basemen of his generation, that belongs to Alomar and Sandberg. He had perhaps the best protection ever to play the game hitting with him, so he was going to see so many more pitches to hit. And lets be honest, when Kent was with the Mets, he was a nothing. He goes to San Francisco and ends up with what he did? Of course he was on steroids.

  97. I guess Sandberg was of the same generation as Kent. Kent started in 1992, Sandberg started in 1981 and was done by 1997. There was about 45% overlap in careers b/w Sandberg, Alomar and Biggio. This generation of second basemen is Biggio, Alomar and Kent. The first two are locks, Kent borderline, but likely in IMO. Depends on what you're using to define a "generation". Kent was in the top 3 best of the last 15 years. It's ridiculous to only vote the best of his generation. Many players that are locks would be left out. As for Kent on steroids, perhaps, but definitely yes, I wouldn't say that. He always had a high ceiling and a good bat. He was in his prime when he went to San Fran. Win shares total of 343 is pretty good, not a lock, but suggests borderline in.

    As for the BBWAA voter not voting someone with less than 5 all-sxtars --that's pretty harsh. Kent has 5 all-stars so i guess he makes the cut.

  98. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    I'm still not understanding this argument that Kent got more hittable pitches because Barry was on base in front of him. How does that work exactly? Why would you get more hittable pitches because Barry is on base? Barry's speed? Maybe that's a minor factor, but it's not like he was Tim Raines or Rickey Henderson on the bases.

    If there was any effect at all, I'd expect it to be getting pitched *around* a bit since Barry is likely in scoring position with an open first base, and there was nobody behind Kent who was all that dangerous. That would mean more walks, rather than more hittable pitches.

  99. re: #95

    @Michael E. Sullivan--

    If Bonds, batting 3rd, was always on base immediately preceding Kent, batting 4th--and Bonds was almost always on base, either due to the manager's explicit instructions to walk him, or due to the pitcher refusing to throw him a hittable pitch--then Kent would logically (and did) see many many more hittable pitches than an average batter, or an average clean-up hitter. Once Bonds has gotten on base (and heaven forbid if one of the Giants' top 2 hitters got on base), pitchers essentially had no choice but to throw Kent strikes.

    Even with Bonds batting ahead of him, thereby ensuring that Kent would see plenty of pitches in the strike zone (maybe more than anyone since Lou Gehrig hit behind Ruth), he still put up in his Giant years, BB:K ratios of 48:133, 48:110, 61:112, etc. The one year where he actually sort of took advantage of his unique situation, he won the MVP award. For his two seasons in Houston, Kent batted behind Jeff Bagwell, and ahead of Lance Berkman.

    Again, I'm not saying that Kent was a bad player or anything. But a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter, in my opinion, would have driven in 170-200 runs a season batting behind a guy posting On-Base Percentages of .515, .582, and .529. Kent doesn't have glove-work to sell. He was a good hitter for a second baseman, but let's remember the unusual context in which he compiled his RBI totals; let us also remember that a better, HoF-type hitter playing in the same context as Kent would have come close to 2000 career RBI.

  100. Let us assume, for economic reasons alone, that at least one player will be inducted into the BB HOF every year for now on. For me the question on Kent comes down to this, "During the 15-year period of his HOF eligibility will he be the best eligible player currently not in the Hall of Fame." My guess is that at some point during his 15-year eligibility he will be the best player available from which to choose. This statement does not address the issue of fairness or the possibility of past injustices for other players.

    Addressing worthiness, using Bill James' "Keltner Test" Kent does well.

    1) Was he ever regarded as the best player in BB? Yes, yr 2000.
    2) Was he the best player on his team? No, but he was probably #2 behind Bonds for much of his SFG time.
    3) Was he the best player in BB at his position? Allowing for the fact that Sandberg's peak did not overlap, and that Alomar's career is not a perfect overlap, a reasonable person could say that Alomar and Kent are rough equivalents. A reasonable person could also say that Alomar has a slight edge. Either way Kent was arguably either #1 or #2 at his position during his BB career, taken as a whole.
    4) Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races? Yes.
    5) Was he a good enough player that he could continue to play regularly after passing his prime? I'll say yes as the last 3 years of his 17-year career he scored a WAR total of 6.3 - a regular starter.
    6) Is he the very best player in BB history who is not in the HOF? Not at the moment, but my opinion is that he will be at some point during his 15-year eligibility.
    7) Are most players who have comparable career stats in the HOF? On average, yes. HOF standards score= 51.
    8) Do the players numbers meet the HOF standards? Yes.
    9) Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than suggested by stats? You can have a field day with this one. As far as I know there is no firm, documented evidence for PED use by Kent. Bonds was an aid to Kent's numbers, and there is evidence of Bonds using PED. But Kent can't be penalized for that in my mind. Setting PED aside for the moment, Gehrig was an aid to Ruth's numbers, what do we do there? My conclusion is that there is no evidence that he is significantly worse or better than his stats. His WAR and WS tells the accurate tale.
    10) Is he the best player at his position who is eligible, but not in? At some point the answer will be yes.
    11) How many MVP type seasons did he have and did he ever win it? 2000 was his only MVP caliber season and he won that year.
    12) How many all-star type seasons did he have? 4. How many did he play in? 5. Did most of the players who played in 5 go to the HOF? Don't know the answer to this but my gut says that the majority of players who went to 5 or more AS games are in the HOF. I could be wrong.
    13) If this man were the best player on his team is it likely that the team could win the pennant? Could win, yes. Kent was an impact player and I believe his addition could lift a decent team to the pennant in his prime.
    14) Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the HOF standards instructs us to consider? As far as I know, yes. Kent has a reputation for being surly. If true, this is characteristic of many players in the HOF, but newspaper reports are chronically unreliable anyway. As far as I know Kent has never been accused of not playing every game to win. I am not aware of reliable documentation assigning PED use to him. I am not aware of any other reliable documentation indicting his sportsmanship or character to the point of disqualification on this ground.

    My conclusion is that at some point during his 15-year eligibility Kent will likely be the best player, or at least the best 2B available to vote in. Kent's stats indicate that he is a worthy selection for the HOF. He was either the best or the 2nd best 2Baseman of his era. He was a feared hitter and played his position decently. His HOF monitor predicts that he will be in.

    I hear the arguments about Grich and Whitaker. Let's concede for the sake of argument that they should be in the HOF but for some reason won't be. Do we compound this error by holding up all other worthy but lesser candidates? Or do we work to correct the wrong and move forward. Personally, I am not in favor of punishing worthy candidates because of the potential errors of others. As an aside I will note this, the HOF monitors of Grich and Whitaker would predict that they do not get in to the HOF. Kent's HOF monitor would predict that he gets in.

  101. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Justin, Kent did not bad behind Bonds when he had a .529 OBP; he was in Houston.

    And when Bonds had a .582 OBP, he batted behind Kent as often as not.

    So there is one season, 2001, when Bonds had an OBP over .500 and Kent should have had 374 RBI because he followed him in the lineup. He only managed 106. Of course, 73 times Bonds cleared himself and everyone else off the bases before Kent had a chance. Kent did have 208 PA with RISP and did not hit that well, .268 BA and .482 SLG. For his career he batted .300 and slugged over .500 with RISP.

  102. Oops. Forgot Biggio. My error. The inclusion of Biggio does change the Keltner Test results on some questions, but my conclusion is the same. At some point Kent will be the best player to select from and someone will be selected.

    Also, the more I look at my statement about the majority of players in 5 AS games and above in the HOF the more doubts I have about the statement. I will just say, I don't know the answer as to whether the majority of players with 5 or more AS selections are in the HOF who are eligible.

  103. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Justin@99: "Once Bonds has gotten on base (and heaven forbid if one of the Giants' top 2 hitters got on base), pitchers essentially had no choice but to throw Kent strikes."

    Proof by vigorous assertion?

    I'm asking you to explain *why* a pitcher would feel forced to throw strikes. Because walking Kent would be so much worse than with somebody other than Barry, or nobody on base?

    Do hitters generally hit better with a runner on first than in other situations? I'm looking for either a strategic argument for why you would pitch tighter or some data on hitter's/pitcher's numbers to back up this assertion that with a man on base you will get more hittable pitches. Perhaps I'm missing something -- I came late to baseball both as a fan and as a casual softball player, but I don't see any good reason why a pitcher would be any more "forced to throw strikes" with Barry on first or second, than in most other situations.

    Also, the amount of times Barry Bonds was on base over and above an average NL player was very high in terms of what you could ever expect a player to do, but that doesn't translate into as big a percentage of PA's for Kent with Bonds on as you might think. Let's do the calculation.

    BB's OBP over the years Kent played behind him was .472 over 3704 PAs. Let's assume Kent batted behind Barry every time and for the exact same number of PAs (this will somewhat overstate the effect of batting behind Bonds). Bonds also hit 279 HRs over that span, so he ends up on base for Kent in 1469 of 3704 PAs. An average NL player over that span was on base .336 of the time and hit about 100 HRs, leaving him on base 1144 times. So Bonds was on base for Kent 324 more times than an average NL player (not an average NL #3 hitter, mind you -- an average NL batter, which would include pitchers and a bunch of other guys who would never be in the #3 spot. 324 times in 3704 PA's means that Bonds was on base for Kent about 9% more often than some random average guy would have been in his place. That's a significant number, but the point is, whatever effect you are suggesting happened because he was batting behind Barry Bonds, happened at most about 9% of the time (more likely much less, as #3 hitters would normally have .350+ OBP.

  104. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Going back to Rivera, here's something amazing. I don't really remember when people started noticing and talking about him as one of the great postseason pitchers ever. He had that scoreless innings streak from '98 into '00, so I guess it was in around '99 or '00. Through 2000, he had 63 postseason IP with a 0.71 ERA, 0.794 WHIP, .463 OPS against. At that point he had pitched in the 2nd most postseason games ever, and was 37th in IP. Surely no reasonable projection would expect him to continue on such a pace. From 2001 through 2009, he pitched another 70.1 IP with a 0.77 ERA, 0.754 WHIP, .429 OPS! (He has lost a game and blown 4 saves in the latter period, after losing none and blowing 1 save in the former.) He is easily the all-time leader in games, and is 8th in IP, behind only HOF and near-HOF starters.

  105. Rainbow 99,

    that's a pretty good list. Here's a couple of points:

    #1) I can't say he was regarded as the best player in baseball just because he won the N.L. MVP. I think there was a wide consensus that A-Rod was the best player in baseball in 2000. And some people thought his teammate Bonds should have won the 2000 MVP. Andruw Jones was also touted as one of the best players in baseball. And it's hard to remember now but Jason Giambi was also viewed as one of the best in the game and won the A.L. MVP.

    #3) There was kind of a drought of great second basemen during the early part of the 2000's, I guess Soriano would be Kent's main competitor. But Kent was clearly the best 2b during the early to mid part of the decade. I would even say that he was the best 2b in baseball from 1998-2007. He has a rather large lead in WAR by a secondbasemen during this time period.

    #6) There's probably 10-15 eligible position players better than Kent not in the HOF, plus about 10-15 pitchers that were better than Kent not in the HOF so I can't foresee a time where Kent would be the best eligible player not in the HOF, considering some aren't even on the ballot anymore (Whitaker, Wynn, R. Smith, K. Hernandez, Bando, Bell, Nettles, Dw. Evans) to name a few.

    #7) That all depends what stats you use. Probably every 2b with similar traditional stats is in the HOF, not so when you look at the saber stats.

    #9) Kent had a very late peak which is very odd. He basically went from having a 106ops+ up until he was 29, to having a 133ops+ from ages 30-39.

    #10) I can't foresee any time when Kent is the best eligible player not in the HOF.

    #11) you can say that both 2000 and 2002 were MVP caliber seasons.

    #12) There's a difference between going to an all star game and having an all star caliber season. For example in 2002 when he had a mvp caliber season he didn't go to the all star game. He didn't go to the all star game in '98, '97 when he had all star caliber seasons. All in all I'd say he had about 5 all star caliber seasons. You might include the 1994 strike season as an all star caliber season. He was about the 20th best player in the N.L. that season.

    #14) I think this is an overrated/arbitrary clause anyway. If they like you they look the other way if they don't like you the uphold this clause. Kent kind of came off as a aloof and kind of an a-hole but who knows what he was really like to his teammates.

    Although I don't think Kent is remotely the best eligible candidate, I can't see the logic of not voting for him based on that premise. I see him as a median HOF 2b, 15th-16th best 2b not including negro league players.

    I think the real problem is the BBWAA/veteran's has not expanded their selections of HOF's to go along with the expansion era in baseball. They've actually DECREASED the number of players getting elected which is bizarre when you consider that there are almost Double the amount of players as there were pre-1961. If you produced 8-10 HOF caliber players per 10 year period when there were only 16 teams, then logic would dictate that you would produce 14-20 HOF caliber players when there are 30 teams in the league.

  106. @#103 Michael Sullivan:

    I take your point. Though unless my math is off, Bonds being on base 1469 times for 3704 Kent PAs, vs. league average hitter being on base 1144 times is not a +9% difference, it is a +28% difference (324/1144).

    As to why pitchers would feel the need to throw strikes to Kent...I can't really point you to any documentation that would quantify that effect, but I'm pretty certain that it is there, based on my observational experience as a life-long baseball fan. Conventional wisdom holds that in ordinary circumstances, having two good hitters (or more) batting consecutively offers "protection" for some of the hitters in the batting order. Ordinarily, the player batting 3rd is protected by having a good hitter batting right after him, thus ensuring he'll get quality pitches to hit, as the defending team will be less inclined to put a man on base with the good hitter on deck.

    In the case of Bonds, who was drawing tons of intentional walks (as well as many of the "unintentional-intentional" variety), the managerial fear of his hitting was irrational and paranoid, in my opinion. Still, it is well documented that teams went to great lengths to avoid pitching to him. Having made that decision, it makes it far less likely that they are going to be willing to put Kent on base too. What manager intentionally walks back-to-back hitters unless there's two outs and he's setting up a force at every base? Or unless he's bringing up a Mario Mendoza-type hitter? But even a shoddy Mendoza-type hitter need only make decent contact to drive runs in with two guys on base; fortunately for Kent, it wasn't Mendoza batting fifth, but J.T. Snow and Ellis Burks (whose 163 OPS+ was even higher than Kent's in 2000, his MVP season).

    I'm not saying that this conventional wisdom makes any mathematical sense, or has any statistical validity, nor do I agree with it. However, baseball was, and still is, filled with lots and lots of stubborn, backwards thinking managers, coaches, and players who adhere to such things. No matter how much the stat-heads rail about wasting outs by bunting to advance runners, for example, it still happens. And so on.

  107. John Q wrote:

    "I think the real problem is the BBWAA/veteran's has not expanded their selections of HOF's to go along with the expansion era in baseball. They've actually DECREASED the number of players getting elected which is bizarre when you consider that there are almost Double the amount of players as there were pre-1961. If you produced 8-10 HOF caliber players per 10 year period when there were only 16 teams, then logic would dictate that you would produce 14-20 HOF caliber players when there are 30 teams in the league".

    This is a great point John Q --I think this is part of the reason why many are reluctant to vote some borderliners in today --they think it's too many players, and how could this guy or that guy be a HoFer. I'm not saying there should be double the number of HoF players today, but with double the number of teams there should be at least a few more, not less. It makes no sense for there to be less players voted in today. With that said, I don't think any players on your list above are HoFer's (maybe Bando and Evans should have gotten more play). We've already debated that ;-)

    I also see some merit in the Keltner test. I haven't read a James book in a while, but was he ever completely advocating that the saberstats should replace every other way to evaluate a player? If I remember correctly, he was advocating for the saberstats to be another way, and perhaps a better way to evaluate players, but not the only way. If it was, why would he even bothered with Similarity scores, HOF monitor, HOF standards and the Keltner test. These things are obviously not arbitrary to most.

  108. I apologize in advance for responding to something 40 posts ago, but I haven't check this thread in a while...

    @61: I accept the fact that to be a great defensive 2B probably requires a certain physique that isn't conducive to being a home run hitter, but Kent wasn't a great defensive 2B, he was the very definition of average. That means he was just good enough that there wasn't a reason to move him somewhere else. Now if we are going to make the argument that he's a HoF because he's the best hitting 2B all time, we're also saying that anyone who could hit like he did while being an average fielding 2B should be in the Hall as well. That opens us up to a whole series of 'what-if' games.

    Take Matt Williams for example. Not as good of a hitter as Kent, but similar. Williams came up as a SS/3B who after a few seasons moved to 3B full time. Over his career he amassed an Rtot of 94, with an Rtot of 0 over limited time at SS. This made him a very good defender at his position, and it wouldn't be out of the question to think that Williams could have been an average defender at 2B (I know, I know, comparing 3B to 2B is apples to oranges, but Williams obviously possessed a certain amount of defensive "skills" and he proved himself to be an average SS, which most people would agree is a harder defensive position than 2B). Williams was on the ballot for the first time last year and got 1.3% of the vote. Now had Williams at some point in his career decided he wanted to play 2B, he'd be the all time HR leader at the position. Would he have received a bump because he was at 2B? Would he deserve one? Remember he'd be the exact same player, he'd just have a different position next to his name.

    This of course is just the best example I could find in about 10 minutes of thinking. It obviously has holes you could drive a truck through, but I needed to throw up something to describe my basic point; I'm sure there are guys out there who were just as good of hitters as Kent, who would be athletically capable of playing average 2B defense that have barely received a whiff of the HoF because they happened to play a different position. Why should Kent get in just because he was the one guy who said "you know what, I think I'll play second"?

  109. John Q,

    Thank you for the input. You make good points and clarifications. I'm glad we came to the same conclusion, but from a different fact set and rationale. Question, Kent will be eligible from 2014 - 2029. Would you say that it would be unlikely that at any point during those 15 years that Kent would not be the #1 or #2 best eligible player available? What about if we set aside players with reliably documented PED use? I understand it is difficult to look out that far.

    I also agree with you that the "best available player test" should not be the sole determining factor, but if he was the best available player (or even 2nd best) at some point between 2014 and 2029 that would surely be enough reason to get him, recognizing that someone will get in.

    Good point about the percentage of players being elected over time.

  110. Interesting and some good points #108. I can see where this different sort of mindset could cause someone like Kent to go from borderline in to borderline not in. Interesting point, especially since Kent was originally a 3B when he came up I believe. How does Kent compare with HoFer 3B? He perhaps would still be considered borderline in?

  111. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    If you want to keep player standards relative to peers the same, you don't go by how many major league players there are, but by the overall potential player pool -- how many kids were there 30 years prior playing organized baseball in countries where kids with talent and discipline can realistically get developed to the point of getting scouted by MLB for the minors/majors -- so basically US/Canada/Caribbean and to a lesser extent the far east. To the extent that player pool has expanded, the HoF will need to expand if it wants to keep the same relative standards. But if the player pool stays the same, adding teams to the majors doesn't require expansion of the hall (IMO). If anything, it dilutes the league average, making guys look better.

    One thing I can't get past looking at averages over history: They just elected too many guys from the 1920s and 1930s, and one reason is that the era was every bit as juiced as the steroid era in terms of the value of a run/hit/walk/etc., maybe more so. Of course Ruth and Gehrig and such are all time greats, but their numbers are every bit as inflated by various artefacts of their time as A-Rod or Bonds' are. The guys from that era who didn't put up monstrous numbers, aren't worthy, just like the same is true of the 1990s/2000s.

    One of the things I really love about saber numbers is that while they may never be perfect, they apply era corrections *consistently* instead of in the schizophrenic way our brains tend to, completely dismissing some numbers while remaining highly impressed with others.

    Mickey Mantle is a guy who is always mentioned as a great player, but seeing the list of OPS+ of hitters with at least 250 HR really stands him out in a way his raw numbers cannot. He doesn't have the massive career numbers of mays or aaron because he didn't play as long, but his OPS+ of 172 puts him just shy of Ruth/Bonds company as a peak performer. I'd never guess that from his raw numbers. And of course, Mays and Aaron's career numbers are all the more impressive when you consider that they spent 1/2 their career in the lesser deadball era.

  112. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Now if we are going to make the argument that he's a HoF because he's the best hitting 2B all time, we're also saying that anyone who could hit like he did while being an average fielding 2B should be in the Hall as well.

    Well, yeah, probably.

    You're talking about Williams and Kent "deciding" to play 2B, as if this were intramural softball. They played for major league teams which chose to utilize Williams at third and Kent at second. If Kent's managers didn't want him playing 2B, he wouldn't, regardless how much he liked the idea. Whether Kent was a spectacular defender or not doesn't really matter. He was capable of playing the position until he was 40. Every team needs a 2Bman, and Kent was able to play it. David Ortiz has never in his life been capable of playing it. Maybe Matt Williams could have played it, but it's not likely. And if he had played it, he wouldn't have been the "exact same player" with a different position next to his name. He would have been at risk of injuries from guys trying to break up double plays. He probably couldn't have been as bulky as he was while maintaining the range required. Jose Uribe must be one of the worst players to be a regular for the same team for so many years. I'm sure the Giants would have loved to find a replacement. If they thought Williams could be a regular SS, Uribe wasn't going to stand in his way.

    I don't think it's been mentioned yet that of course Williams was traded for Kent, and at the time everyone thought it was a terrible trade for the Giants.

  113. The 2b/3b thing with Kent is kind of an interesting point. I would think he'd be a better fielder at third but his offensive wouldn't stand out as much so he would kind of even out to what his performance was at second.

    The same kind of thing happened to Edgardo Alfonzo. At second he was about average to good with the glove but terrific with the bat. At third, his defense tended to be better but his offense didn't stand out as much so it kind of evened out. But I think as Alfonzo aged he could no longer play second and his offense was below average for a 3b.

  114. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Djibouti@108: "Williams was on the ballot for the first time last year and got 1.3% of the vote. Now had Williams at some point in his career decided he wanted to play 2B, he'd be the all time HR leader at the position."

    This just points up how silly it is to look primarily at career totals of a single non-park-era adjusted stat. Kent was a *much* better hitter than Matt Williams, despite one fewer career HR. Williams had a below average OBP, which is why despite his Kent-equivalent HR rate, he produced only about a third of the Runs above average of Jeff Kent. Note the positional adjustment of 3B and 2B is very similar, so moving williams from 3B to 2B assuming he played 2B just as well as he played 3B would make only a tiny difference in his WAR of 45.3. If he played average, as Kent did, and got no fielding credit beyond the positional adjustment, he'd *lose* 8-9 WAR in the B-R calculation where TZ shows him as a well above average fielding 3B.

    Justin@106:

    The 9% represents the percent of PA's that Kent had, where whatever effect happens with a man on base happened for him, over and above what you'd expect had he been paired with an average hitter.

    Kent's OBP/OPS/OPS+/RC stats are based on *all* his plate appearances, not just those where somebody was on base. If you are looking at what having Barry batting in front did for his RBI opportunties, then your 28% number would be the one to use. Although realistically, a player on 1st is nowhere near the RBI opportunity of a player on second, and all those IBBs that Barry drew, put him on first.

    But I don't even consider RBI numbers generally, as they are obviously very strongly affected by how a player is used and who is ahead of him in the order.

    To take up something you said in 99 again, it's completely unreasonable to suggest that Kent "should have" had 170+ RBIs a season just because Bonds was batting in front of him. 28% more opportunities would translate into 28% more RBIs and anything over 100 is a high RBI season, the kind that a HoF caliber hitter batting 3rd or 4th would probably mostly have in their prime. So the RBIs you'd "expect" if this was really worth 28% more (which i highly doubt) is 130-150 for prime seasons batting behind Bonds, not 170+.

    There have only been a few 170+ RBI seasons in history (and none since the 1930s), despite many lineups where two or more HoF hitters are paired together in their prime.

    The highest RBI season in the last 30 years was Manny's 165 in 1999 while batting (cleanup? 3rd?) with a murderer's row in cleveland that included Jim Thome and Roberto Alomar, David Justice, Kenny Lofton and a rare above average bat season from Omar Vizquel. Team OPS+ was 110, almost as high as the 2001 SFG side, and higher than most of the SFG sides with Kent and Bonds together. It's hard to believe that Manny had significantly fewer opportunities for RBIs than Jeff Kent in his seasons with Bonds. And Manny is a *much* better hitter than Kent. If Manny had put up the same offensive numbers along with average defense at 2B instead of bottom of the barrel corner outfield play, we wouldn't need a poll about whether he belongs in the hall -- he'd be in the "best 2B of all time" conversation.

    For that matter, look at Barry Bonds's 2001, possibly the best hitting season in all of baseball history with his 73 homers, in the middle of a lineup that wasn't exactly shabby. He recorded 137 RBIs, more than half were just from scoring himself on home runs.

    There is no "should have" when it comes to RBIs.

  115. Mike Felber Says:

    I wonder if positional adjustments should be staggered, so that guys get progressively more credit for better fielding. Is a league average defense middle infielder really all that hard to find? Catcher you can make a better case for, but if not that theoretically hard to be a mediocre SS or 2B or even 3B or CF, what about giving more credit for really good defense instead?

  116. Michael Sullivan@#114:

    Thank you for correcting my math. :)

    As to any "should-have" notions of RBI production, I think you're right on the narrow point. The RBI opportunities of any given player are really out of his control, and generally correlate to how many RBI he'll actually have. This is why RBI are always a questionable measure of the quality of a player. This is why Jeff Kent's 1500 RBI are, to me, just not a convincing argument for his HoF credentials. His 377 HR aren't that persuasive either, in context--he's an exemplar of the era in which he played, in which everyone all along the batting orders of most teams simply swung for the fences, and the fences of the 1990s/2000s were in smaller ballparks than ever.

    Kent was a good hitter in context, but not a great hitter, a mediocre glove, a terrible percentage player, and fortunate in his choice of teammates (by whom, it should be noted, he was not well-liked). From this it does not follow that he is a Hall of Famer.

  117. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Well I get the sense that credit is given for defense. while I don't think anybody is fully satisfied with the accuracy of TZ or UZR, they do give a better sense of just how many runs a guy is worth as a fielder than most people had before they were developed.

    The positional adjustment really seems only to be about how hard it is to find an average defense player of that position. Note that 2Bs and 3Bs get only a small amoutn of positional credit, while SS get a lot and catcher's even more.

    But I think what you're missing is that, you are right that it isn't that hard to find middle infielders who can do league average defense or close -- AA, AAA, and major league back benches are full of them. What's hard is finding guys who are able to play those positions *and* bat at or close to major league average level.

    It's much easier to find guys with major league bats who can play 1B, LF or RF, that's why guys with any kind of legit major league bat who can play SS are fairly valuable, and guys with "average for a LF/RF" bats who are also elite defensive SS are sure-fire first ballot HoFers (c.f. Cal Ripken), and why "average for a 1B" bats who are barely acceptable defensive shortstops are also HoFers (c.f. Derek Jeter).

    My understanding is that the Rpos adjustment is based on what the average guy in the major leagues at each position does. So essentially it encodes the market understanding of the managers, GMs and coaches who decide how to fill their rosters of the value of average defensive play at the various positions.

    Unless there's a good way to gather separate data on the question, or studies to suggest that those professionals are making systemic mistakes about who to play where or how much to value bat vs. defense at various positions, that seems like the way to go. Generally, unless I am confident that I know something crucial that most or all market participants do not, I assume that a market aggregation of the opinions of relevant professionals who have a lot of incentive to be correct, is going to be far more accurate than my gut feelings about something.

  118. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    I'm not sure I buy your percentages as particularly important. Ks is overrated as a negative stat for batters. An SF or SH isn't often worth a great deal and they aren't all that common either. In general, except for extra base hits and HRs, *how* you got on base or made an out, is just so much less important than *whether* you got on base, or made an out.

    To me, the OBP tells me everything that BB:K ratio tells me and more. His OBP isn't spectacular but it was noticeably above league average, from a position where we don't expect above league average.

    I don't like his steal percentages, and pretty much think he should have made many fewer attempts, but this negative is built into the WAR formula to my satisfaction.

    Note, I don't think Kent is a particularly clear choice. For me, he's borderline but in.

    On the question of who he hit with -- with the exception of a huge outlier like Barry Bonds, I think this makes so little difference for anything other than RBIs that it's not worth considering. Yes Bagwell and Berkman are great, but their difference from a typical #1-4 bat in terms of OBP is not gigantic. Remember, almost anybody who bats in the #3 or #4 position is going to have good OBP guys in front of them. Almost every team has 3-4 good bats, so if you are one of them, the chances are good you will be batting with other good bats around you in the order. You don't necessarily expect to be paired with Jeff Bagwell or Lance Berkman, but it's not unreasonable to assume that an average cleanup hitter will be behind or in front of, say a Victor Martinez or Derek Lee (or Jeff Kent for that matter), guys who are well above average.

    The difference between a hall of famer and the kind of above average player who will hit in the top half of most orders is not that huge. A 4% difference in getting on base is the difference between Berkman at #4 among active players, and Martinez at #36.

  119. Michael Sullivan@114:

    Yes, K is overrated as a negative stat for batters. We all agree that Jeff Kent was a good hitter, a valuable player. We all agree that he's "borderline", or what I would call a marginal Hall of Famer. We are now at the stage of looking at the little things, the minutiae that are perfectly valid means of distinguishing who should be in, and who should be out.

    Personally, I would prefer that my second baseman be able to, you know, play second base. I believe that the statistical record in Kent's case is rather kind, and that he was a worse fielder than what Total Zone says. I would prefer a second baseman who doesn't swing at everything, who knows when to steal and when not to, who doesn't ground into a ton of double plays. I would prefer a second baseman who isn't a negative in the clubhouse, and who doesn't hurt himself on his motorcycle in the off-season while lying to his team about it. Those are the nits that I choose to pick.

    Setting those nits aside, we come to what has been pointed out several times earlier on this thread--Kent is not (either in my opinion, or in the opinion of WAR) anywhere near as good a player as either Bobby Grich or Lou Whitaker, neither of whom is in the Hall. The reality is that Kent is only being considered an HoF candidate because of his gaudy batting numbers. It is my opinion that his career OPS+ (266th all-time) is good, but not that special. I don't think we're adjusting enough for the context in which he played. I think it's fair to rate Kent as somewhere between the 10th and 20th best second baseman of all time. Is that good enough for the Hall? When you consider what he has to offer other than his power hitting, I say no.

  120. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    look at Barry Bonds's 2001, possibly the best hitting season in all of baseball history with his 73 homers, in the middle of a lineup that wasn't exactly shabby. He recorded 137 RBIs, more than half were just from scoring himself on home runs.

    Of Bonds' 73 home runs, 46 came with the bases empty, 21 with one runner on base, four with two runners on, and two with the bases loaded. All told, he drove in 108 runs with his 73 home runs. Of the 29 other runs that he drove in, two came in on sacrifice flies, two on ground outs, seven on seven singles, and 18 on 14 doubles. That's undoubtedly one of the strangest "RBI profiles" ever.

  121. Seriously, 61% of people think he deserves to get in? He streak of good play was only nine years, and it was from 1997 to 2005; if I was on whatever hitters were taking back then, I'm pretty sure I could've had a few 30-homer campaigns. And it wasn't as if he was a great fielder.

    I wouldn't put him in the Hall in a million years, and I think the odds of him being elected are slim-to-none.

  122. arthur suckow Says:

    Ifollowed Kent as a Met and he was incredibly good for someone the Mets had no idea what to do with. His numbers suffered severly as his playing time was limited even though he was showing alot of pop due to poor management. I lost track of him as a giant as i was a young dr.and lost touch with baseball. With the inception of mlb I got to watch him as a Dodger and he was still a great player. He had a cannon for an arm and turned the dp better than any 2b I have seen. He also was deceptive because his size made him a great target for plays at 2nd and he had decent range up till 39. He could still be dhing in american league giving him rediculous numbers. He didn't get lucky to start at 24 like alot of players and retired at the right time.When he got help from Manny and Blake he hit close to .370 at 40. Unfortunately he hurt his knee on a terrible throw from Nomar and really couldn't help the dodgers get in the WS. I watch Utley almost every night and he doesn't hit the ball as hard as kent and isn't close to the fielder. No one points out that Kent has more extras than Mantle and is about 30th alltime plus 1500 plus rbis and .290 avg is better than many of the 'greats'. Iwatched this guy at 26 and 40 and he may be one of the very best.Morgan had everyone on his team so why didnt he hit .375?Kent was great but his name isn;t Griffy who started at 20 in the MLB but he isn't the player Kent was late in his career. Kent first ballot or all his hard work wasted. No sin in being quiet.