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POLL: Kenny Lofton and the Hall of Fame

Posted by Andy on August 31, 2010

Kenny Lofton led the league in stolen bases 5 times, was a 6-time All-Star, and a 4-time Gold Glove winner. He played in the 6th-most games in center field since 1954, and was part of an incredible number of playoff teams.

His 622 career stolen bases rank 15th all-time while his 160 times caught stealing ranks only 21st.

Does Lofton deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? Let's discuss and vote below.

For Kenny Lofton in the Hall of Fame

  • His 65.3 career WAR is 79th among all position players, in the same neighborhood as Ernie Banks, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, and Gary Carter.
  • Lofton's WAR total is boosted almost equally by offensive and defensive contributions. He was a good player on both sides of the ball and occupied key positions in both cases (leadoff batter, center fielder).
  • He didn't play his first full season until Age 25, which really hurts him in the counting stats area, such as total stolen bases and runs scored. His career OBP of .372, though, is a much better measure of how good he was at getting on base.
  • Among CF only, Lofton ranks top 10 in WAR:
    Rk Player WAR/pos From To Age
    1 Ty Cobb 159.4 1905 1928 18-41
    2 Willie Mays 154.7 1951 1973 20-42
    3 Tris Speaker 133.0 1907 1928 19-40
    4 Mickey Mantle 120.2 1951 1968 19-36
    5 Joe DiMaggio 83.6 1936 1951 21-36
    6 Ken Griffey 78.4 1989 2010 19-40
    7 Billy Hamilton 69.6 1888 1901 22-35
    8 Jim Edmonds 68.1 1993 2010 23-40
    9 Duke Snider 67.5 1947 1964 20-37
    10 Kenny Lofton 65.3 1991 2007 24-40
    Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 8/30/2010.

    That's a pretty impressive list, no?

  • From 1995 until his last season (2007) Lofton appeared in the playoffs every single season except 2000 and 2005. Think about that for a minute. Now realize that he did it with 8 different teams--the Indians 3 times (in 3 separate stints with the team) plus the Braves, Giants, Cubs, Yankees, and Dodgers. He also played for a very good Phillies team in 2005. The bottom is that wherever this guy went, his teams won. Sure, he can't take all the credit, but he was clearly an integral part of many, many very good teams.
  • Lofton has the reputation as the best leadoff hitter of his generation. Yes, there were plenty of other good ones, but he was the best over the entire period of his career.

Against  Kenny Lofton in the Hall of Fame

  • Career OPS+ of 107.
  • Career post-season line of .247/.315/.352 over a whopping 95 games, plus no World Series championships (losses in 1995 with the Indians and 2002 with the Giants).
  • Below-average fielding percentage in CF (although my guess is that this has more to do with him getting close enough to many balls that he made errors on that other guys wouldn't even get to.)
  • Despite being a good leadoff hitter, he never led in any major statistical category (other than stolen bases) except for hits in the strike-shortened 1994 season and triples in 1995.
  • Some degree of his success must be attributed to the fact that he played on a lot of really good teams. For half a season with the 2003 Pirates he had an OPS+ of 98 and  a .333 OBP.
  • Other than his stolen base total, his only impressive career ranking for a counting stat is Runs (58th) and even that is pretty low for a guy reputed to be the best leadoff hitter of his generation.

Please vote below.

171 Responses to “POLL: Kenny Lofton and the Hall of Fame”

  1. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    "To make the Hall as an outfielder, they expect..."

    And this, IMO, is exactly why centerfielders sometimes get short shrift. They get lumped in with corner guys. I've seen it happen in this thread and the Edmonds thread all over the place.

    It's the same problem with 3B. For some reason people want to give 2B credit for playing a demanding defensive position, but not 3B, which the league averages indicate is pretty similar.

  2. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #92: nit- picking, but you left out Ed Roush, @46.5 WAR. Still, a very useful list. One thing not mentioned is the possible "time-line" adjustment, as Bill James called it, where he gave more credit to more recent players, for playing when the overall level of ability of the average player is higher. For instance, Mays passes Cobb; Mantle passes Speaker; Lofton passes Snider.

    I'm not sure I buy that, especially the last one, but I don't think there's much doubt that the overall level of MLB is measurably higher now than in 1910. I'm not sure how much this applies to the very best players, though; I doubt if anyone really considers Edmonds the equal of Dimaggio.

  3. Matt Y Says:

    I largely agree #96. We agree on most players --Lofton is out for me, but I'm more and more behind Edmonds. It be nice if Edmonds gave us one more quality year, but I'd vote for him now, as I did Walker --those two are on the fence for me but just in, Lofton is not. Bernie's in the same group with Lofton, and in a real world sense, I'd take Bernie over Lofton b/c he was pretty good in the playoffs.

  4. Matt Y Says:

    Even more interesting, BP has Williams' WARP at 57 and Lofton at 51.

  5. Matt Y Says:

    Jim Edmonds:

    This WAR: 68 (borderline cuttoff range ~55-70)
    BG WAR: 59 (borderline cutoff range of ~50-65)
    BP WARP: 74 (borderline cutoff range of ~60-75)
    Win Shares: 319 (borderline cutoff range of ~275-350)

    They all seem sufficiently high enough that Edmonds gets my vote. He also has very good playoff numbers. No big gaps in numbers overall. I suspect he'll have trouble making it, but who knows. I don't think Lofton or Williams make the cut though. However, Williams gets a slight nod over Lofton in my book b/c of playoff performance.


    This WAR: 65
    BG WAR: 49
    BP WARP: 51
    Win Shares: 293


    This WAR: 47
    BG WAR: 53
    BP WARP: 57
    Win Shares: 307

  6. MikeD Says:

    @98 -- Yet another solid player. Hall of Famer? Not in a million years. What depresses me is the amount of people in the poll who think he is.

    If you complile the poll results into two questions (should he or shouldn't he), then it's 64% say he is not a HOF to 36% who claim he is a HOFer. It's still pretty overwhelming against, yet the 36% is very high considering we're talking about Lofton. Once again, good player, not HOFer. I'm not sure that when his name comes up on the ballot if he'll generate the necessary 5% to reappear on the following ballot. A bit sarcastically, I rate him having a slightly less than one percent chance of ever being elected to the HOF.

  7. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    "However, Lofton is clearly getting a very, very substantial bump in defense from this site. Lofton was noticeably better than Williams in center, but he was NOT 17 wins better than Williams. "

    This site suggests he was 23 wins better than Williams in center, and I think that's realistic. You don't have to guess at what B-R thinks about these components, BTW, they are broken out for you. B-R is giving Lofton about 11 wins over bernie for baserunning and RoE, plus another 1.6 for not GiDP. And then giving him 22+ for fielding.

    You may be remembering the young Bernie who was a pretty good CF on defense, and forgetting that the Yankees left him in there for a number of years when he was a real liability. You could argue that that's the organization's fault to an extent, he might have been average or better in right, if they'd moved him halfway through his career instead of waiting till he was almost done -- and that's a typical thing to do for CFs who are good but not amazing as young guys -- but he did play center for a number of years when he was well below average. He was still valuable because for a CF he was a stud with the bat, but he was a real liability on defense 6-7 years, and I can totally believe there was a 23 win difference between Lofton and Williams in the field over their full careers.

  8. Matt Y Says:

    And yes, it's OK to buy that if you think the defensive numbers here at this site are something you can really, really hang your hat on. Bernie should have been moved around 2002-03 for the last 3-4 seasons, but sorry, i don't buy that Lofton was 23 wins better defensively than Bernie. He was clearly better, but not that much better. Bernie often would take more circular routes to balls, and as he slowed some, his long striding gait just didn't cut it anymore. His earlier years he could cover up these circular routes. Loften took better paths to balls for sure, but the numbers seem very, very suspect to me. I rate these two about the same, with Edmonds a notch above them overall.

  9. Evan Says:

    (As a warning, the following are a few thoughts on evaluating defensive ability. Although I think they have some value in evaluating Lofton's career, they are only tangentially on topic in that they are more a discussion of how defensive ability has been evaluated for lineup and HoF purposes.)

    One of the difficulties that I see with respect to evaluating players for the HoF whose resume has a substantial defensive component is that we can't be sure what constitutes a HoF level of fielding.

    For the majority of the history of the game defensive ability has primarily been evaluated by teams (as well as media and fans) qualitatively with some quantitative data such as errors and # of chances. Looking backward, and with the limited understanding of defensive metrics we have today, we tend to think of the data being used as being of fairly limited value.

    Until fairly recently teams had no way to evaluate how many runs were being saved by a fielder they perceived as being an exceptionally good defender or conversely how many runs the poor defender was costing them. It is likely that the differences between these two players were often underestimated (this is akin to the "he can't be costing the team that many runs" reaction - the difficulty being that the difference between great defense and poor defense is easily catching a ball that the poor defender doesn't even get close to).

    All this aside, I think it is fair to say that position players have been evaluated and given playing time throughout the history of the game primarily based upon offensive ability. The result has been that almost all if not all of the best hitters have made it to the majors and been given the opportunity to succeed in the form of playing time (the one giant caveat here is racial discrimination and other anomalies that kept certain players out of the AL/NL).

    On the other hand the same cannot necessarily be said for the cream of the crop fielders. There may have been players who would have made significant contributions to Major League teams that never reached the majors or had only a cup of coffee because they were incompetent hitters (perhaps roughly equivalent to or slightly better than many of the pitchers in baseball). If you look at a guy like Ozzie Smith, if you changed his abilities slightly such that he ended up being a better fielder and a worse offensive player, but that these exactly cancel each other out (let's assume that we have some way to accurately measure this, which isn't the case given the current level of defensive metrics), there is a good chance that this modified Ozzie Smith might never have made it to the majors or had a very short career because of his inability to hit.

    I'm convinced that there are actual players who would have been superior options for teams that never got the opportunity to play or to play regularly because their abilities were so heavily slanted toward defensive skills. Because of this I think it is hard to evaluate what makes someone a star fielder because we don't have a full view of the upper end of the range of defensive abilities that exist.

  10. John DiFool Says:

    "One thing not mentioned is the possible "time-line" adjustment, as Bill James called it, where he gave more credit to more recent players, for playing when the overall level of ability of the average player is higher. For instance, Mays passes Cobb; Mantle passes Speaker; Lofton passes Snider."

    Yes, I completely ignored that because it would work in favor of L & E, and people would accuse me of loading the deck in their favor. I do personally believe in a fairly steep timeline adjustment-I think it's pretty much a given that the ability of the average ML player has steadily improved over the last century+, but we can never know how say DiMaggio or Cobb would have benefited from modern training techniques etc.

    I will say that BBRef's evaluation appears to be the most favorable towards Lofton; given different weights and such he slips back into the Cedeno/Wynn grey zone, and that's fair to keep that in mind (I wish these polls had an "unsure" option, because Lofton definitely is in that zone, even tho I came down on the "yea" side of things). It's a moot point because he'll be lucky to get 20 votes from the BBWAA.

    My only take-home point is that the Hall's standards, as historically established, are more than big enough to encompass more players than many observers suspect. You may disagree with said standards, and that's fine, but the Hall has never limited itself just to the Ruths and Mayses of the world, even the BBWAA (as it has significantly tightened up its overall standards over the last 30 years while still finding time to elect people like Puckett and Dawson).

  11. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Think about what 23 wins difference means in this context. They played 16 and 17 years, so that's 1.35 wins per season. or about 13.5 runs per season. A hit dropping in or RoE versus getting caught for an out is worth around .8 of a run in general, so that's 17 hits, or roughly 1 hit dropping in versus not every 8-10 games. Of course, I'm not saying that particular thing happened that often. Some of the difference comes in whether hits are singles versus doubles, or whether a guy scores from first or second on a double/single, etc.

    Do you think Kenny Lofton (a very strong cf for 1/2 his career and still better than average for the other 1/2) vs. Bernie (a decent CF for 5 years, and a pretty bad one for the rest) couldn't possibly be worth 1 hit every 8-10 games? CF's play a lot of balls. I think it's plausible.

  12. John Q Says:

    I was looking at this list and I was thinking what huge gaps there are in HOF CF.

    Willie Mays retired in 1973. The HOF has only elected 1 CF (Kirby Puckett), who played from 1974-2004. And really Puckett wasn't even a good choice. Griffey jr. will get in but that looks like that's about it at CF for a while because it doesn't look like there's any support for Edmonds and Lofton and Beltran and Jones might still have an outside shot. So from 1974-2010 you're only going to have 2 CF represented??? A time period when there were 24-30 teams, that doesn't seem to make sense.

    Look at it another way. There are 16 CF in the HOF, 15 of them began their career before 1952 only 1 (Puckett) began his career post 1952. That doesn't seem to make sense. 94% of the HOF CF began their careers before Expansion/Western Baseball??

    Griffey jr. will get in so you will only have 2 CF who began their career since 1952?? You have the 29 seasons (1876-1904)when there were 6-16 teams that produced 2 HOF CF (Hamilton & Duffy). Then 47 seasons when there were only 16 teams (1905-1951), that produced 13 HOF-CF, but the 52 seasons 1952-2004 when there were 16-30 teams has only produced 2 HOF Center Fielders??? That doesn't make sense.

  13. Matt Y Says:

    A more accurate way of stating his earlier years was Williams was an average to slightly better than average centerfielder.--he was better than decent or fair. These two players were more equals than a WAR of 65 and 48 suggest. Just like I don't think Bernie's HoFM of 133 and HoFS of 48 mean he was that much better than Lofton's 91 and 42. In looking at all of the metrics and all sites like this, these two were quite similar --really good players, borderline HoFers, but clearly on the outside looking in.

  14. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    I meant average+ by "decent"

  15. Matt Y Says:

    I agree that centerfield is undervalued and underrepresented in the HoF. Edmonds should get more play than he does, and actually would make a nice pick, and if we really want to put more centerfielders in, than maybe both Lofton and Williams should go in. I suspect Lofton will struggle to last more than 1-3 years, and that Bernie will stick around on ballot for longer, perhaps the 10- 15 years, but fall short. I would still tend to say that Edmonds should be the cutoff though.

  16. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    Realistically, if Tim Raines has barely broken 30% after 3 years on the HOF ballet, I don't see Lofton getting more than 10-15%, if even that. He may get less than 10%, since the ballet will be totally stacked, with both leftover and new candidates:

    Win Shares, 2013 candidates:
    Barry Bonds 705
    Roger Clemens 437
    Craig Biggio 428
    Mike Piazza 325
    Sammy Sosa 322
    Steve Finley 297
    Julio Franco 280
    David Wells 210

    Of course, what the BBWAA thinks and what we think are two different things.

  17. Matt Y Says:

    What were the final Poll numbers on Edmonds ?--I can't seem to find his Poll in the archive of polls.

  18. David in Toledo Says:

    Mike (#99), Picking on one season only, TWO center fielders from the last 20 years, I'd be happy with Lofton 1994 and either Edmonds 2004 or Junior 1997 (or 1994). If I'm going to have two on the roster, Edmonds and Junior have the same strengths, whereas Lofton adds a stolen base weapon.

    If I were to be gifted two center fielders from 1991-2010 based on their career averages, I'd pick Griffey Junior and Bernie Williams, who hit left-handed pitching so well.

  19. Todd Says:

    No to Kenny. He was a good, solid player, but his relatively short career and lack of offensive dominance torpedo him for me. I should note that I favor a very restrictive Hall and don't care for the election of Dawson and a host of others. I don't believe in adding to the dozens upon dozens of mistakes already made by making even more of them. I'll add that on the list of WAR for CFers above, the Top 5 are really the only ones that I think belong in the Hall of Fame. Even Junior is a marginal candidate as far as I'm concerned, largely because of the mediocrity of his last decade. I'm not for keeping him out, just not that excited about him going in.

    But Mantle, Mays, Cobb, Speaker and Dimaggio . . . that's what a HOF CFer should look like,IMO.

  20. Matt Y Says:

    I don't completely disagree with you #119, but I think it's important to try to keep to the approximate bounds already provided. There have been some mistakes made for sure, but I don't see Dawson as a mistake under the current guidelines. Besides, if anything, the Hall is getting harder to get into anyway. As currently constructed I can vote for Edmonds, but not for Lofton or Williams.

  21. David Says:

    Kenny Lofton was a wonderful ballplayer. I was a huge fan of his beginning in his days as a point guard for Arizona, playing in the Final Four. I watched him when he was in AAA, and he was alwaysy one of the names I checked in the box scores.

    But a Hall of Famer? Did anyone ever watch him play and think "that guy's a Hall of Famer"? I just don't see it.

  22. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Hall of fame monitor and standards were never intended to be representative of a player's value, they have always been intended to represent all the prejudices and predilections of the typical BBWWA voter from 1950-1990ish: both the well founded ones, and the completely stupid and ridiculous ones.

    So I don't care about those numbers in making hall decisions, except to the extent that I am trying to predict the kind of *mistakes* other fans (and especially the official voters) will make in selections. For instance, both Edmonds and Lofton's HoF monitor numbers affected my decision to vote that I did not think they would get into the hall, even though I believe they both deserve it.

    WAR is an attempt (however flawed) to measure a player's career value and *only* a player's career value. So I pay a great deal of attention to it. Win shares is also such an attempt, but IMO the baseline decision made by Win Shares is not well founded, so I pay much less attention to it than I do to the various versions of WAR.

  23. jiffy Says:

    Re #112: Griffey jr. will get in so you will only have 2 CF who began their career since 1952?? You have the 29 seasons (1876-1904)when there were 6-16 teams that produced 2 HOF CF (Hamilton & Duffy). Then 47 seasons when there were only 16 teams (1905-1951), that produced 13 HOF-CF, but the 52 seasons 1952-2004 when there were 16-30 teams has only produced 2 HOF Center Fielders??? That doesn't make sense.

    Although maybe not full-time CFs, Robin Yount started 1139 games in CF (about 2 seasons less than he played at SS) and Dawson started 1018 in CF.

  24. BSK Says:

    Lofton is currently 79th in WAR among position players. What happens if he's 109th in 20 years because of being passed by guys behind him or guys not even in the league yet? Rather than look at ranking, I think we should simply figure out what the cutoff is. Let's figure out WAR/162 or something and try to get a sense of what a HoF looks like. Is a HoF a guy who contributes 3 Ws a year to his team? 6? I get what WAR does and, despite its shortcomings, think it's still probably one of the best stats we have available, but we need to determine its self-specific context or its just a meaningless number. Saying a guy has a WAR of 65 is meaningless if we don't know how "good" 65 is. And I do realize that looking at it historically gives SOME context, but as I pointed out before, those Top X lists are guaranteed to change, so I think there is probably a better way of considering it.

  25. Matt Y Says:

    HoFM was never intended to be representative of a players value when looked at by a sabermetrician. However, it's quite worthy for us mere mortals that love the WAR, but like other metrics too. It's all a matter of opinion, and as far as I see it, no one method has, or ever will, or should ever, corner the market on how to evaluate a player. There's value to all methods, some more than others.

  26. Andy Says:

    BSK, I'll grant you that Lofton's current ranking isn't terribly important, except for a few things:

    1) Since WAR isn't simply a counting stat but could be negative, it stands to reason that his ranking could go up (although this isn't very likely.) To me, it's not quite the same as saying somebody is top-whatever in a true counting stat, which is not as meaningful as some make it out to be.

    2) However, being in the top-whatever in some stat does carry some meaning. Frank Robinson was once a top-5 HR hitter. Now he's 8th, having been passed by Bonds, Griffey, Sosa, and A-rod, and likely will also be passed by Thome and maybe Manny. To me, though, Robinson's achievement of being #4 at one time is not diminished, particularly since there's substantial evidence that suggests that it has been a lot easier for many players to hit homers recently. With WAR, your argument makes more sense, though, since it corrects for era variations.

    3) Isn't setting a line really the same thing? For example if we set the HR line at 500 homers, well, more and more guys eventually make it in. A guy with 500 homers exactly would gradually fall further and further on that list.

  27. John Q Says:

    Jiffy @123,

    Those players, Yount and Dawson did play center field but they played less than half of their career at center. Yount only played 42% of his career in Center and Dawson only played 43% of his career at Center. Usually when your trying to place a player at a certain position, you want that player to play 60-75% of his career at that position.

    I would say all most of those HOF CF's played the bulk of their careers in Center. Edmonds played 93% of his career at Center and Lofton played 97% in Center by comparison.

    The problem is there's two sets of standards for the HOF at Center. Most of the positions have this double standard but it's most extreme at Third Base, Center Field and Catcher to a lesser degree. Basically, if your career started before 1960, then your HOF standard is Earl Averill. If your career started after 1960 then the HOF standard is Duke Snider/Joe Dimaggio. And then to not elect any Center fielders whose career started after 1951 except Kirby Puckett is very strange. And Puckett was voted in just as a knee-jerk reaction to his illness otherwise we wouldn't have any CF whose career's started after 1951.

  28. BSK Says:


    Good points. I guess what I'm getting at is we need to get a better sense of what WAR means. It's a new stat and does not DIRECTLY measure what happens on the field in front of us, meaning we can't see a WAR happen the way we can see a HR happen. So, when I hear a guy hit 500 HRs, I have instant context for that. Obviously, there is nuance with that, such as 500 HRs now vs 500 HRs 50 years a go or 500 HRs in 15 seasons vs 500 HRs in 25. But we still know that 500 HRs means he hit the ball over the fence 500 times. For WAR, I think part of building familiarity and acceptance with it will have to do with people being able to hear a WAR number and get a really good sense of what it means. I know some of that groundwork has been laid, as I believe there are some loose benchmarks about a given season being starter-worthy, All-Star worthy, MVP worthy, etc. But I feel like more work on that would go a long way towards getting a sense of exactly what a WAR of 65 means. That is one of the difficulties with the "new" stats... if I'm talking to someone uneducated about them, they have no context for their value. Obviously, that is not a flaw in the stat itself, but in the presentation of it (which certainly isn't your responsibility).

    Your point about negative WAR is well-taken and something I had forgotten about.

    I also think there is some problem in using the "above replacement" aspect of it. Often, you hear people equate WAR to Ws, when they are really very different. Is there a way that we could just figure out how many Ws a guy is worth? Would this be too context-specific and impossible to compare across eras? Couldn't we just add the number of Ws a replacement-level player was worth? I think it's be clearer to say, "Lofton contributed 105 Ws to his team in his career" than to say, "Lofton had a WAR of 65", since "replacement level" is still a bit nebulous within the stats community and completely foreign to those outside of it.

  29. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    IMO, what WAR is trying to get to is exactly what you are wanted BSK, the problem is simply defining replacement level (well, also getting a better handle on the exact weight of the various stats and how they relate to runs and wins).

    In the magical universe known as the WAR model (which doesn't look exactly like the real world, but is mathematically convenient and does make for a close appromixation) there is an effectively infinite pool of available players at every position who have roughly the same *expected* value, and this pool is known as the replacement pool, and these players cost (in terms of typical salaries of established major league players) effectively nothing.

    Of course in actual fact, some replacement players cost more than others, and different replacement players have different expected values for both short term play and long term play (an over the hill regular and a good prospect may both project to roughly 0 WAR for this year, but the prospect is expected to do much better in 2-3 years, while the aging star is not). but the idea is that if you scrap a guy, there's generally some way to put a player of a given level in their spot while spending a minimum of money.

    If we can establish what that realistic level is, i.e. the level of play at which it makes sense to cut a guy who is not ever expected to do much better, even if you aren't paying him much money, then it's realistic to say that wins added above that point are real value, and anythkng below that point is effectively a cost to a team, rather than a value to them (you may have played that guy, but could have easily found somebody who you'd expect to do better). IMO, if we can figure out what true replacement level is, it doesn't make sense to count wins for play that is below that level toward someone's career, because you aren't actually adding anything at that point, you are taking it away.

    The idea behind WAR is "1. assemble a minimum salary team of waiver guys, back benchers, and decent but not hot just ready AAA prospects. How many wins would they expect to have in a season or over N years 2. Add player X to that team. How many more wins does the new team expect to have over a season, or over N years?" That's WAR.

    Replacement level *is* the appropriate baseline for total career value. If you're looking for the absolute bottom of possible baseball skill, you could have a stat for "wins over quadraplegic grandmas". Oh wait, we have that stat: it's called "games played".

    IMO, win shares makes no sense. Trying to find a baseline that is clearly below replacement level, doesn't make sense. Higher baselines might make sense (in the sense that they favor players with stronger peaks). Lower ones don't.

  30. Todd Says:

    Part of the problem in voting for someone like Kenny for the Hall (and I think his selection would be absolutely ludicrous) is that his selection would then be used to justify others like Bernie Williams and Jim Edmonds who, while very good players, fall short of what the standard for a Hall of Famer should be, IMO. What about Vada Pinson? Does Kenny really belong with Mantle and Mays? Are you kidding me? Some White Sox fans consider Paul Konerko a HOF candidate. Where does it end?

    I kind of like Bill James' suggestion of an inner circle for the "real" HOFers, though. That way you can stick almost everyone in the Hall, including Luis Sojo (great intangibles) and so forth, and there would still be a way to recognize the true greats of the game. If you limited the inner circle to about 50 guys, then you'd be able to get much closer to the kind of honor I'm talking about. IMO, it demeans the honor given to Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron if you stick Andre Dawson in there with them.

  31. John DiFool Says:

    "I should note that I favor a very restrictive Hall and don't care for the election of Dawson and a host of others. I don't believe in adding to the dozens upon dozens of mistakes already made by making even more of them."

    Fair enough, but who are the mistakes then exactly? Is Ashburn a mistake? If Edmonds is clearly better than a dozen of the CF "mistakes", doesn't he start to look pretty good in terms of the median/mean Hall CFer? I do second the "Inner Circle" idea, which would in a partial sense remedy the errors, blind spots, and cronyism that has plagued the election process.

    "Did anyone ever watch him play and think "that guy's a Hall of Famer"? I just don't see it."

    Now this attitude I just don't get. Isn't it fair to the player to examine all the evidence, and not just rely on the "smell test", game over, move on, nothing more to see here? [Gut feelings do have their place I'll grant] I used to be more bearish on Blyleven, for example, until I read too many well-written arguments indicating that he was a significantly better pitcher than his base W-L would indicate. Likewise I became more down on McGriff (has he been done here yet?)-I used to think that he would get hosed because his peak petered out just a few years into the post '92 offensive explosion, and thus wasn't hitting 60-70 HRs at his best, but even adjusting for that, his poor glove and spotty record in his 30's just put him back in the 1B pack for me upon further examination.

  32. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Neither Kenny nor Edmonds belong with Mantle and Mays.

    But neither does Griffey (although he would have if he'd kept up his monster early years longer), and neither do 80-90% of the people who are in the hall. Neither are most of the "slam dunk first ballot" guys like Biggio or Jeter or Glavine.

    If that's your hall, then you gotta kick out most of the people in it, and stop inviting all those pretenders just because they get 3000 hits or 300 wins or whatever. Mays and Mantle are a heck of a lot better than that.

  33. Charlie Says:

    I was going to make that comparison between Lofton and Brett Butler, who preceded Lofton in the Indians' center field by just a few years, but I see everyone was ahead of me.

    Where I think Lofton and Butler are similar is that both had a lot of what I would call the "background" of a Hall of Famer, but not the obvious frontline attributes such as multiple All-Star starts or high finishes in MVP voting. And never once winning a ring despite the number of good teams he played on deprives him of a key factor voters look for. Put the bulk of Lofton's career in New York and put the bulk of Bernie Williams's career in Cleveland, and it would be interesting to see how both were regarded (and let's not kid ourselves: Williams will be in the Hall by 2020).

    Two things that I think work against Lofton in the end. First, the falloff in his performance against lefthanders in his last full season in Cleveland in 2001, which led to him being largely platooned the last several years of his career. The other was the 1994 strike, which occurred in Lofton's greatest season. That cost him what might have been his first playoff appearance and what certainly could have been an MVP award. There's a very short list of people whose Hall of Fame campaigns might have been derailed by labor troubles. Lofton is on that list, and perhaps at the top of the list is his Cleveland teammate, Dennis Martinez.

  34. Rob Dibble Says:

    If Kenny Lofton ever becomes a HOFer, I'll have his initials tatooed on my butt!

  35. Pat Lynch Says:

    I think Kenny should be in the hall. Remember Kenny's blind grandma being interviewed on TV? She said
    "Kenny's ffaaaaaaaaasst" That was awesome, and Kenny should be in the hall, grandma too!

  36. Jeff James Says:

    I know Kenny was good on defense/running, but guess how many seasons his OPS+ was over 121, even short seasons?
    Exactly once

  37. Skip Says:

    "I kind of like Bill James' suggestion of an inner circle for the "real" HOFers, though. That way you can stick almost everyone in the Hall, including Luis Sojo (great intangibles) and so forth, and there would still be a way to recognize the true greats of the game. If you limited the inner circle to about 50 guys, then you'd be able to get much closer to the kind of honor I'm talking about. IMO, it demeans the honor given to Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron if you stick Andre Dawson in there with them."

    Bill Simmons has a better idea; something involving levels of the HOF. In the basement you could have guys who have weird records, one-hit-wonders, etc, and when you get to the top floor you have Ruth, Cobb, etc. This way, you could say something like, Lofton is a Level 5 Hall of Famer, but not a Level 4 because of reasons 1, 2, and 3.

    Also, this would give the voters and the public a sense of who the "worst" Center Fielder, or whatever, is in the Hall. That way, if you could determine that Lofton is better than the worst Center Fielder in the Hall, then he should go in in some capacity (Level 1 or Level 2).

  38. Skip Says:

    Here is the link I was referencing.

  39. Matt Y Says:

    Did I read this right --"But neither does Griffey (although he would have if he'd kept up his monster early years longer), and neither do 80-90% of the people who are in the hall. Neither are most of the "slam dunk first ballot" guys like Biggio or Jeter or Glavine.

    Whoever wrote this thinks Biggio and Jeter should go in before Griffey? Must be some crazy case of amnesia. Griffey put up unbelievable numbers the first 10 years --he compiled afterwards, but still put in a few more solid seasons despite all the injuries. I guess to make the Hall you have to put up 10 years of 40+ HR's instead of 7. I guess 630 HR's isn't good enough. Wow.

  40. Matt Y Says:

    I highly doubt Bernie Williams is going in --kidding aside, I don't think he'll make it. Being a Yankee hasn't helped with induction for 30+ years. Munson's not in, and probably should be, others think Randolph should be in, he's not, same with Nettles, he's not, or Guidry and Mattingly. he only one I think should be in here is Munson. Jeter and Mo will be locks, but Posada and Pettitte are borderliners that I think will struggle to get in. Posada probably has a slightly better sabermetric resume, but Pettitte has the big playoff games that voters like, but he also has HGH to overcome. I think Bernie will stick on the ballot for a good long time, but I think he'll fall short, and should. I would rate both Pettitte and Posada's chances better than Williams'.

    Shoot, Joe Gordon just went in as a Vet pick and that was overdue IMO. People will point to Rizutto getting in, and yes his high profile image and being likable helped -- people complain about him going in, but Rizutto was more of a borderliner in guy than many want to admit, especially given he lost 3 years right in the peak of his career for service and still put up a 45 WAR, an MVP, and many championships.

  41. John Q Says:

    Lofton was a much better player than Bret Butler. As hitters they basically had the same value. Lofton hit for more power but was in a much better hitter's park during a much better hitter's era.

    Defense and Stolen Bases are the two big differences between the two players. Lofton was a gold glover who won the award 4 times and he probably deserved the award 6-7 times. Butler was an average fielding outfielder and probably should have been moved to left or right when he played with the Dodgers.

    If you go by Total Zone, Lofton was (+113) for his career while Butler was (-83).

    Stolen bases is the other big difference. Lofton was a fantastic 622/782 in Stolen Base attempts for a 80% success rate. Butler was 558/815 for a 68% success rate. Butler had 33 more stolen base attempts yet stole 64 fewer bases. Lofton lead the league in steals 5 times, Butler never did.

    Think about the 1991 Dodgers when Butler was 38/66 in stolen base attempts for a 57% success rate. That's terrible. And to make it worse the Dodgers lost the West that year by 1 game. They probably win/tie the division if Butler doesn't even attempt a stolen base that year.

  42. Todd Says:

    The Bill Simmons idea is similar to James' idea in that James delineates between HOF levels (e.g., Definition D Hall of Famer, Definition C, etc.). Both are pretty good ideas and would certainly relieve much of my angst about the Hall.

    It isn't really for me to tell other people that Andre Dawson and his laughable .323 OBA are not Hall of Fame worthy, anyway. But if there were a way to honor the greatest of the great that still allowed everyone's favorite players to be honored, such as Dawson for leading the Cubs to last place, then those of us who favor a restrictive Hall would get what we want, while those who favor including everyone and his brother would get what they want, too. Inevitably, there would be arguments over whether this guy should be a Level 4 or a Level 5, but there would probably be a pretty good consensus on the cream of the crop.

    As for Bernie Williams, I think it very unlikely that he will ever be inducted. His peak was just 7 years, and it really wasn't that high of a peak. Of the current Yankees, the only worthy ones, IMO, are Mo, Derek and A-Rod. Mo and A-Rod are all-time greats, the best ever at their positions, while Derek has been a very good player for a long time, at least until this year. I can't fathom how Andy Pettitte could be a HOFer, but I can see Jorge if he has 2-3 more good years.

  43. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    REPLY to #130/131/132/137/142:
    As I and others have pointed out here and in other discussions, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron HAVE NEVER BEEN the standard for the baseball HOF; not now, not 30 years ago, not 60 years ago. That may have been the standard for the very first election in 1936, but already by 1939, the BBWAA elected Willie Keeler and George Sisler, who aren't within shouting distance of those four immortals mentioned at the start.

    I think it's disengenious to claim that "Ruth/Mays/etc..." is the standard; if Junior Griffey is a "marginal" HOF choice according to your standards, your standards are not realistic. Also, I don't think any of the other HOF inductees are demeaned by placing Andre Dawson in the HOF - how can anyone feel "demeaned" for receiving baseball's greatest honor? (besides,there are dozens of other inductees not as good as him). It's fine if that's your standards for your personal HOF, but that's not reality.

    Practically speaking, there would be 25/30 selections (at most) by these standards, and inductions every three/four/five/years. This would've been disasterous for the baseball HOF; it NEEDS annual inductions to draw the visitors and generate the revenue it needs, to maintain it's visibility and popularity. REPEAT: the HOF needs annual inductions. So, practically speaking, a baseball HOF of your size simply would not be viable.

    Bill Simmons "Five Levels" idea is intriguing, but just like the idea of removing inductees, I don't see the Board of Directors of the HOF (the people who actually RUN the place) ever implementing it. So we'll probably have to be content with something like that, or Bill James "Inner Circle", existing in abstraction only. That's fine; it creates a lot of fascinating discussions like this one.

  44. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    "Whoever wrote this thinks Biggio and Jeter should go in before Griffey?"

    No. I wrote it and no way do I think that.

    Both have been touted by many in these threads as slam dunk first ballot, you'd be insane to question them HoFers, though I personally think their cases are only marginally better than some guys this commentariat is voting out.

    Griffey is clearly better than either of course.

    But if "Do they rank with Mays and Mantle, Ruth and Gehrig?" is the test, then *none* of them belongs, even Griffey.

    Remember I said that Griffey looked like he *would* belong in that company 10 years into his career. Did I say anything like that about the other two? They were never close. I thought junior would get there, but he didn't.

  45. Todd Says:

    Lawrence, I recognize that nothing I'm proposing will ever happen, and that the standard for the Hall was diminished 70 years ago. I'm simply stating my preference and what I mean when I refer to a "Hall of Famer."
    Of course the Hall needs to create interest and make money. Just like bowl games, matchups (or, in this case, elections) are based only in part on merit, and many other factors (mostly money) are considered.

    As for the idea of being "demeaned" by receiving baseball's greatest honor, certainly Dawson isn't demeaned by being included with Ruth, Mantle and Mays. I'm not sure about the reverse, though. Dawson is a corner OFer with an adjusted OPS of just 119. You could probably find 50 corner OFers with careers of comparable length who were much better hitters and not too far off defensively. Dawson was a good CFer with Montreal and always had a good arm, but in the latter half of his career he was a statue in RF.

  46. Matt Y Says:

    OK, my bad Michael --I thought that was in another post from someone else. I completely agree with you Lawrence ! The very, very small Hall concept reminds me of wanting to go back to childhood before I started learning about all the nuances and gray areas of life. Life is imperfect, and I get why the Hall is the constructed the way it currently is. There will always be borderline candidates, and i actually think the Hall is still quite representative of the best in the game. Yes, I think some are bogus picks, but that's life. If we used these 4 listed above as the standard for HoFers we'd have 25 guys in the Hall, which is just ridiculous.

    Griffey is a slam dunk as he should be, and he would fit in quite nicely with most small Hall concepts. As you put so nicely, using these guys as the mark is just not reality, and never was --the idea of a Hall of 25 really just harkens back to a day when we were 8 years old and thought the world was perfect and that everyone in the Hall was some sort of God.

  47. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    For reference, I am in no way endorsing the size of hall implied by "Do they rank with Mays and Mantle, Ruth and Aaron?". The point of my 132 was to point out how ridiculous it is to think that's the rule for the HoF.

    I agree with Lawrence @143, that it would result in far too few inductions to support the hall. The smallest hall that would be realistic (IMO) is one that inducted about 1 player per year, which would imply a size 100-120 now.

    That hall would still have Griffey for sure, but some of these 60-70WAR guys we're discussing might not make it. And IMO, some of the so-called sure fire guys, should also be on the outside in a 120 player hall too.

    But the hall we have has 200+ guys now, and a lot who are well below the standard of Kenny Lofton, let alone Mays and Aaron. And if I were running the place, I'd want to see at least one guy getting inducted every year, which means you need to average more like 2 a year.

    In this hall, lofton may be on the borderline if you don't trust B-R WAR, but he's probably in, and it's a crime against the understanding of baseball player value that somebody as good as Jim Edmonds is not considered a slam-dunk.

  48. John Q Says:

    Michael E.,

    I think you're 100% correct.

    I think the basic problem, as you alluded to, is that the general perception is that the HOF Standard is Mays/Ruth/Mantle/Aaron. It's never been the standard yet baseball fans and the baseball media generally act like that's the case.

    If that were really the standard then you would have about 15-20 position players in the HOF. The only current players that fit that criteria would be Pujols and A-Rod. Jeter, Manny, and Thome, wouldn't be HOFers. And if that were really the standard then you would have had only three players elected in the last 25 years, Joe Morgan, Rickey Henderson & Mike Schmidt. No Dawson, Rice, Brett, Ripken, Gwynn, Boggs, Sandberg, Molitor, Carter, Murray, Puckett, Winfield, Fisk, Perez, Yount, R. Jackson, Yaz, Stargell, Bench, McCovey, Brock, or O. Smith. Also, if Mays/Ruth/Mantle/Aaron were the standard then you wouldn't have any catchers in the HOF and only one SS, Honus Wagner and one 3b, Mike Schmidt.

    People should remember that there are 140 position players in the HOF not 20.

  49. JeffW Says:

    I don't know about "levels" of Hall rankings, but what about organizing the Hall more around eras? With one central courtyard for the elite greats -- statues and all?

    It would be one way to evaluate the career impact of players by how their numbers stack up within the era they played, and the style of play within those years.

    That way, all the top stars from each era could be ranked accordingly and enshrined with their direct peers.

    We also sidestep the unsavory aspects of steroids to a degree by allowing that "those" players from "that" era are ranked among themselves.

    More to the main point, is allowing the stars to shine within the context of when they played. For instance, you can't really ding players from the more explosive, long-hitting, eras for not stealing more bases. It wasn't how the game was being played.

    If given the same style of play we've seen in the last 30 years, Willie Mays might have been 30-30 almost every year, with a few 40-40's thrown in for good measure. They simply didn't run as much in the first 30 years of the Lively Ball Era -- '20's-'50's -- up until Maury Wills helped revive that facet of the running game.

    The definition of what kind of player you want at key positions has also evolved. Great defense up the middle, and anything beyond that was gravy, for instance. Skill sets were more compartmentalized, or typecast. Times change, and so do the requirements.

    The total offensive package -- with its focus more on OBA/OPS, rather than merely batting average -- is viewed differently now. There is a difference between the eras in the way batting was approached -- maybe swinging at a strike to put the ball in play, rather than attempting to wait out a walk.

    Why blame the guys who took fewer pitches, just because they found a strike they liked before they (maybe)got handed a pass? Who's to say whether or not that "perfect" pitch came along first?

    Besides, were walks the reason why a team wanted someone like Andre Dawson in their lineup? No. They wanted the Hawk for his power hitting. They needed Dawson to drive in runs.

    One note: All the talk about only two Hall CF's since 1952 ignores the potential for Dale Murphy to make it eventually. And Fred Lynn would have likely been there as well, had his career not run into so many injuries along the way. Cedeno was also on-track for about 10 years, especially in light of how good he was in such terrible hitting circumstances.

  50. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #145/Todd Says:
    "Lawrence, I recognize that nothing I'm proposing will ever happen, and that the standard for the Hall was diminished 70 years ago. I'm simply stating my preference and what I mean when I refer to a "Hall of Famer." Of course the Hall needs to create interest and make money.

    As for the idea of being "demeaned" by receiving baseball's greatest honor, certainly Dawson isn't demeaned by being included with Ruth, Mantle and Mays. I'm not sure about the reverse, though"

    Todd, I'm glad you understand my point, that we're just having a cordial and fun little "what if??" discussion here, and that in reality very little of what we propose is ever going to happen. I personally think the BB HOF has about the right number of members; I also think there's a number of people in who should be out (mainly Veteran's/Old-Timer's choices), and conversely a number of people out who should be in. I believe "money" enters into it only in the sense that the HOF needs to have annual inductions; I don't believe it affects individual choices.

    I would disagree with you only to dispute that any HOF member would be demeaned by Andre Dawson (for example) being elected; while there may be particular members who think other members don't belong in the HOF, I doubt that would make any member view HOF membership as anything besides a tremendous honor. Of course, it's always tricky to do this Psychology 101 bit of acting as though we can read and understand someone else's unspoken thoughts.

    I think the real problem with discussing Lofton's HOF chances is not that there are players in the HOF that he's clearly better than (Waner, Combs), but that there are players NOT in the HOF about as good as him (R.Smith, J. Wynn) who have little/no chance of being elected. This really muddies up the whole "in/"out" line. Unfortunately, we're stuck with all the dubious choices.

  51. Todd Says:

    John, I like the Hall you described with only 3 getting in during the last 25 years, and I'm not sure about Rickey, although I love him to death as a player. And Bench would obviously be in there, too. He's one of the two greatest Cs ever who is eligible for the Hall, along with Berra.

    Among current players or recently retired ones, along with Pujols (barring a major collapse) and A-Rod I'd add The Rocket (unless he is declared ineligible at some point), Mariano (a unique case) and, of course, Barry Lamar. Also, Piazza would likely go, too. He certainly is the best-hitting C ever, even better than young Joe at this point. There might be a couple of others like Greg Maddux, but I'd have to mull that over.

    Now, to clarify a couple of other things, of course you'd have catchers in the Hall. Catchers are judged by the standards of Cs, not by 1Bman. So Bench and Berra would be there. Wagner, it is true, would be alone until he's joined by A-Rod, but Schmidt would have Mathews to keep him company. I'd be mighty happy without vastly overrated players like Lou Brock and Jim Rice in the Hall, though.

    I'd also like to point out that the argument that "Mantle/Mays/Ruth/Gehrig" is the HOF standard is a bit of a straw man. I've never suggested that IS the standard, only that it SHOULD BE be in MY view of the Hall, which admittedly is in the minority and usually invites ridicule and scorn whenever I bring it up to fellow baseball fans. I simply don't think a corner OFer who couldn't get on base at even a league average rate during his career belongs in an institution that honors the greats of the game. Is that an unreasonable position?

  52. Matt Y Says:

    Well, I agree with everything other than the idea of others in the Hall are worse than Lofton and because of that he should be in too.

  53. JeffW Says:

    Judging all shortstops by the standard of Honus Wagner is kind-of unfair.

    Wagner is one of the elite elites, and would have been certain Hall of Famer at several of the many positions he started at in his career.

    Let's not forget that he played 373 games in the outfield, and another 458 at either infield corner. He didn't play a single game at short until his fifth year (1901) and didn't get permanently installed there until two years later. And that was only because Wid Conroy jumped the club to join the St. Louis Browns in the fledgling American League.

    Wagner was simply a great ballplayer, who played almost anywhere, based on need. And he didn't really like finally getting stationed at shortstop as his regular position, as I recall from reading his bio.

  54. John Q Says:


    I was basically playing devil's advocate on that one. I didn't mean that you specifically suggested the Ruth/Mays/Mantle/Aaron standard, it just the basic cliche sport writers and sports fans pull out when they don't agree with a person being elected to the HOF.

    Baseball fans often use the phrase "He belongs in the Hall of very good, not the HOF", or "The HOF is for Ruth/Mantle/Mays/Aaron". If you use the Ruth/Mantle/Mays/Aaron standard then you're going to have 15-20 position players in the HOF. Likewise if you hold pitchers to the Young/Mathewson/Gibson/Seaver standard, then you don't have guys like Palmer, Glavine, Smoltz, Bunning, or Ford. No Bench, Piazza, Clemente, Snider, Carew, Banks, Greenberg, Kaline or Mathews or Berra. Those players are nowhere near the level player of a Mantle or a Mays or a Cy Young or a Christy Mathewson.

    You would basically need about 100 Career WAR if you're a position player or about 80 career WAR if you're a pitcher. You would have about 30-40 players in the HOF with an induction ceremony every 3-5 years to elect one player.

  55. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    #154/"John Q Says:Todd, I was basically playing devil's advocate on that one. I didn't mean that you specifically suggested the Ruth/Mays/Mantle/Aaron standard, it just the basic cliche sport writers and sports fans pull out when they don't agree with a person being elected to the HOF.

    You would basically need about 100 Career WAR if you're a position player or about 80 career WAR if you're a pitcher. You would have about 30-40 players in the HOF with an induction ceremony every 3-5 years to elect one player."

    Thanks, John Q, that's exactly what I was trying to say in #143 and elsewhere. I still think that EVEN IF the standards were Ruth/Mays/etc.., there would be the occasional oddball choice such as:
    -Sandy Koufax(48.7 WAR)
    -Kirby Puckett (44.8 WAR)
    -Dizzy Dean (41.8 WAR)
    and maybe even...
    Lou Brock (39.10 WAR)
    ..that met certain milestones, or had great but very short peaks, or otherwise fit into the writers basic storyline.

    For instance, it's possible that about 1955, they'd realize there are no third baseman in the HOF, and put either Jimmy Collins or Pie Traynor in. Now, neither of those are bad picks for the HOF as it actually exists, but neither belongs in this theoretical "exclusive" HOF (besides, I'd take Home Run Baker over both of them if forced to choose).

  56. Jeff James Says:

    @119 "But Mantle, Mays, Cobb, Speaker and Dimaggio . . . that's what a HOF CFer should look like,IMO."

    It would certainly save time, whizzing through your eighty-person Hall of Fame . . .
    . . . assuming that short-career bum DiMaggio, who was overrated in CF because he had extra opportunities in Yankee left-center field and maybe never even tried to dive, even deserves to be mentioned with the "real" Hall of Famers 😉

  57. Justin Jones Says:

    Wow, I clearly don't check this blog enough. Is there a way to get an email alert when someone has posted on an entry that one has commented upon?

    re: Michael E Sullivan@#89

    I invite you to name specifically the 16 centerfielders you think are/were unarguably better than Jim Edmonds. I think if you are honest about it, it will be very hard to come up with even 10-12.

    "Unarguably" is the operative weasel-word in that invitation, but I shall do my best:

    Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Oscar Charleston, Mickey Mantle, Tris Speaker, Ken Griffey Jr, Christobel Torriente, Larry Doby, Kirby Puckett, Jimmy Wynn, Cool Papa Bell, Duke Snider, Richie Ashburn, Earl Averill, Wally Berger, Edd Roush.

    I think that's 16. I think that all of these men were better players than Jim Edmonds. I like Jim Edmonds a lot, I'm not putting him down as a player or anything, but he's the quintessential borderline Hall of Fame candidate. I vote "no" in most of those cases. Even if he's a little bit better than them, I think Edmonds is more properly placed in a group with Fred Lynn, Vada Pinson, Bernie Williams, and Andruw Jones, than in a group with Mays, Cobb, Mantle, Griffey, etc.

  58. Justin Jones Says:

    Oh yeah, I left out Joe DiMaggio.

  59. Mike Felber Says:

    While it is not good to punish a player for things he was not expected to do, if when measuring his productivity compared to worthy peers & HOFers from all areas he falls short, then even if he was not expected to, say draw walks, he should not get in. Dawson was particularly bad at that, & since he did not, say, double his career BB average, we are left w/a questionable candidate. If he fielded superbly his whole career, or slugged appreciably higher, he would clearly belong.

    Those who were not clearly great before using body & performance changing PEDs I would not put in. Even so, I want 'em to admit usage & apologize. The character clause is strongly emphasized in HOF bylaws, though I would interpret that as appropriately applying only to things directly related to the sport.

  60. John DiFool Says:

    [This has scrolled off the front page, so traffic may end up dying in here anyway, but here I go in any event]

    #157, did you see my post #92? I run Edmonds (and Lofton) by a lot of those guys, and he looks pretty good as compared to them. What reason do you have, for example, to place the likes of Averill or Berger ahead? Averill is comparable as a hitter, but his career isn't as long and his D apparently wasn't as good (caveat applies of course to trying to measure defense in the 20's and 30's with the crude tools and limited data available)-you realize that everybody and his brother who were half-decent hit .300 in those decades, right? And, if you're concerned about Black Ink, he only lead his league twice in anything, hits and triples.

    Wally Berger? Really?? Berger only had 5600 PA, which is a ridiculously low number, with unspectacular defense. Edmonds blows him out of the water, and again don't get fooled by the .300 BA.

    I did neglect the Negro League guys, for which I apologize. I'd clearly put Charleston ahead, not so sure about Torriente or Papa Bell (Bell seems like the Negro League version of Lou Brock, for good or bad). The issue of course is the almost total void of evidence, making comparisons with modern MLB players very difficult.

    Edd Roush is the same song, third verse: overrated 1920's outfielder with an inflated average. Again they don't like his D here.

    Doby I talked about, and he's very close (& similar) to Edmonds, so I'll provisionally give you that, despite E's edge in defense. The color barrier may have cost him only 2-3 seasons tho.

    Puckett I only mentioned in passing: I frankly don't understand why the writers gave him a pass on his illness, but anyway. He rarely walked, which means Edmonds has 16 points of OBP on him, despite Kirby's high average (you aren't hung up on that, are you?). Edmonds is clearly better with the bat, and Puckett's defense isn't shown as nearly as spectacular as advertised.

    I had Edmonds at ninth in post #92: I can see an argument for Doby here, but not for anyone else, which would put him 11th (Charleston clearly is top 5 material).

  61. Andy Says:

    #157 based on your comment I have put forward a suggestion that we add an extension that allows readers to subscribe by email to comments on individual posts. So perhaps we'll have something like that in the near future.

  62. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Justin @157:

    You say "weasel" I say "making the clear the implication of your comment that he is was 17th or 18th 'at best'".

    "at best" means that you think he might be lower, but he should never be higher, so you consider the players you put ahead of him "unarguably" ahead.

    My response is pretty much that of John DiFool at 160. You put a lot of guys up there, that I can't see any reason to put ahead of Edmonds, and I agree with him pretty much about who they are. Of guys with full Major League records, you've got 7 clearly ahead of him (I say Snider is debatable, but I'll give him). Then another 4 guys with partial or no major league record that are anywhere between probably as good (Doby) to probably much better (Charleston) (and you missed Stearnes who's in the HoF), then you list another 5 that every WAR/winshares/whatever metric I've seen would put clearly behind Edmonds, and I don't see any good reason looking at the stats to doubt that decision.

    The only way these guys look better than Jim Edmonds is if you don't pay attention to the fact that the 20s and 30s were nearly as big offensively as the 90s and 2000s, and you look at BA and ignore OBP.

  63. Justin Jones Says:


    I didn't miss Turkey Stearnes; I omitted him because he played about as much left field and first base as he did center field. Riley's "Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues" has him at CF, 1B, LF; Bill James' Historical Abstract has him as a LF, as do some other sources.

    The list of CFs that I think were superior players to Edmonds is not: a) a list of players with greater career WAR totals than Edmonds; b) a list of players with greater career Win Shares than Edmonds; c) a list of players who are all in the Hall of Fame, or d) a list of players who played longer than Edmonds.

    It is just a list of people that I think were better players than Edmonds. What goes into my own evaluation of "best" player isn't "Total of Metric X". Stats are great, they are timeless in a sense, and an essential starting point. But they are malleable, and always undergoing new interpretations. What weight does one give to peak-value vs. career totals? What length of time constitutes a "peak"? What weight to give post-season performance? How about performance in regular-season games in the heat of pennant races? And there is anecdotal evidence to consider, contemporary eyewitness accounts of players to consider, subjective elements to be considered or discarded, and so on.

    WAR isn't the be-all end-all of everything. It isn't a debate-ender, or an argument-settler. It is simply a tool, one of many that you can use when evaluating players. According to FanGraphs, Andruw Jones has a greater career WAR than Edmonds. I don't think that that makes Andruw Jones a better player, or a more valuable player, than Edmonds. Our own eyes and ears must ultimately factor into the equation. There are always other factors to consider besides "Well, my spreadsheet says X, so I say X." I am a baseball fan who finds the judicious use of statistical analysis to be illuminating; I am not a statistics fetishist whose outlet happens to be baseball.

    I would not vote for Jim Edmonds' induction to the Hall of Fame. Nor would I vote for Kenny Lofton, getting back to the point of this thread.

  64. Todd Says:

    Re: Dimaggio

    I'm not sure he fits in with Mays/Mantle/Cobb/Speaker, but I included him because he did lose three prime years to the war and I think that, with those three years added in to his otherwise comparatively brief career, he'd reach 100 WAR and therefore clearly belong with the others.

    Re: Catchers

    I don't see how you can exclude Bench and Berra from the restrictive Hall. They belong with the others because they are the best at their position and had fairly long careers. It doesn't matter if they were each 80 WAR behind Mantle or something like that.

  65. Matt Y Says:

    As an aside I think CC is now the clear Cy Young frontrunner. Sorry, there's no way I'm voting for someone that's 10-10 or 10-8.

  66. JeffW Says:

    Matt Y,

    First: Yes, I know this should be in the Cy Young thread.

    But I have to take exception with the impression that CC is the "clear" Cy Young frontrunner. I would say Sabathia's assumed superiority is anything but!

    Felix leads the league in WAR for pitchers, starts (tied-with Sabathia), innings, strikeouts (tied-with Weaver), batters faced, adjusted pitching runs, adjusted pitching wins, base-out runs saved, situational wins saved, base-out wins saved, and is second in adjusted ERA+. He's also second in ERA.

    Neutralized and even allowing for the fact that Safeco Field is a friendlier park for pitchers, Felix's numbers look like this: 18-9, 2.75. Sabathia suffers greatly when neutralized: 14-11, 3.55.

    For all the talk I hear here about wins not being important, the only numerical advantage anywhere that Sabathia has over Felix is in wins.

    Let's look at that. Talk about being able to sue for non-support! Felix has 14 quality starts that have resulted in a loss or no-decision.

    Tightening the quality screws even more, Hernandez has 10 starts in which he has surrendered two or fewer earned runs in seven or more innings, in which he has either a loss or no-decision to show for his efforts! And four games in which he pitched at least seven innings and surrendered one run or less, but doesn't have a win.

    By comparison, Sabathia has pretty-much maxed-out in win potential, having just two quality starts in which he did not receive a win. On the other hand, he has four starts in which he surrendered at least four runs in which he did not lose, more of a sign that has received much better support.

    What's the use of having all these fancy methods for breaking down a player's performance, if we don't put them to work when it really matters?

    Sabathia has been very good this year. But giving the Cy Young to Sabathia over Hernandez ignores that fact that Felix has been the better pitcher. If anything, the M's last road trip -- in which Felix clearly dominated the Yankees and Red Sox -- should make that even more apparent.

    In six August starts, Felix pitched 43.2 innings and posted an ERA of 0.82. From May 13th forward, his ERA is 1.88, and he's surrendered just eight home runs in the 167.1 innings that period covers. He has fanned 161 and walked 39 during that stretch. That is dominant pitching.

    Annointing Sabathia is akin to simply giving the Gold Glove to the guy with better offensive stats.

    And we know that has never happened... 😉

  67. Todd Says:

    Well, there are two ways to look at things here. Looked at from an analytical perspective, CC is not the frontrunner. But looked at from the standpoint of your typical idiot sportswriter, CC is the frontrunner.

    I hope that clarifies things.

  68. Matt Y Says:

    I completely get that, and I like the peripherals, but sorry, I'm not voting for someone with 12 wins for the Cy --again, you can't have big, big holes in the resume, and while yes this perhaps unfairly hurts Felix too many in the saberworld, realistically I think it's fine to vote for someone with nearly double the wins and is in top 5-10 in almost every other stat.

    Some people didn't like that Grienke won with 16 wins last year--I had no problem with that, but anyone that would vote for Hernenadez with 12 wins is just as big of an idiot as a sportswriter picking CC --actually, strike that, anyone voting for Felix with 12 wins over CC with say 22 wins, is definitely the one making the bigger nonsensical choice!

  69. Lefty33 Says:

    Whether CC is the front runner or not Felix has got no chance at the CYA.

    He's not going to get votes with only having won such a small number of games and being a .500 pitcher at best. Look at what happened with Ryan in '87.

    He was clearly the best pitcher in the NL but his Astros team was worse than what Felix has got going on in Seattle this year and Ryan doesn't get votes because he's 8-16.

    Ryan finished behind:

    Bedrosian who won as a closer. (A sick joke)

    Sutcliffe who almost walked more guys than Reuschel struck out. And his ERA was almost a full run higher than Ryan.

    Reuschel only won 13 games.

    And Hershiser who while winning 16 also lost 16.

    If CC wins 20+ and the Yankees make the playoffs hands down he's the front runner and will win the CYA.
    To think anything else is just delusional.

  70. JeffW Says:

    If Felix wins out (not a certainty, with the lack of support), he can still reach 15.

  71. Pat Lynch Says:

    I can't understand why anybody could think Andre Dawson does not belong. That's dumb.