One and done: the best players to fall off the Hall of Fame ballot after their 1st year of eligibility

Kenny Lofton / Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Lofton / Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

With Kenny Lofton receiving a miserable 3.2% of the vote in yesterday’s Hall of Fame balloting, he’s gone from future consideration despite 6 All-Star appearances, 4 Gold Gloves, and 64.9 career WAR (greater than the totals of more than 50 players already enshrined.)

With a hat tip to @phungo2008 for asking the question, here are the players with the highest career WAR totals who fell off the Hall of Fame ballot in their first year of eligibility:

Lou Whitaker    (71.4 WAR, 2.9% in 2001)
Bill Dahlen     (70.9 WAR, 0.4% in 1938)
Bobby Grich     (67.3 WAR, 2.6% in 1992)
Kenny Lofton    (64.9 WAR, 3.2% in 2013)
Kevin Brown     (64.3 WAR, 2.1% in 2011)
Willie Randolph (63.0 WAR, 1.1% in 1998)
Buddy Bell      (61.6 WAR, 1.7% in 1995)
Reggie Smith    (60.8 WAR, 0.7% in 1988)
David Cone      (58.8 WAR, 3.9% in 2009)
Sal Bando       (57.1 WAR, 0.7% in 1987)

A new notes:

  • All of these guys fell off the ballot because they didn’t receive 5% of the vote. There are other players with higher WAR totals, such as Ken Boyer and Wes Ferrell, who received less than 5% in their 1st year but didn’t fall off the ballot because the rules were different.
  • There are a bunch of 19th-century players, Jim McCormick chief among them, who have enough WAR to qualify but were never listed on any HOF ballot.
  • And of course, Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson would make this top 10 but also have never appeared on any HOF ballot.


One and done: the best players to fall off the Hall of Fame ballot after their 1st year of eligibility — 154 Comments

  1. Shoeless Joe actually was on the ballot in 1936 and received 2 votes. Also, I have a feeling that Luis Gonzalez will be added to this list next year.

    • Yes and no. Luis Gonzalez, while compiling some pretty looking counting stats, falls short of the WAR requirement (career rWAR is 48.0) to make it on this list. Also, he has a fairly suspect career arc (Age 22-30, .432 slugging–31-35, .564 slugging). No proof, but hitting 57 dingers after averaging in the teens the previous decade is enough to cause a lot of speculation.

      But I certainly agree with the sentiment that there’s a great chance he doesn’t make it past this upcoming ballot.

  2. A few players who received more votes than Sal Bando in ’87:

    Mike Marshall (15.6 WAR, 1.5%)
    Don Larsen (10.9 WAR, 7.3%)
    and, finally, one of our favorite whipping boys:
    Lew Burdette (21.6 WAR, 23.2%)

  3. Andy: One correction. Dahlen didn’t fall off the ballot because he got less than 5% of the vote. The 5% rule didn’t go into effect 1979.

    Dahlen’s problem is that there were so many people eligible in the early years of voting and voters were limited to voting for 10 people. He simply wasn’t seen as one of the 10 best. Also, as this article discusses, in the early days, voters weren’t given a ballot with names on it. Leading to strange things like Joe McCarthy, who never played a single game in the majors, receiving votes.

    So voters were free to continue to vote for Dahlen. They just chose not to because they perceived there to be better candidates.

  4. More first ballot snubs than you can shake a stick at! Another example, Steve Garvey stayed on the ballot for 15 years, yet Will Clark was voted off the island in his 1st year of eligibility with a paltry 4.4% of the vote. The voting bloc seems to be running a popularity contest.

  5. Time for my broken-record schtick:

    — In MLB history, only two eligible position players with as much WAR as Lou Whitaker (71.4) are not yet in the HOF — Bonds and Bagwell — and each of them received at least 36% in his first year.

    — Over 100 position players with less WAR than Whitaker have been elected to the HOF as players.

    Some snubs are bigger than others.

  6. I don’t understand how writers can say “you just had to watch the games and see how great Morris was” – and somehow have missed what Trammell and Whitaker were doing.

    • The idea that there are people out there who are voting for Morris but did/are not voting for Whitaker and Trammell is enough to make my head explode

  7. Putting those “one-and-done’s” on their respective career WAR lists:

    2B — Whitaker 6th, Grich 8th, Randolph 10th

    SS — Dahlen 7th

    3B — Bell 10th, Bando 14th

    OF — Lofton 26th, Smith 35th
    (Lofton ranks 7th among those identified specifically as CFs)

    SP — Brown 34th, Cone 50th
    (27th and 41st since 1893, the modern pitching distance)

    Also, since the upper limit of WAR for catchers is much smaller than for any other position, let’s give honorable mention to these 3 “one-and-done” catchers with 40+ WAR:

    C — Ted Simmons 10th (46.7 WAR), Gene Tenace 11th (44.3), Bill Freehan 15th (41.3)

  8. “64.9 career WAR (greater than the totals of more than 50 players already enshrined.)”

    I believe there are 208 Hall of Famers (counting White), and 62 are pitchers (not counting The Babe or Ward). So that leaves 146 position players. If i did my search right, 93 have fewer than 64.9 WAR (Ryno is exactly on the mark).

    93! The opposite search shows 52 with greater than 64.9. 93 + 52 + Ryno = 146. 40 pitchers (no Ruth no Ward) have fewer pitching War, 22 have higher pitching war (*NOTE* this does not include their batting war; no easy way for me to get all that info without manually checking).

    So, approximately (leaving room open for a couple pitchers slight above or below to change based on their batting war), 133 HOFers out of 208 have fewer WAR than Lofton, and only 74* have more. Definitely a raw deal to get under 5%.

    *74+133=207, Sandberg being the 208th

    • double-checking pitchers on the cusp by adding in their batting war, slightly changes the numbers:

      I found 2 more that do have above 64.9 (lyons & rusie), and one that was above, but is now tied (Hubbell).

      that makes it:

      38 pitchers with fewer War
      1 Tied
      21 with Higher WAR

      131 with fewer war
      2 Tied
      75 with more war than Lofton

    • To make a fair comparison it should be borne in mind that many of the 93 below Lofton have been elected to the HOF because of their managerial successes. Then there are guys like Irvin and Campanella for whom their Negro League experiences were taken into account. And of course there is the Friends of Frankie Frisch Brigade.

      • Richard — Actually, the P-I filter for “HOF=Yes” now finds only those selected as players. I noticed the change in recent weeks.

        So the number cited by Baltimorechop is correct — 93 HOF position players with less WAR than Lofton.

        • John: Thanks for the PI update. I was looking at HOF Batting Stats selected after I clicked on the awards button on BR. There is a difference between the two lists, the PI list only counts from 1901 and on while the Batting Stats list goes all the way back in time. Ryne Sandberg is in 47th place on the PI list but in 54th place on the other list.

      • 93 is a huge number. Even if you weed out guys who shouldn’t have been elected in the first place and guys who got in thanks to other non-playing contributions, I’m guessing there are at least 20-30 players whom Lofton is better than.

        • As mentioned above, none of these 93 were elected as managers (though I’m sure it helped Chance, Schoendienst, some others…).

          I think the number would be far higher than 20-30 respected hall of famers. Examples:

          Three Finger Brown

          That’s 30 I think most would agree belong in the HOF, and I picked around to avoid lesser known guys or unfairly short careers. Sure, there are probably 40ish guys that don’t deserve to be in the HOF all under Lofton, but that leaves 90 some HOFers.

          • In case the numbers in my post sound confusing:

            Andy was referring to the 93 Position players, so i mentioned that, then got into all HOFers (which that number then becomes 131 total HOFers who have a lower war than Lofton).

            So, my comment that 40 may not be deserving, leaves about 90ish who probably are, that comes from the 130.

    • Baltimorechop, might this also be an example that WAR isn’t always right when rating players? Checking your list below, are you saying you would rather have Lofton than Yogi Berra?

  9. This is a little off topic, but not much. Can someone post a list of the lowest war totals for hall of famers voted in as players by both the BBWA and the veterans committee? Thanks guys

    • jeff b — Lowest WAR for those inducted as players:

      BBWAA — Position Players:
      Rk / WAR, Player
      1) 31.6, Roy Campanella
      2) 33.8, Pie Traynor
      3) 39.4, Rabbit Maranville
      4) 42.8, Lou Brock
      5) 44.3, Jim Rice
      6) 46.2, Ralph Kiner
      7) 48.2, Kirby Puckett
      8) 48.9, Mickey Cochrane
      9) 50.1, Tony Perez
      10t) 50.7, Willie Keeler
      10t) 50.7, Gabby Hartnett

      Veterans/Old Timers committees — Position Players:
      (using the same WAR cutoff as the BBWAA list)
      Rk / WAR, Player
      1) 14.1, Tommy McCarthy
      2) 22.0, Lloyd Waner
      3) 23.4, High Pockets Kelly
      4) 25.0, Ray Schalk
      5) 26.3, Rick Ferrell
      6) 26.8, Freddie Lindstrom
      7) 28.4, Chick Hafey
      8) 30.9, Ross Youngs
      9) 32.3, Bill Mazeroski
      10) 32.8, Jim Bottomley
      11) 34.5, George Kell
      12) 34.8, Monte Ward
      13) 37.3, Hack Wilson
      14) 38.1, Phil Rizzuto
      15) 39.0, Red Schoendienst
      16) 39.1, Roger Bresnahan
      17) 39.7, Hughie Jennings
      18) 40.0, Earle Combs
      19) 40.1, Hugh Duffy
      20) 41.5, Heinie Manush
      21) 41.5, Chuck Klein
      22) 42.0, Travis Jackson
      23) 42.1, Sam Thompson
      24) 42.4, King Kelly
      25) 43.0, Edd Roush
      26) 43.5, Frank Chance
      27) 43.6, Ernie Lombardi
      28) 44.2, Deacon White
      29) 44.4, Kiki Cuyler
      30) 45.1, Earl Averill
      31) 45.2, Johnny Evers
      32) 45.7, Buck Ewing
      33) 46.1, Orlando Cepeda
      34) 46.2, Tony Lazzeri
      35) 46.3, Nellie Fox
      36) 46.5, Dave Bancroft
      37) 47.0, Larry Doby
      38) 47.3, Joe Kelley
      39) 47.4, Bobby Doerr
      40) 48.0, Sam Rice
      41) 48.3, Bid McPhee
      42) 49.2, Joe Sewell
      43) 49.4, Harry Hooper
      44) 50.0, Jim O’Rourke
      45) 50.1, Jimmy Collins
      46) 50.2, Elmer Flick
      47) 50.4, Joe Tinker

      (Pitchers to follow)

      • John:
        Based on this disparity, I guess the BBWAA is doing a better job than the Veterans Committee – no?
        I’m looking forward to spring training

        • Actually I’m not so certain that they are,

          While the Veterans Committee’s have been responsible for more clunkers than the BBWAA the majority of the damage they have inflicted was done so in 2 era’s: the Old Timers committee of the 40’s (which was only a handful of people) and the Friends of Frankie Frisch brigade (as I think it was John A who so aptly named them) in the 70’s.

          But in large part they only existed to do all of the damage that they did because of the inability of the BBWAA to get their act together. After the first few years the BBWAA managed to elect ONE player between 1939 and 1947. Imagine you have a brand new Hall of Fame that you are hoping to attract people to. After getting a little more than a handful of the greatest immortals out of the way in the first 3 years you then stagger off and pluck the likes of George Sisler (who was maybe excusable enough but even to the voters back then obviously not the best candidate on the ballot) and WeeWillie Keeler plus Collins & Gehrig before deciding that you’re pretty much done electing someone for nearly a decade. Not much news or excitement to call attention to your new Hall or any events to attract people to attends so you get together a handful of guys to fix the problem and they start electing pretty much whoever comes to mind in order to generate some interest. But if the BBWAA had been doing their job in the first place the Old Timers committee wouldn’t have been necessary or would have at least been tasked with a much more limited job to do.

          Fast forward to the 50’s and the BBWAA seems to have gotten the message and actually seems to start functioning as they were intended to. They still manage the occasional clunker but for live ball era players at least seem to be doing an OK job. However they’re not addressing most of the injustices of the pre1900 and dead ball era the the Old Timers committee did such a half-assed job of doing so the Veterans committee is created. And while far from perfect they at least do a better job than the Old Timers. But now this has annoyed the BBWAA who feel that they’re “watering down” the HOF levels so they go back into their mode of not letting anyone in except the most ridiculously overqualified while screwing over dozens of candidates who far exceeded the standards that even the BBWAA has been applying previously. And this leads to a need to keep the Veterans committee going and eventually to the Frisch era. And even after that was finally corrected the BBWAA has remained consistently inconsistent and continued to ignore or reject exceedingly well qualified candidates like Ron Santo and Bert Blyleven (for 13 years) while still managing to elect clunkers like Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers or take up most of the oxygen in the room over debates over the likes of Jim Rice or Jack Morris.

          The short answer is if the BBWAA had done it right in the first place or almost anywhere down the line, chances are the Veterans committee may not have been around to inflict all of the damage that the did.

  10. I’m not sure we should weep for Kenny Lofton. While an objective look at the current Hall roster and at Lofton’s numbers makes a very solid case that he’s worthy, he doesn’t exactly fit the bill of a BBWAA-elected Hall of Famer. Here are the Hall of Fame center fielders within 10 career WAR of Lofton’s 64.9:

    Duke Snider 63.1
    Andre Dawson 60.6
    Richie Ashburn 60.2

    Here’s that same group and their OPS+ and oWAR:

    Lofton 107, 54.5
    Snider 140, 66.9
    Dawson 119, 50.9
    Ashburn 111, 54.4

    Despite more WAR than any of these peers, Lofton was the weakest hitter relative to his leagues. Snider was a far better hitter who played for some very visible Dodgers teams. Longevity and baserunning give Lofton an edge on Dawson in total offense, but Dawson is widely viewed as one of the BBWAA’s weakest picks, perhaps a product of a thin ballot. Ashburn produced similar offensive value once we factor in Lofton’s wheels, but Ashburn was elected in large part due to his stellar defensive reputation. While the numbers suggest Lofton was even better with the glove, I don’t remember him carrying a defensive reputation like Andruw Jones or Jim Edmonds.

    This, of course, doesn’t mean Lofton wasn’t comparable to (or perhaps better than) these other playes, but if advanced metrics can’t get Jeff Bagwell elected, should we really have expected the writers to come around to Lofton?

    The flip side of this argument is that Lofton at least deserved to see his name on the ballot a few more times, to have his case celebrated and dissected alongside comparable players with better chances of induction. But let’s be realistic. With Maddux, Thomas, Glavine, the Big Unit, Pedro, and a much more heralded center fielder in Ken Griffey about to hit the ballot, Lofton was bound to get less ink in future years, not more.

    I wasn’t in this line of work (if I am now) when Whitaker, Grich, and the others listed above fell of their respective ballots (though I mourned Brown’s plight last year), but it seems to me that none of their cases was trumpeted the way Lofton’s was, largely due to the absence of a medium that catered to potential supporters. It seems that, for each of the 22 writers who actually voted for Lofton, five bloggers made him their personal cause this winter. His underappreciated case will live on through pieces like this, and by the time some veterans committee gets to look at his case, at least some of that electorate will be familiar with The Tragic Tale of Kenny Lofton, who was ignored by the writers despite 64.9 WAR (or 5,217 awesome points or whatever the metric du jour is by then).

    I doubt Kenny Lofton thought of himself as a future Hall of Famer when he played. Without metrics that accumulate offense, defense, and baserunning into value, Lofton was little more than a solid all-around player (he was in the top ten in MVP voting once) who made a lot of money playing the game he loved. Yesterday, his Twitter account blew up with condolences from complete strangers over his falling off the Hall of Fame ballot.

    I can guarantee that didn’t happen to Bobby Grich.

    • I don’t know Bryan. Maybe Lofton got a bit more publicity than some other one and dones, though at the end of the day that will get drowned out over all the noise of no one getting elected. There will be few tears shed over the plight of Kenny Lofton, just like few were shed over Grich or Whitaker.

      And based on your post it seems like you agree that Lofton isn’t a HOFer. Personally I’m agnostic on the issue. But at the end of the day, if we’re not going to believe what the advanced stats are telling us then who is? What’s the point of having them if we’re going to abandon them when they don’t agree with MVP votes?

      And for anyone who doesn’t believe Lofton was a great player, how’s this….from 92-99, an 8 year period, he was 4th in the entire majors among position players in WAR, behind only Bonds, Griffey and Bagwell but ahead of Biggio, Thomas, Piazza, Walker, Larkin, Edgar Martinez, McGwire, Palmiero, and Alomar among others. Most of those players were at comparable ages and had a comparable amount of playing time. Sure I’m cherry picking to a certain extent but it’s not like those were the only quality seasons of his career.

        • Gotcha Bryan. I wasn’t sure what your bottom line was. You’re correct that the writers were never going to vote for him. And you’re also correct that as an Indian’s fan I never really thought of him as a HOFer. But then, back then, we didn’t have advanced stats like WAR that could tell me otherwise.

    • I like to think that if I had the information I have now and Twitter and blogging existed like it does now and what happened to Lofton happened yesterday to Grich yesterday, then I would react the exact same way.

      • I’m sure you would, Adam. I think that fits my narrative, which is that times are better now, when a large contingent of SABR types recognize the value of a player like Lofton/Grich, but BBWAA types don’t see it, and that times will continue to improve as more SABR types are allowed to vote and the general public is more aware of WAR and its kin.

    • OPS+ is not, not, not, not a fair metric to evaluate a guy who leads the league in stolen bases five year in a row.

      Yes there is TotA and SecA, decent formulas for trying to give proper perspective on the added value of the speed game… but in my opinion none of them get the job done.

      The man ranged in CF at an elite level, and at his sustained peak put himself in scoring position 50+ more times than OPS+ gives him credit for.

      His OPS+ in 1996 was 107.
      With 75 steals and 132 runs.
      No no no no no and no.

      You start to say it right here:
      “Without metrics that accumulate offense, defense, and baserunning into value, Lofton was little more than a solid all-around player…”


      Pardon my aggravated tone, but talking baseball in January with NOBODY elected to the HOF pretty much sucks.

      Play Ball!

      • Voomo, you’re right that OPS+ wasn’t a great choice (nor was oWAR), but I wasn’t looking for numbers that fairly make Lofton’s case; I was looking for numbers the BBWAA might use. I probably should have stuck to hits, homers, and opening day starts. The basic point was that players who are good hitters, great baserunners, and great fielders are less likely to make the Hall of Fame than elite hitters like Duke Snider who may not have much else to offer, even if the latter guy was more valuable than the former.

        I’m a firm believer in WAR, and a moderate believer that Kenny Lofton should be in the Hall of Fame. But I don’t think getting 5% of the vote this year would have done much to help him get there.

        • I dunno about you last statement, Bryan. Fifteen years is a long time to be around on a ballot. If Lofton had gotten even, say, 6% this year (and presumably below 10% the next 2 before the ballot cleared up a bit), I could see his case building year after year. Yes, the BBWAA might have never elected him, but they took Blyleven from 15% to 80% in 15 years, I could reasonably see Lofton’s case building over the years (you never know how opinions are going to change on advanced metrics). Let’s say he petered out of the ballot after 15 years at 55% or something. When the VC have their chance a few years after that, he comes on as a strong candidate that had momentum going for him. Now, he’s just a guy who got 3.2% of the votes once and was dumped. It’ll be pretty hard for him to ever get momentum from that.

    • I would not have voted for Lofton, but I wanted him to remain on the ballot for further study and consideration. His candidacy is based on WAR positional adjustment and defensive ratings that turn track stars into 5+ WAR players. It might be accurate, or it might be totally crazy.

      I don’t feel bad he’s off the ballot since I would not have voted for him this year, and apparently most of the voters, be they old school or new school, felt the same way.

      This is hardly a travesty. Lofton was probably off on vacation somewhere, stunned to find out after the fact that some people actually thought he had a chance at making the HOF.

    • Bryan, that’s the shame of it all—the fact that the sabermetric community is not going to have a chance over the years to prove to voters that Lofton indeed was a Hall-caliber CF. Sabermetrics championed Bert Blyleven and were absolutely critical to his enshrinement. Tim Raines has gotten quite a boost over the years as his voting totals continue to improve. Lofton’s not going to get that chance, and it’s a sad thing.

    • I like Kenny Lofton a lot, and he was definitely underappreciated. But isn’t the most obvious obstacle in his HOF argument that he only had five seasons of 140+ games (which includes one at exactly 140—I realize the labour disruptions of ’94/95 cost him two more)? There seems to be a clear sabermetric appreciation for IP when evaluating a starting pitcher’s Cy Young case, but not a parallel attention to the GP of a Lofton or Barry Larkin.

  11. Lofton’s career started at age 25. If he came up 2 or 3 years earlier, and put up weak numbers that “compiled” while he developed he’d have 2800+ hits and 750 sb’s.

    I also think Lofton should’ve found a contact somewhere for 2008. He definitely played well enough in 2007, and would’ve avoided the 2013 mess of a ballot.

    • I am surprised by two things. One, that Lofton’s last season was 2007. It’s a further reminder that time continues to fly by and an even faster rate. Second, I still can’t figure out why Lofton’s career ended in 2007. He had a solid season and he wanted to play.

  12. Not mentioned often is the fact that Lofton’s best year was cut short by the strike. He had 60 sb’s with about 50 games left to play, and was batting .349

    In 94, Lofton was on pace for a season of…

    220 hits
    80 stolen bases
    17 home runs, 80 rbis, 130+ runs scored
    45 doubles, 13 triples
    145 OPS+
    Gold Glove

  13. Could someone check the PI re: Lofton’s 3B/HR ratio? He had 116 career 3B’s and 130 career HR’s. That’s a difference of about 11%. How many players with 100 or more 3B’s and HR’s have such a close ratio?

    • Brooklyn Mick: Looking just at fairly recent players and only those with 100+ homeruns and 100+ triples, I found these comps:

      Brock: 149 HR, 141 3B
      Rose: 160 HR, 135 3B
      Carl Crawford: 118 HR, 114 3B

      • Thanks Ed. I never realized that Crawford had that many 3B’s. Since your search goes back about 50 years, it’s interesting that Lofton (and Crawford) got as many 3B’s with as few HR’s during the homer-friendly era they played in.

      • To expand the list here are all players whose 3B total exceeded 89% of their HR, with at least 100 of each.

        Lou Brock……..149 HR/141 3B
        Zack Wheat…….132/172
        Ken Lofton…….130/116
        Kiki Cuyler……128/157
        Carl Crawford….118/114
        Ty Cobb……….117/295
        Tris Speaker…..117/222
        Paul Waner…….113/191
        Heinie Manush….110/160
        Frankie Frisch…105/138
        George Sisler….102/164

        • Thanks Richard. I somehow feel privileged to have had the opportunity to watch such an “old-school” player as Kenny Lofton for the entirety of his career. The game has certainly changed, and to be on such a HOF laden list is impressive, especially in this day and age.

          • I miss the days of triples, too. Parks are just too small now, not to mention how far batters are able to hit the ball.

          • Wasn’t it Hank Aaron who said that the triple was the most exciting play in baseball?

          • I think everybody would say that the triple is the most exciting play (I say so, behind perhaps an inside-the-park grand slam…)

          • I don’t think you could top the inside-the-park grand slam, especially if your team is down 3 with 2 outs in the bottom of the 17th inning in game 7 of the World Series. Wouldn’t that be grand?

  14. Every year about this time I am reminded how ubiquitous WAR is in the stat community and how large an effect defense has on it. The stat is inaccurate and will change. People throw it around with decimal places and have mental lines about what it means to have a 40 war, 50 war, or 60 war career. It’s disgusting to me. OPS+, ERA+, I’m with ya. Walks? Love em. DWAR? You must be crazy.

    • and how about some post season stats included in this discussion?

      Loften reached the post season in 11! different years. He played regularly in all of them and reached nearly a season’s worth of PA’s (438). This pillar of power hit a line of .247/.315/.352/.667. Somehow I don’t think that would be much of a P-OWAR. Rag on Bernie Williams all you want but in his 545 post season PA’s he hit .275/.371/.480/.850. I’m sorry, but to me that’s about -10WAR for loften and +10WAR for Williams. Williams had a better CAREER. The word implies their professional baseball life as a player, not a regular season stat-o-matic line.

      • 65 runs scored in 95 games, projects to 110 runs over 162 games–pretty damned good considering his teams faced playoff pitching.

        • Plus 34 stolen bases and only 6 caught stealings.

          Game 1 of the ’95 World Series is a classic example of what Lofton could do. He reached 1st on an error, stole second, stole third, then scored on a ground ball to the first baseman. Some things can’t be measured by batting average, slugging percentage, etc.

          • I’d say making an out 7% of the time when you come to bat is pretty easy to measure. As is putting the ball over the outfield fence. You know, without having to rely on bad fielding, hitting with less than 2 outs, and getting a ground ball from the guys behind you.

    • FWIW, 60 WAR used to be the magic number to make the HOF. Except Bill Dahlen, every hitter to retire with 60 WAR before 1982 is in the Hall. Since then, there are several who dropped out on the first ballot (Andy’s list), plus some who barely survived it, like Nettles (6.1%) and Dwight Evans (5.9%).

      For pitchers, there is only one exception to the 60 WAR and retired before 1982 rule: Jim McCormick (1878-87), though I’m not sure he qualifies – he has the 10 years, but played only 14 games in his first season. Since then, there have been only Luis Tiant, Rick Reuschel (one and done) and Kevin Brown (Andy’s list). Until this year, that is. Clemens and Schilling are the first two of eight 60 WAR pitchers to hit the ballot from 2013 to 2015. But, hard to see any of them going one and done.

      For hitters who played in 2012 or otherwise are not yet retired, no fewer than 9 are already over 60 WAR. Of 7 more hitters already over 50 WAR, perhaps only Utley has a strong chance to reach 60, with Ichiro a outside chance (but he would really need a renaissance with the Yankees). Andruw Jones, Helton and Abreu are all really close to 60 WAR but probably will end up further away from 60 than they are now.

      On the pitching side, only Halladay is already over 60 WAR, and probably only Sabathia is likely to get there among those already over 50 WAR.

  15. General question:
    While he was playing, did anyone on this blogtspot honestly believe Kenny Lofton was a future Hall of Famer?

    • Here’s one measure of Lofton’s status within the game in his prime:

      Before the ’97 season, with one year on his contract and entering his age-30 season, Lofton was traded to Atlanta (along with Alan Embree, a replacement-level reliever who had a 6.11 career ERA to that point). Cleveland got:
      David Justice, who missed most of ’96 but had averaged a 133 OPS+ over the prior 6 years; and
      Marquis Grissom, coming off a .308 BA, 23 HRs, 28 SB, and his 4th straight Gold Glove.

      Grissom was the same age as Lofton, and Justice a year older. I don’t know their exact contract status; neither declared free agency for several years, but they may have signed extensions with Cleveland. (I think Grissom had more than one year left when Cleveland got him, because they traded him after one year.)

      After one year with Atlanta, Lofton returned to Cleveland as a free agent. In 1998, his salary ranked 8th in the AL, 16th in MLB, and 1st on the Indians, who had then won 3 straight divisions and 2 pennants.

      After ’98, Roberto Alomar signed with Cleveland as a free agent. A year younger than Lofton, and coming off 9 straight All-Star seasons, and signing a year later (hence salary inflation), Alomar still signed for less than Lofton was making, and made less than Lofton all 3 years they were together.

      I think all of that means quite a bit. Maybe more fans considered Alomar a “future HOFer,” but the game valued him less than Lofton.

      • Nice work! This sort of information (a real surprise to me in this case) adds a useful qualitative perspective. Of course, teams make contract mistakes all the time, the information is selected and out of context of other factors (team balance needs; GM track records; etc., including points you noted – not meant as criticism), and so forth – but these are still important value measures bearing on Hall-worthiness questions that Bill James first introduced. I love stats – old and new – but I don’t think the Hall is just about stats. When stats and non-journalistic qualitative measures like this line up, the Hall case becomes significantly stronger, for me at least.

        • epm, thanks for the feedback. I haven’t actually made up my mind on Lofton. And I don’t object to using more than just stats for HOF consideration. But I get a little crazy when people want to use fuzzy standards like “most-feared hitter” or “he just seemed [or didn’t seem] like a HOFer.”

          If we’re going beyond stats, let’s try to expand it beyond such capsule images. Let’s remember how Lofton was all over SportsCenter with home-run-saving catches and great throws.

          The trouble with the standard “did you consider him a HOFer during his career?” is that it would cut out maybe half the actual HOF members. Some want to do just that, but I think some people bring up that standard without realizing the consequences of applying it broadly.

          Lofton averaged 5.0 WAR per 162 games. Out of 16 HOFers specifically identified as CFs, 10 averaged less WAR/162 than Lofton. No matter what they seemed like at the time.

          • Just to add a little to your prospective John, are two players who I most certainly did believe were future Hall of Famers when I watched them play:

            Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy

            And I strongly suspect that that same feeling would extend to many others as some point in the careers of Cesar Cedeno, Fred Lynn and Doc Gooden.

            No less of an expert on baseball than Whitey Herzog said that Garry Templeton was the most talented player he had seen since Mickey Mantle.

            Maury Allen listed George Foster among the 100 Greatest Players of All Time in his book of the same name which came out in the middle of his career.

          • JA:
            “Lofton averaged 5.0 WAR per 162 games. Out of 16 HOFers specifically identified as CFs, 10 averaged less WAR/162 than Lofton. No matter what they seemed like at the time.”

            Yes, but he only played in more than 140 games in 4 of 16 seasons. AND he played a ton in the post season which generally garners all the “winners” a ton of publicity and felatio from the media. And it STILL wasn’t enough to keep him on the ballot. That has to say something about they way he was regarded in the last 20 years

            IMO, the dWAR credit or debit for a lot of these borderline guys (Grich, Whitaker, Randolph, Lofton) or (Allen, Sheffield, etc..) is too significant. Now we have an even greater number of borderline/Hall of Very Good/Nearly Great, etc…who have people marching in step touting candidacies. Lofton not getting in is not as egregious as Bert Blyleven waiting 15 years to GET in.

            To Hartvig at 62 below:
            For me, it is enough to know that Doc Gooden, Dick Allen, Scott Rolen, Cesar Cedeno, Bobby Bonds,Carlos Beltran, and Jim Fregosi, etc…WERE Hall of Fame talents, regardless of WAR or the BBWAA or the Veterans Committee says. The fact that they battled injuries or didn’t lift weights in the off-season in the ’60’s , 70’s or 80’s, doesn’t detract from their talent or the pleasure I experienced watching them before they went downhill physically at age 33.

          • Paul E. @66 — Absolutely, it’s fair to count Lofton’s modest G/Year against him.

            But there’s a lot of other factors involved in the popular perception of players, both during their time and afterwards.

            Tell me this: Over the past 4 years, who’s been more valuable — Josh Hamilton, or Andrew McCutchen? And we can even keep WAR out of the discussion.

            I rate McCutchen ahead of Hamilton — not because he’s younger, or cheaper, but simply he’s been the better player.

            For batting value, I rate McCutchen a slight edge. Their OPS+ are almost the same, 136 Hamilton, 135 McCutchen. McCutchen has the higher raw OBP, by 11 points. Hamilton has more power, but some of that is park-related; 58% of his career HRs were at home. McCutchen gets my nod here because he’s played 86 more Games, even though he didn’t debut until June of ’09.

            Better runner? McCutchen.

            Better defender? Most would say McCutchen.

            Now, who’s gotten more mainstream attention? Hamilton, by about 10 to 1. Why? Narrative and specialization.

            Narrative — Many people remain interested in Hamilton’s personal story. Plus he plays for a pennant contender.

            Specialization — Hamilton’s value is concentrated in his hitting. His hitting value is concentrated in the conventional Triple Crown stats. He’s had some crazy hot streaks.

            McCutchen is the more rounded player, and I think most informed people would agree that he’s a more valuable player right now, no matter what method of analysis is used. But Hamilton has the MVP, the batting title, and a lot more press. Twenty years from now, some of the same people who today agree that McCutchen is better will probably say that Hamilton (and not McCutchen) seemed more like a HOFer at the time.

          • @66 PaulE – Saying Lofton played more than 140 games in only 4 of 16 seasons is a bit unfair. Seems like you picked that number specifically to avoid including the year he played exactly 140 games. And the year he played 139 games. Of course, 1994 also gets left out because of the strike (he only missed one game that year). Later in his career I believe he was platooned a lot. He may not have been Cal Ripken but he wasn’t that injury prone.

          • @ JA #72:
            I would agree that the Pirates CF is the superior of Hamilton (and about 6 years younger, no?). You can also throw the burden of being a guy on a mediocre to piss-poor ballclub who carries his team for a lack of teammates in there as well. I do believe Lofton to be the superior of Juan Gonzalez, too (I imagine that’s where you were headed?). I also believe his all-around game (save for power) makes him under rated; albeit, not a Hall of Famer.

            I just don’t see him as the superior of Jim Edmonds, Andruw Jones, Griffey, or Beltran in his own generation

          • Paul E. @74 — OK, I can totally respect that assessment of Lofton vs. contemporary CF stars.

            And again, I’m not necessarily trying to put Lofton in the Hall — I just want him to get a fair shake.

            But is there some reason there couldn’t be five HOF CFs in roughly the same generation?

            After all, there were five in one generation in the ’50s — Willie, Mickey & the Duke, plus Ashburn and Doby.

            There were four HOF CFs in one generation of the early 20th century — Cobb, Speaker, Roush and Carey.

            There are 30 teams now. Couldn’t there be at least as many HOF CFs in a generation as there were in the 16-team era, possibly even more?

            Hey, I love Richie Ashburn, but Kenny Lofton was certainly his equal.

            FWIW, of the group you mentioned, WAR sees Griffey clearly on top, but very little difference among Lofton, Beltran, Jones and Edmonds.

          • @ JA # 75:
            I get what you’re saying regarding the 5 contemporary potential HoF CF’ers, however, I just believe that they’re not ALL Hall of Famers. And, yeah, I would put Lofton 5th among the 5 of them. Griffey is 1st ballot and the other three will struggle to get in within the 15 year timeline.
            If Beltran would have hit in the WS the way he hit in the NLDS and NLCS, he might be a sure thing? I dunno

    • (Woops, premature submit.) He just missed being immediately kicked off the ballot by one year.

      I’m wondering why Rick Reuschel (64.6 WAR) didn’t show up on your list? Didn’t he receive just .4% of the vote in 1998?

  16. Whitaker, Grich, and Randolph all fall victim to several factors impeding their HOF worthiness, at least in the voters minds anyway.
    1-They were valuable defenders who weren’t flashy and didn’t make a ton of highlight reel plays.
    2- They were overshadowed by teammates with big stars. Randlph had reggie in NY and grich had Reggie in Cal. Lou was seen more as a duo with Tram and wasn’t as fiery as Kirk Gibson or as big a fan favorite as Cecil Fielder in the 90’s. i could go on but I think you get the point.
    3- All draw value from earning a fair amount of walks which went under valued for years.
    They all deserve election. Hopefully they get in someday.

  17. Tangent — This comment on Jim Caple’s HOF blog post made me chuckle:

    “… The writers have set the bar way too high for HOF standards and need to read my book to see what the historically established standards actually are. …”

    I’m sure most of us have felt that way at times. But I’m glad we don’t put it quite like that. :)

    • Caple apparently has a sort of reflective teleprompter when he writes-he can see the words on the screen superimposed over a huge picture of himself. Helps keep him grounded.

  18. Until now I’ve stayed away from commenting on the HOF ballot, mainly because I’m starting to feel as if the HOF is dead as far as the future is concerned. We’ve reached a point at which the process, the criteria, the numbers of players, the voters, the steroid issue, the bloviating of know-nothings and experts alike, the hang-ups some people have about these players or those either belonging or not belonging, the position of the higher statistical ground claimed by those to whom WAR is the only measure—the thing reminds me of a tired old red giant star turning everything left into gas and just about set to implode, leaving a black hole.

    And does it really matter? Will Lofton or Bonds or Ruth or LLoyd Waner or anybody else become a better or worse player if the HOF goes crashing down? I hate to sound the note of gloomy eternity, brethren, but truly, it’s time to get a little perspective.

  19. Whitaker’s the most egregious snub, not because he tops this list, but because of WAR relative to the given year’s ballot. Whitaker had the 2nd highest WAR on the 2001 ballot (after Blyleven of course).

    The others:
    Dahlen, 6th
    Grich, 3rd
    Lofton, 9th
    Brown, 9th
    Randolph, 4th
    Bell, 6th
    Smith, 3rd
    Cone, 6th
    Bando, 4th

    • Yeah but I also suspect that a whole lot more people know who Justin Bieber or the Spice Girls or The New Kids On The Black are than have ever heard of the likes of Clyde McPhatter or Muddy Waters or Otis Redding or the Kinks. But you probably don’t have to guess which of the 2 lists are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and actually belong there.

      And I would also imagine that a lot more people have heard of Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan then have heard of Judi Dench or Marcia Gay Harden. But I don’t need to tell you who won the Academy Awards.

      Even when Alexander Cleland went before the Commissioner and some of owners with the idea on behalf of the Clark Foundation of opening a Hall of Fame it was presented as “a way to honor baseball’s greatest players.”

  20. While we’re discussing Bad Things About Baseball (BBWAA!), let’s take a moment to recall that today is the 40th anniversary of the DH rule.


  21. Kenny Lofton currently sits at 8 among all centerfielders in JAWS(Ken Griffey Jr. is 5th for perspective). That speaks volumes about how good this guy was. One and done is a shame…Dale Murphy sits at 25 for more perspective.

  22. Lofton was a good player, even at times very good player.

    The flaw(s), if there really are any, lie within the stats that say he’s a HOF caliber player, not in the HOF voting process.

    The disparity between Lofton’s WAR and his vote total is too great for it to be any other way.

    • Chuck, it’s tough to even consider debating you when you attempt to take such a binary position. Do you leave no room for the possibility that the voters systemically undervalue Lofton because he played in a longball era and his defense goes largely unappreciated?

  23. Andy..I don’t, actually.

    Lofton played on some great teams, he was in the postseason 11 times in his 17 year career, including six of his first eight.

    Everyone who covered baseball then knew exactly who he was and what kind of player he was.

    I can see the argument that “he doesn’t hit homers like Belle/Thome/Manny”, so when he came to bat is when people went to the concession stands, but, still, it’s not like he played his whole career in Pittsburgh.

    I don’t believe defense is unappreciated..Santo finally got in last year, Mazeroski a few years ago, even Alomar got in largely because of his defense.

    That said, I don’t think Lofton is/was in the same category as a Devon White or Ken Griffey Jr. or Jim Edmonds or even a Steve Finley.

    Nobody ever bought a ticket to see Kenny Lofton play.

    • Chuck, I am willing to meet you halfway on this one. I will agree that Lofton’s summary dismissal on his 1st ballot in comparison to his high career WAR represents such a large disconnect that we must place some fair degree of uncertainty on the numbers. However, I still strongly feel that at LEAST a large a factor is failure of most people to understand and recognize all of the key components to winning ballgames. Lofton ranks 111th all-time in Runs Created–a very basic metric that still suggests he’s one of the best players to ever play.

      And I strongly disagree with your notion that nobody ever bought a ticket to see Lofton. I know that’s not true because I myself did it on more than one occasion. If you look at JA’s recitation of facts in comment #46 above, he accurately recalls how Lofton was thought of in his day–as an extremely valuable player, even a cornerstone type player. I think your judgement of him is far too binary and harsh.

      • Andy, would you agree with sabermetrics playing more of a role in the thought processes of the BBWAA, especially with the newer voters?

        And, if so, how do you explain, with a higher number of sabermetric opinions present, Lofton’s vote total.

        Lofton’s vote total tells me that even some of the more sabermetrically influenced BBWAA members didn’t believe him to be Hall worthy.

        I agree with Lofton maybe being a bit underrated, but it wasn’t because of how he played, it was of how everyone around him played.

        Thome’s a HOFer, Alomar’s a HOFer, without steriods Manny is a HOFer, Vizquel will get support, and I recall outrage on BR surrounding Albert Belle’s ballot fate.

        I will say this..Loton’s a better HOF candidate than Tim Raines, if Lofton were on for ten years getting 50% and Raines was booted after one year, I’d feel a lot better.

        • Chuck – I know there were at least some voters who considered him a HOFer but felt that he was the 11th best candidate. And since they could only vote for 10 people, Lofton’s the one who got left off.

          • Ed..there were 5649 available ballots, Lofton needed 28 to stay on.

            He got 18.

            He didn’t get “left off” because he was the 11th best player on the ballot, he got left off because there are only five or six HOF worthy guys to vote for, and he wasn’t one of them.

        • Chuck, I agree that today’s voter are more sabermetrically inclined than at any previous point in history. However that doesn’t mean they are advanced–for example it seems toe that OPS+ has started to get some serious traction with the BBWAA voters, but not WAR. As has been pointed out on this thread by Hartvig and others, OPS+ is not a very effective measure to use for traditional leadoff hitters.

          I will say this–I can readily accept that something like WAR can easily have 20-30% error. Just looking at the difference between bWAR and fWAR confirms that. If we assume that Lofton is overvalued by WAR by 30%, then by the numbers he turns into a guy who doesn’t deserve any serious HOF consideration. I agree with the notion that WAR needs to be further developed to ensure it’s accuracy to a greater point.

          (I have conceded a lot to you on this thread, Chuck. Well done.)

          • Though Bwar and Fwar are on different scales which explain a great deal of the discrepancy. Not to say that WAR is 100% accurate. I’m not sure anyone really knows how accurate it is.

    • I thought Lofton was a terrifically exciting player in Cleveland. But the vagabond Lofton, where he became a useful better than average but not exceptional player really hurt the perception of his career value. The last 13 years of his career he never had an OPS+ of higher than 119. To make Lofton a Hall-of-Famer you have to look at him as a mosaic, and you have to buy into the additive properties of WAR and other advanced stats to measure the value of each aspect of his game. Not everyone does that.

      • You don’t have buy into advanced statistical methods too much however to realize that one of the biggest shortcomings of using OPS+ as a measure of a players offensive value is that it shortchanges high frequency/high success base stealers like Lofton, Raines and others.

        At age 38 when is OPS+ was 109 he was 22 for 25 as a base stealer in 406 plate appearances. If you credit him for an extra 16 total bases (+1 for each SB and -2 for each caught stealing which I know isn’t exact but it’s close enough for rough calculations) changes his slugging percentage from .420 to .463. And I would guess that that 40 point jump in his slugging percentage would at a minimum move his OPS+ at least well into the 120 range or maybe even higher. If you figured it that way over his entire career you’d be adding 300 total bases to his slugging percentage that’s going to add considerably to his effective OPS+ totals.

        Truth is I’m not 100% certain that Lofton belongs in the Hall of Fame. I’ve seen some dWAR numbers that lead me to question their accuracy, at least in some cases and/or situations. But at least in general, they also seem to generally get it right. You look at the career defensive WAR leaders and you’re seeing who you would expect to see: Ozzie Smith, Brooks Robinson, Ivan Rodriguez. There are few smarter baseball men than Earl Weaver and there was a reason he played Mark Belanger even if he couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag. And while Lofton does pretty well by that reckoning he’s still behind most of the people you would expect like Andrew Jones and Devon White. I know for a fact he was a very, very good center fielder so it’s certainly possible they’ve got it right in his case. I do know that he’s every bit as qualified as Richie Ashburn and Ashburn is far from the worst center fielder in the Hall.

        I’d vote for him. But wether you’d vote for him or not he certainly deserved more than one years consideration on a ballot that is as messed up as this years is.

        • Yup yup. Now add in how much more often Lofton went from first to third on a single, how often he scored from 1st or 2nd, or how much the #2 batter benefitted from there being a base stealer on 1st, meaning a larger hole to hit through and a distracted pitcher…

          • And let’s not forget that Lofton & guys like him also tend to both hit into fewer double plays than guys like his teammates Albert Belle & Manny Ramirez did and his speed on the basepaths probably turned a number of what might have been double plays into sacrifices instead when he was the runner on first.

        • I’m not sure whether I would vote for him or not, but agree he merits a discussion. I think Bill James’s old Secondary Average might better express his offensive contributions.

  24. Nice debate over Lofton. I was one of the few that think of him as a HoFer in the early stages of his career, but not so much after he left Cleveland. I find a little hard to keep tracking players who change teams, as often as he did in his final seasons. If I had a HoF vote, I´ll say no to Lofton, after all, only 6.5 % of us put him in the Circle of Greats.

  25. Does anyone disagree with the notion that well-rounded players tend to draw less attention than equally valuable players who excel in one particular area?

    I don’t really care whether anyone considers Kenny Lofton a HOFer. I don’t even have a firm opinion myself.

    But I do think that whether anyone “bought a ticket to see him,” and the other gut-level lines that are often cited in these debates — nobody pitched around this guy, nobody game-planned against that guy — are poor standards for the Hall of Fame.

    Players who are well-rounded at the Willie Mays level will of course always be recognized. But I think applying the “bought a ticket” standard would mainly fill the rest of the HOF with high-peak hitters, with little regard to how long they maintained that peak (the Don Mattingly/Jim Rice class), supplemented by the occasional eye-popping defensive wizard (the Ozzie Smith class).

    I happen to think that the imaginary Lofton/Whitaker All-Stars beats the Rice/Ozzie All-Stars over the course of a season. And I think HOF membership should be based on the player’s contribution to winning, not to putting fannies in the seats.

    • Yes. I agree. Players whose overall contributions come from multiple areas, but yet lack one clear great skill (or one that is greatly appreciated) will be undervalued. Lofton could, sort of, be an example of that. He brought a lot of value when combining both offense and defense, but his strongest skill that drives his WAR is defense related, which appears to still be undervalued. So the lesson is if a player is going to be well-rounded, be Willie Mays!

      I remain on the “no” side when it comes to Lofton, but if I had a ballot, and all ten slots weren’t filled, I would have voted for Lofton in attempt to keep him around for discussion. I might be “no” today, but I could be swayed.

      Like many of us, I will argue strongly for and against certain players. And I’ve argued that the Hall has let in too many marginal players. That led me to believe I was a small-Hall fan. In reality, I’m the opposite. I’m a big-Hall fan, believing over time the Hall has become too restrictive, with many BBWAA members unable to properly assess talent across generations. Sabermetrics greatly helps in this area for those willing to look at it.

      I do like high-peak players, and I may lean to being more open to letting the high-peak players into the Hall even if they didn’t have the longevity of others to generate as much WAR. Greatness to me can come in the form of longevity and high-peak. The ones who do both are the true inner-circle players.

      • MikeD, I expected to agree that Lofton’s strongest skill driving WAR was defense. But looking at his oWAR and dWAR rankings among all CFs over his first 8 years, it’s closer than I expected:

        Offensive WAR:
        1992 – 8th
        1993 – 3rd
        1994 – 1st
        1995 – 7th
        1996 – 6th
        1997 – 6th
        1998 – 5th
        1999 – 6th
        Average rank: 5.2

        Defensive WAR:
        1992 – 3rd
        1993 – 2nd
        1994 – 2nd
        1995 – 6th
        1996 – 11th
        1997 – 3rd
        1998 – 2nd
        1999 – 7th
        Average rank: 4.5

        It’s interesting that Lofton never ranked 1st in CF dWAR any of those years, but he’s #1 overall. (Andruw was far better per game, but he missed the first 5 years of the period in question.)

        Looking at the CF dWAR leaders for 1992-99 combined, we find a lot of guys who weren’t particularly good on offense. I’ll list them out, adding their oWAR and comments:

        #1, Lofton — 5.1 oWAR per 162G in this period.
        #2, Andruw Jones — Near-HOFer; only played 3 full years in the span, defense off the charts, but not really a big contributor on offense, 3.1 oWAR/162 in this period.
        #3, Devon White — 3.0 oWAR/162.
        #4, Junior Griffey — Clear HOFer.
        #5, Mike Cameron — Only 3 full years in the span, 2.6 oWAR/162.
        #6, Lance Johnson — “Lofton Lite”? 3.2 oWAR/162.
        #7, Darrin Jackson — Good glove, no bat. 0.4 oWAR/162.
        #8, Marquis Grissom — 2.7 oWAR/162.
        #9, Rondell White — 3.3 oWAR/162.
        #10, Darren Lewis — 1.1 oWAR/162.
        #11, Jim Edmonds — Near-HOFer, 4.1 oWAR/162 in this period (better hitting years to come).

        Of Lofton’s top 10 dWAR competitors in this span, only Griffey bested him in offensive WAR.

        So I think Lofton’s greatest WAR asset was balance. As a great defender, he was a damn good offensive player.

        • John, wouldn’t it make for a more interesting comparison if you looked at all of these players’ first 8 years in the league instead of just Lofton’s? It shouldn’t be a surprise that Lofton leads in dWAR in a time frame that encapsulates his defensive prime but doesn’t include the prime of the other players mentioned.

          • bstar, I grant your point. But my point wasn’t that Lofton was #1 in dWAR for that period. Rather, it was that, among the top defensive CFs of 1992-99, Lofton’s offensive WAR trailed only Griffey, who in his prime was one of the all-time greats. I was trying to make a point about Lofton’s balanced value.

          • Gotcha. I think I was just reflexively reacting to seeing Lofton at the top of any defensive stat for CFs during his approximate era when Devon White and Andruw Jones rated higher. I was worried that might compound the view of some that Lofton’s defensive numbers are overinflated. My fault.

        • JA, good stuff. bstar did hit on my main question. It would be interesting to see how he compares to other top CFers during similar years, or actually their peak years, since those eight years are Lofton’s peak.

          Yet what I was dancing around is that Lofton drives a chunk of his WAR from defense. Looking at Fangraphs, Lofton has the third-highest defensive WAR behind Andruw Jones and Willie Mays, yet he doesn’t have the offensive peak of the top ten CFers. So a voter will have to be comfortable with the defensive input in his WAR rating.

          Overall, what Lofton has working against him (beyond the now obvious: he’s off the ballot!) is the narrative and an overall perception of who he was as a player. It started from the beginning:

          1) He didn’t become a regular until his age-25 season.
          2) He was beaten out in the ROY voting by the forgettable Pat Listach, whose claim to fame would eventually become that he finished ahead of Lofton for ROY.
          3) His signature season took place in 1994, when the final 1/3 of the season was wiped out. He had a chance for 230+ hits, 90 SBs that year.
          4) His age-27 and -28 seasons were both reduced by strikes.
          5) He was a non-power hitter in the age of power hitting. A player from a different time, whose skills were not quite as valued in the 90s and aughts as they would have been in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
          6) As a SB and lead-off hitter, he might have been unfavorably compared to the likes of Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines. Or even the vastly inferior Vince Coleman and memories of his 100+ SB seasons.
          7) He wasn’t viewed as the top defender of his time (Jones), and was overshadowded overall by the offensive contributions of Griffey, Edmonds and Williams, or a recent predecessor, Kirby Puckett.
          8) He played for many teams over his 17-year career.
          9) Fans and media from Cleveland, the market where he had his greatest success and saw him the most, have never touted him as a HOFer.
          10) He was not viewed as a positive club house person.
          11) He missed lots of games each season.
          12) There are other CFers in baseball history with higher or similar WAR ratings not in the Hall, or will have a difficult time getting elected when on the ballot.
          13) The second half of his career, when he was still good but well off his peak, probably reshaped people’s opinion. They forgot how good he was in his 20s!

          Apologies on the laundry list. Point thirteen, the last, may be the one that’s working against him the most and helping to build the narrative and perception. I believe Bill James addressed this (for other players) in his Politics of Glory. Or maybe it was in one of his Abstracts.

          That said, Richie Ashburn and Max Carey, two CFers in the HOF, seem to be good comparisons. That could work in his favor long term, yet I don’t see Lofton getting elected by some future veteran’s committee. I can see Whitaker and Trammell, maybe even a Randolph and Nettles getting the nod in the future. Lofton just doesn’t seem to have support from the traditionalists, or enough of the sabermetric community, hence the 3%.

          Yet I’ll add again. Even though I have my own questions, I would have voted for him if I had a ballot just to keep the discussion alive.

          • MikeD, I agree with almost everything you said, except point #12.

            Who are the other CFs with 60+ WAR (Lofton has 64.9) who are not in the Hall? I can’t find any.

            Besides Lofton, the highest WAR for a CF who’s eligible but not elected is 57.3 for Edmonds, then 56.8 for Willie Davis.

            The only other unelected OFs with 60+ WAR are RF Larry Walker (69.7), LF Raines (66.2), RF Dwight Evans (62.8) and RF Reggie Smith (60.8). (Smith spent about 6 years as a regular CF, but he played more in RF.)

          • #12 was a bit of a tortured line. I was trying to indicate that while he’s in good company, he is also surrounded by some non-HOFers. Reggie Smith is one. It is fair to say he was more a RFer than a CFer, although it’s 879 games RF and 809 CF. Perhaps less fair is my assumption that Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds are going to be challenged in being elected to the Hall. Carlos Beltran may end up building the strongest Hall case of them all since he’s still going strong, although granted no longer in CF. Interesting that several of his direct compares WAR wise are also contemporaries. Not sure if that helps him either.

          • Not going to make any kind of accusations (since I think that’s bullshit), but I think after seeing what Bagwell and Piazza have faced, Jones and Edmonds will face similar “whispers” about their early careers. Beltran may be free of that since he has continued to excel later in his career.

            That said, I think Beltran will suffer from “voters not realizing how good he is”.

          • Adam, that thought did enter my mind, yet I’m hoping by the time Edmonds hits the ballot in another three years (2016 election) and Jones (earliest 2018, perhaps later), then “whisper” player(s) Bagwell and Piazza will have been elected, which might ease that issue.

            I have a tendency to always bring up the narrrative when talking HOF election, perhaps more than others here. HHS and certainly your Hall of Stats do a great job in focusing on the statistics on who should be in the HOF. Yet the HOF candidates are elected by people, filled with bias. That’s why I loved Bill James’ Politics of Glory. It’s not about who should be in the HOF, but how they get there…or sadly, in some cases, don’t.

            CF is a position that is regarded as one of the most important on the field. Teams are always talking about how they need to be strong up the middle, with CF being one of those key positions. Yet it’s been one of the toughest for a player to be elected, and even when there are good candidates, they are quickly dismissed. Lofton is the latest example, and it’s why I don’t have high hopes for Jones and Edmonds. Beltran is still playing too well for me to guess on him yet, although if his career ended today, I doubt he’d get in.

          • MikeD @138, regarding your #6 point about Kenny Lofton being overshadowed by Raines. I just don’t see it. In fact, Lofton has more WAA and has a better Hall of Stats rating than Raines. I think he was overshadowed by Rickey Henderson for sure, but not Raines.

            One way Raines and Kenny Lofton are similar is they both became journeymen in the second half of their careers (Lofton switched teams a lot, Raines became a bench player). The difference is that Lofton continued to add value to the teams he played for at the end of his career, while Raines barely provided any.

            Raines post-age 33: 6.5 WAR in 8 seasons
            Lofton post-age 33: 15.9 WAR in 7 seasons

            And as you mentioned, it’s kind of mind-blowing to think about the “what-if” part of Lofton’s 1994 year. Lofton had only missed one game when the strike started, so let’s prorate his WAR out to a full season’s worth of games:

            Lofton 160 games in 1994: 10.1 WAR
            Lofton 150 games in 1994: 9.5 WAR

            Even using the more conservative estimate of games played, Lofton’s ’94 season would have been far beyond anything Tim Raines did on a baseball field for a full year.

            I think it’s fair to say Kenny Lofton is the only worthy player since Rickey Henderson to even deserve a comparison to him (even if only for a year). Lofton was that explosive of a player.

            I agree with the rest of your points completely.

            Overall though, I’m a little flummoxed how some of the best commenters on this site are treating Lofton like he’s a borderline HOF candidate. JAWS has him as the 7th best CF of all-time. What is there to ponder exactly? If Tim Raines is a shoo-in for the Hall, why is Lofton being treated differently?

          • bstar, #6 wasn’t meant to suggest that Raines was better than Lofton (that’s a whole ‘nother discussion). #6 is about perception. Henderson is viewed as the greatest lead-off hitter. It’s now quite common to say that Raines was perhap the second-greatest lead-off hitter. Look no further than last weeks Hall vote. Raines is now over 50% of the BBWAA voting, and history says he will eventually be elected. Lofton was one-and-done, getting a little over 3%.

          • Bstar – I think there were four things that hurt Lofton relative to Raines:

            1) Lofton played in a higher run era, so his stats didn’t stand out the way the Raines’ did in his era.

            2) Lofton derives a lot of his value from defense and a lot of people still don’t trust the defensive metrics.

            3) Some voters are refusing to vote for anyone from the PEDs era, even if that person had no connection to PEDs. Raines obviously doesn’t get harmed this way (which is quite perverse since we know that Raines took an illegal substance and have no knowledge of Lofton doing so).

            4) Raines already had an “established voting constituency” based on years of arguments in his favor. Lofton’s candidacy was basically drowned out by all the discussion about what to do with PEDs users.

          • Looking at Lofton’s numbers, I noticed that his R/TOB (including ROE) = 43.3% The highest I have seen. Some of this is due to playing in a high scoring era, and some probably goes specifically to Manny, Albert, Jim and others; but it would seem that Lofton was a very very good leadoff batter. Could someone run a table for R/TOB?

    • John A, I don’t think the fanny in the seat predicate for Hall admission is smart. But the problem for a lot of these players is that the well-rounded and useful player isn’t memorable after he’s retired. I’ve always been surprised that Willie Randolph has such a high career WAR, since I watched him through his prime years. And cognitive dissonance is a hard thing to overcome.

  26. Comparing Kenny Lofton and Maury Wills on the “bought a ticket to see him” standard. (And this is not about the HOF, just about that standard.)

    I think that Maury Wills in his prime was definitely a gate attraction, and mainly for base-stealing. He certainly got a ton of attention for his record 104 SB in 1962 and 94 in 1965.

    If Lofton had played when Wills did, I think he’d have been just as much of a gate attraction.

    In Wills’s peak 4-year span (1962-65), he averaged 73 SB and 20 CS, a 78% success rate.

    That is the most generous possible statement of Wills’s thieving peak. The year before and the year after were both under 40 SB with a poor rate. Even the years in the middle of that peak were quite different from his very best, averaging 46 SB and a 72% success rate.

    Lofton had a comparable 5-year run of SB excellence. From 1992-96, he averaged 65 SB and 14 CS, an 82% success rate. He was very consistent in that span, never below 54 SB or 78%, and never above 75 SB or 85%.

    During those 5 years, if Lofton had tried 18 more steals per year and made it only half the time, his 5-year peak would have surpassed Wills’s 4-year peak in both number of SB and success rate.

    If Lofton had distributed his steals more like Wills did — 100 one year and 90 another, and 45 in the other years — I think he would have gotten more attention than he did.

    I think that Wills’s steals made more impression mainly because of two accidents of timing:

    1) When Wills broke loose in ’62, nobody had swiped 60+ in almost 20 years. No NLer had done it since 1916.

    2) Offensive context: The Dodgers were not a slugging team, Dodger Stadium was a pitcher’s park, and league batting and scoring plummeted in 1963. Conditions encouraged Wills to keep running.

    Lofton had the opposite timing. He came along at the end of another SB explosion. In the 12 years before his rookie season, there were 41 player-seasons of 60+ SB, with 6 of 100+ (5 that were more than Wills’s old record) and 14 of 80+.

    Nobody has stolen 80 in a season since 1988.

    From 1992-present, Lofton owns 4 of the 26 seasons of 60+ steals, and he led the AL 5 straight years (led MLB 3 of those). But for contextual reasons, his base-stealing just didn’t make the same impression as Wills’s, even though his peak was very similar. The big-SB seasons that had come just before Lofton were still fresh in the public eye, while the offensive explosion of his own era diverted attention and opportunity from that phase of the game.

    • It’s probably fair to point out also that while there were a few really good defensive catchers in the NL in Will’s day (Tom Haller for one) having a catcher with a cannon arm wasn’t a huge priority for teams in 1961 either. By the time Lofton came along teams had had to adapt to the big stolen base totals in the 70’s

    • RJ, you probably want to exclude the first several years of HOF voting from your question. Those first ballots were incredibly crowded — not just because they were the first, but also because they hadn’t settled the eligibility restrictions yet.

      In the very first ballot, 1936, even active players were eligible. Dazzy Vance, who had just retired, got 1 vote, then was elected in 1955 by the BBWAA.

      • So based on that Hardball Times link that Ed posted at #3 I want to be looking at results since… some time in the mid ’50s? I’ll do some digging.

    • So to answer my own question, there are pretty much no examples of players getting very low vote totals and still being elected by the BBWAA. This sort of puts to rest the notion that had Lofton managed to just about stay on the ballot, the voters may have been persuaded down the line.

      I looked at voting since 1964, when the process seemed to have calmed down somewhat.

      – Bob Lemon first appeared on the ballot that year, having retired in 1958. He intially received 11.9% of the vote, sinking as low as 7% in 1966, before rebounding and eventually being elected in 1976.

      – Blyleven is the obvious example, but even he started off at 17.5%, bottoming out at 14.1% before reaching the 75% threshold.

      – The only other player I could find who received below 20% but was still elected by the BBWAA was Duke Snider, who receieved a low of 17%.

      And that’s about that. It seems without a decent level of inital support you’re going to be in the hands of the Veteran’s Committee.

          • @Ed 119 I have to say, Snider’s low initial vote percentage and subsequent slow road to election suprised me. I’d have thought his skill in the the tradional yardsticks of ability (batting average, homers), his successive All-Star nominations, plus being a mainstay on an successful team would be exactly the kind of qualities that would get him voted in sharpish.

          • Thanks again for the reading material Ed. So to paraphrase MikeD earlier in this thread, if you’re going to be a centerfielder, be Willy Mays!

      • RJ — Check out Joe Medwick’s HOF progression:

        1956 BBWAA (16.1%)
        1958 BBWAA (18.8%)
        1960 BBWAA (14.1%)
        1962 BBWAA (21.2%)
        1964 BBWAA (53.7%)
        1964 Run Off (64.7%)
        1966 BBWAA (61.9%)
        1967 BBWAA (72.6%)
        1967 Run Off (81.0%)
        1968 BBWAA (84.8%) — elected

        (I left out 1948, when he was still active but got 0.8%.)

        Hell of a jump from 1962 to ’64.

        • I don’t know what caused the jump from 1962 to 1964, but the length of time it took him to be elected seems to be down to his Bonds-ian relationship with the media.

          • What happened with Medwick between ’62 and ’64 is the ballot was cleared off.

            In 1962, Medwick finished 10th in the balloting. Here’s what happened to the guys who finished 1-9 on the ’62 ballot:

            1st: Feller – 93.8% of the vote, elected to the HOF
            2nd: Jackie Robinson – 77.5% of the vote, elected to the HOF.
            3rd: Sam Rice – moved to the Veteran’s ballot and elected in ’63.
            4th: Red Ruffing – still on the ballot in ’64; jumped from 45.0% of the vote to 70.1%
            5th: Eppa Rixey – Same as Sam Rice; moved to the Veteran’s ballot and elected in ’63
            6th: Luke Appling – Still on the ballot and jumped from 30.0% to 70.6%
            7th: Phil Rizzuto – Still on the ballot but declined from 27.5 to 22.4%
            8th: Burleigh Grimes – moved onto the Veteran’s ballot, elected in ’64
            9th: Hack Wilson – last year on ballot

            The guys who finished 11-15 were also all taken off the ballot and eventually elected by the Veteran’s committee.

            So of the top 15 finishers in ’62, only Ruffing, Appling, Medwick, and Rizutto, were still on the ballot in ’64. Not surprisingly three of the holdovers experienced big jumps in ’64 (I assume most of Rizzuto’s support was coming from NY voters which is why he didn’t advance like the others). The only decent newcomers in ’64 were Pee Wee Reese and Campanella. So the ballot went from being overstuffed to being practically empty.

  27. I’ve got a few points about Lofton.

    1. How unique was he? Sky Kalkman has pointed out that he’s the only player in history with 100 batting runs. 100 base running runs, and 100 fielding runs.

    2. This type of player is traditionally always underrated.

    3. I think this type of player would be far more appreciated today. He was on a team loaded with 40-homer guys in a juicing era. That also leads to being overlooked.

    4. I’m not sure Tim Raines was any more valuable than Kenny Lofton. And Tim Raines is very much Hall-worthy.

    5. If you were sabermetrically-inclined, you were one of the few who voted for all the PED players and therefore ran out of spots before getting to Lofton. There were at least 13 deserving candidates on the ballot. I’d put Lofton as somewhere between 9th and 11th. I still think he’s Hall-worthy.

    He’s screwed because of his era. He’s screwed because his less-dimensional teammates hogged the spotlight. And he’s screwed because of a fucked up ballot. Kenny Lofton was screwed.

    • Adam- I’ve got a question about WAR that I’ll address to you but if anyone knows the answer feel free.

      Caught stealing totals are generally unavailable in the American League prior to about 1920 and in the National League prior to the 50’s. How does WAR deal with that? Does the batter get credit for the advantage that a successful stolen base give without being penalized for the damage that being caught stealing does or is the entire issue just taken out of the equation? And if it is removed from the equation how does that impact WAR?

      One of the reasons I ask is that in your wonderful Hall of Stats you have 3 first basemen who played their entire careers before the end of the 19th Century and while even the stolen base totals for them are not even complete, all 3 were by todays standards and particularly for 1st basemen, fairly prolific base stealers. I’m looking to see if I might need to make some mental adjustments in how they should be viewed compared to players from the modern era.

    • Adam – I would say your last point about “Lofton being screwed” is something we’re going to hear a lot of in the coming years, PEDs or no PEDs. As I’m sure you know, the writers have significantly raised the standards for election to the HOF at the same time in which there are simply more Hall Worthy players due to expansion.

  28. Excuse my apparent ignorance, but what’s going on with the “Friends of Frankie Frisch Brigade?” Sure, his career OPS+ was just 110, but he was doing that as a second baseman who, at least by dWAR, played great defense, and overall he managed 68.0 career WAR (which is of course behind Whitaker) and a 55.9 JAWS that ranks 7th among Hall of Fame second basemen. Is the “Brigade” not a reference to his Hall of Fame case but his completely undeserved MVP in 1931 and subsequent MVP votes after that even though his OPS+ slipped to just 95 in the last 7 years of his career?

    • Robbie – It’s a reference to the fact that when Frisch was a member of the veteran’s committee, he helped a lot of his friends get elected to the Hall of Fame. Many of those are considered among the least deserving members of the Hall.

    • Frisch was responsible for voting in a lot of his own friends who aren’t so deserving–that’s what the title refers to–not to Frisch’s own enshrinement.

    • Some dubious Veterans Committee selections who were teammates of Frankie Frisch (who died in 1973):

      Chick Hafey, OF, inducted 1971 — 28.4 WAR, 5,115 PAs, 1,466 hits.

      Jesse Haines, P, inducted 1970 — 33.7 WAR, 210 wins, 109 ERA+.

      Jim Bottomley, 1B, inducted 1974 — 32.8 WAR, 2,313 hits, 219 HRs.

      • And, of course, let us also not forget

        Ross Youngs, OF, inducted 1972- 30.9 WAR, 1211 games, 42 HRs

        And the biggest clunker of them all:

        George “High Pockets” Kelly, 1b, inducted 1973- 23.4 WAR, .297 BA, 109 OPS+

        • Hartvig:

          Frisch’s influence aside, Ross Youngs only played in 1211 games because he died. Up through his age 27 season when his kidney problem started he put up borderline HOF stats. He may not belong in the Hall, but he doesn’t really belong with the others mentioned here either.

    • I think many people (certainly me) became aware of the scale and nature of Frisch’s influence only by reading Bill James’s “The Politics of Glory” (1994, republished as “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame”). The book engages many battles, but James brought his forces to bear most fully on the Frisch Front.

  29. I think Andruw Jones will not be elected by the BBWAA. Putting merit aside, I just think his .254 BA, in an era of high averages, will be a big stumbling block, along with his sudden decline after age 30.

    The only HOFer with a lower average is Ray Schalk, a silly V.C. selection. Killebrew hit .256, but was a far better offensive player than Andruw.

    And Andruw’s .337 OBP would be 12th from the bottom among HOF position players. Both his BA and OBP were well below the park-adjusted, non-pitcher averages for his career.

    It will certainly be a test of just how transcendent they think his defense was, and maybe a test of whether advanced defensive stats gain any broader traction over the next decade.

    If the voters think only of his 10 Gold Gloves, I doubt that will be enough to get him over the threshold. Clemente and Mays won 12 each, Griffey and Kaline 10 each, and all were better offensive players than Andruw. Torii Hunter has 9 GGs, while Paul Blair, Garry Maddox and Dwight Evans had 8 apiece. I don’t think Andruw’s 10 GGs will stand out enough to the voters. But maybe they’ll recognize that there’s more to defense than Gold Gloves, and that some GGs are better than others.

    Again, I’m just anticipating how the BBWAA will vote, not expressing my own judgment.

    • Year after year of bench player andruw will destroy their image of just how dominant he was before 30. Brock retired at 34, doesn’t seem andruw has gotten the hint. He’s still being payed by the dodgers till 2014, I can’t see him retiring before then.

  30. RE: kds @ 149, here are the all-time leaders for percentage of runs scored vs times of base (w/ ROE), minimum 4000 career plate appearances:

    1 Red Rolfe 48.8%
    2 Jack Smith 47.2%
    3 Pepper Martin 46.9%
    4 Earle Combs 46.5%
    5 Tommy Leach 45.3%
    6 Joe DiMaggio 45.2%
    7 Curtis Granderson 45.2%
    8 Ian Kinsler 44.4%
    9 Lou Gehrig 44.2%
    10 Hughie Critz 44.0%
    11 Ray Chapman 44.0%
    12 Tom Goodwin 43.7%
    13 Babe Ruth 43.7%
    14 Tommy Henrich 43.7%
    15 Charlie Gehringer 43.5%
    16 Chuck Klein 43.4%
    17 Kenny Lofton 43.3%
    18 Earl Averill 43.3%
    19 Alex Rodriguez 43.0%
    20 Fred Clarke 42.9%
    21 Donie Bush 42.8%
    22 Vince Coleman 42.7%
    23 Freddie Lindstrom 42.7%
    24 Kiki Cuyler 42.6%
    25 Bobby Bonds 42.6%
    26 Bill Cissell 42.6%
    27 Jimmie Foxx 42.6%
    28 Pete Fox 42.5%
    29 Jimmy Rollins 42.5%
    30 Ron Gant 42.5%

    • Adam – Joe Posnanski has a series of posts looking specifically at players elected by the BBWAA. One of the things that he found is that the median WAR of CFs elected by the BBWAA is the highest of any position. It’s 90.3! It would be even higher had Dimaggio not lost time to WWII. That’s not to say that Lofton doesn’t deserve consideration for the Hall. Just that the standards for election as a CFer by the BBWAA has typically been quite high.

      Of course, the standard has been coming down in recent years with the elections of Puckett and Dawson. Which is another interesting thing that Posnanski found. While we tend to think that the BBWAA has raised their standards in recent years, the opposite is actually true. The BBWAA has been lowering its standards with the election of players like Dawson, Puckett, Rice, Perez, etc.

      Anyway, here’s a link to his post on CFs, though the whole series is worth reading (I assume a post on pitchers will be forthcoming).

    • I made a case for Bernie Williams based on post season success. Lofton’s ample post season experience to me was all fairly average if not below. Speedy, but generally a pretty easy out. Williams had multiple successful post season campaigns and ranks high on many post season (and world series) offensive lists. And the hall of stats does not account for post season play still, correct?

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