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.

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

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Josh
Guest

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.

Dalton Mack
Editor

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.

GrandyMan
Guest

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%)

Ed
Guest
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. http://baseballhall.org/hall-famers/rules-election/rules-history 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. http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/how-joe-dimaggio-forever-changed-cooperstown-voting/ So… Read more »
Brooklyn Mick
Guest

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.

John Autin
Editor

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.

John
Guest

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.

Hartvig
Guest

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

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

Easy – Morris pitched to the score, while neither Trammell nor Whitaker batted or fielded to the score.

John Autin
Editor

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)

deal
Guest

thanks – I always enjoying getting the position breakdown.

Baltimorechop
Guest
“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… Read more »
Baltimorechop
Guest

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

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

Richard Chester
Guest

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.

John Autin
Editor

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.

Richard Chester
Guest

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.

MikeD
Guest

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?

jeff b
Guest

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

John Autin
Editor
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,… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

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

Hartvig
Guest
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… Read more »
Bryan O'Connor
Editor
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… Read more »
Ed
Guest
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… Read more »
Bryan O'Connor
Editor

I would’ve voted for Lofton for the Hall, Ed. And it wouldn’t have mattered, because the writers were never going to elect him.

Ed
Guest

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.

Adam Darowski
Guest

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.

Bryan O'Connor
Editor

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.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
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… Read more »
Bryan O'Connor
Editor
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… Read more »
Bells
Guest
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… Read more »
MikeD
Guest
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… Read more »
bstar
Guest

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.

Phil
Guest

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.

mosc
Guest

Brian, that was a great post and well written.

Jimbo
Guest

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.

MikeD
Guest

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.

Jimbo
Guest

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

Jimbo
Guest

excuse me, he was actually on pace for 150 runs scored!

Brooklyn Mick
Guest

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?

Ed
Guest

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

Brooklyn Mick
Guest

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.

Richard Chester
Guest

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

Brooklyn Mick
Guest

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.

Brooklyn Mick
Guest

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

Brooklyn Mick
Guest

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?

mosc
Guest

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.

mosc
Guest
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… Read more »
Doug
Guest
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… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

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

John Autin
Editor
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.… Read more »
e pluribus munu
Guest
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… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
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… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest
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… Read more »
Paul E
Guest
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… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
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… Read more »
Ed
Guest

@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.

Paul E
Guest
@ 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… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
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.… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

@ 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

James Gentile
Guest

Ron Santo only recieved 3.9% of votes in 1980.

James Gentile
Guest

(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?

Brandon
Guest
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… Read more »
John Autin
Editor

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. 🙂

Mike L
Guest

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.

no statistician but
Guest
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… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Well said.

Play ball!

Dalton Mack
Editor

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

oneblankspace
Guest

Remember, it’s called the hall of Fame, not the hall of Great.

A great player isn’t necessarily famous.

Hartvig
Guest
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… Read more »
Tim Pea
Guest

I’d like to have a discussion about the Coriolis Force and the problems it presents to left handed outfielders.

brp
Guest

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.

Ugh.

Jimbo
Guest

I love the DH and wish both leagues had it.

Jeff
Guest

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.

MikeD
Guest

I’ll take Dale Murphy. : -)

Chuck
Guest

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
Guest
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… Read more »
Andy
Guest
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… Read more »
Chuck
Guest
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,… Read more »
Ed
Guest

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.

Chuck
Guest

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.

Mike L
Guest

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.

Hartvig
Guest
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… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

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.

Luis Gomez
Guest

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.

John Autin
Editor
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… Read more »
MikeD
Guest
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… Read more »
John Autin
Editor
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… Read more »
bstar
Guest

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
Guest

Oh dear. I didn’t mean to italicize most of that post. That’ll teach me to mess around with HTML tags.

John Autin
Editor

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.

bstar
Guest

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.

MikeD
Guest
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… Read more »
John Autin
Editor

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.)

MikeD
Guest
#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… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

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”.

MikeD
Guest
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… Read more »
bstar
Guest
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… Read more »
MikeD
Guest

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%.

Ed
Guest
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… Read more »
kds
Guest

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?

Dan McCloskey
Guest

Well said, John. Especially the last sentence.

Mike L
Guest

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.

John Autin
Editor
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… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest

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
Guest

Does anyone know the lowest percentage a player has got on a single ballot and still been eventually elected by the BBWAA?

John Autin
Editor

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.

RJ
Guest

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.

RJ
Guest
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… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Bob Lemon apparently benefited from a very public campaign to get him elected:

http://seamheads.com/2008/01/21/bob-lemon-and-the-hall-of-fame/

RJ
Guest

Cheers for the link Ed, good stuff.

Ed
Guest

You’re welcome RJ! According to this article, Snider had the lowest debut % of anyone subsequently elected since the modern system began in 1966.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13075

RJ
Guest

@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.

Ed
Guest

I’m not sure either RJ. But I found an interesting article that basically says Snider wasn’t appreciated in his time because he wasn’t as good as Mays or Mantle. The article also points out that the Hall has been tough on CFers. (hello Kenny Lofton!).

http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2011/02/duke.html

RJ
Guest

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!

John Autin
Editor

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.

RJ
Guest

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.

Ed
Guest
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… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest
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… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest
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… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Hartvig – bWAR derives an estimate for caught stealing using a regression equation. On at least some of the earlier seasons, they have league-wide data on caught stealings, even when that data is missing at the individual level. If you’re interested you can read more here. It’s the third bullet under “Advanced wOBA”.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/war_explained_wraa.shtml

Ed
Guest

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.

Robbie
Guest
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… Read more »
Ed
Guest

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.

John Autin
Editor

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.

Hartvig
Guest

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+

no statistician but
Guest

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.

Richard Chester
Guest

You could also toss in Dave Bancroft, OPS+ = 98.

e pluribus munu
Guest

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.

John Autin
Editor
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… Read more »
mosc
Guest

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.

Ed
Guest

Brock retired at 40. Maybe you’re thinking of someone else?

Adam Darowski
Guest

Not to beat this dead horse further, but is there any way to make a case that Kenny Lofton is NOT the best center fielder outside of the Hall of Fame now? Talking eligible players, of course.

Over at http://www.hallofstats.com/position/cf I’ve got:

Kenny Lofton
Jim Wynn
Chet Lemon
Willie Davis
Cesar Cedeno

Ed
Guest
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… Read more »
mosc
Guest

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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