14 January 2013

A Love Song for Kenny Lofton

First off, I find the Hall of Fame to be much ado about nothing much important.  It is an honor bestowed on former players by, pretty much, the press.  This is not a very scientific way to figure out any award.  The assumption is that a voter, having covered baseball, understands what it means to be a great baseball player.  This is a group that does not even have a great definition for what makes a baseball player great with a great many different takes on what the guidelines mean.  If that was not bad, you also have voters than invent rules, such as refusing to vote for non-elite Hall of Famers with their first appearance on the ballot or utilizing incredibly poor evidence to classify people as cheaters who have never been caught while doing what they can to get other cheaters into the Hall.  Regardless, the existence or exclusion of a player in the Hall should not define that player.

Second thing, I have no love for Kenny Lofton.  It is somewhat fair to say that if you ignore the Twins, Lofton must have enjoyed facing the Orioles. 

I Split PA H HR SB CS BA OBP SLG TB
Houston Astros 271 88 6 15 10 .373 .442 .538 127
Colorado Rockies 153 49 2 11 4 .360 .428 .515 70
St. Louis Cardinals 183 52 4 7 2 .321 .396 .506 82
Minnesota Twins 592 180 7 43 9 .347 .413 .484 251
Cincinnati Reds 232 63 8 6 4 .312 .390 .490 99
Baltimore Orioles 459 142 10 42 8 .339 .389 .489 205

As such, I have some underlying queasiness about lauding Lofton as a player.  I remember him as someone who tormented my team as I was growing up on the outskirts of the Baltimore metropolitan area.  As someone who really began to become engrossed in baseball during the early to mid 1990s, the Indians (not the Yankees, Red Sox, or Blue Jays) were the team that I recognized as our rivals.  Quite suitably, they were the ones who ended the Orioles 1997 playoff run (on a questionable called strike to Roberto Alomar), sending the Orioles off to 15 years lost in the wilderness.

Let us not forget that Lofton was also an exceptional defensive centerfielder.  He is the seventh best rated centerfielder based on runs saved with 104.  That roughly means that his defense alone made him worth 10 games won more than the average defender in centerfield.  Given how this is a premium defensive position, that is incredibly remarkable.


Combining those sentiments, it utterly shocked me that Kenny Lofton earned 18 of 569 possible votes.  A number that removes him from consideration in next year's ballot.  If this does not show how ridiculous the voting process is then I do not know how better to represent it.  Below is a listing of some of the greatest center fielders who ever played.

Rk
WAR WAR7 Yrs ASG H HR SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS+
1 Willie Mays HOF 150.8 71.5 22 24 3283 660 338 103 .302 .384 .557 156
2 Ty Cobb HOF 144.9 67.3 24 0 4189 117 897 212 .366 .433 .512 168
3 Tris Speaker HOF 127.8 60.1 22 0 3514 117 436 157 .345 .428 .500 157
4 Mickey Mantle HOF 105.5 63.0 18 20 2415 536 153 38 .298 .421 .557 172
5 Ken Griffey 79.2 52.3 22 13 2781 630 184 69 .284 .370 .538 136
6 Joe DiMaggio HOF 75.1 49.1 13 13 2214 361 30 9 .325 .398 .579 155
7 Duke Snider HOF 63.1 48.1 18 8 2116 407 99 50 .295 .380 .540 140
Avg of 18 HOFers at CF 67.1 42.5
8 Kenny Lofton 64.9 42.0 17 6 2428 130 622 160 .299 .372 .423 107
9 Andruw Jones 59.5 44.8 17 5 1933 434 152 59 .254 .337 .486 111
10 Richie Ashburn HOF 60.2 42.9 15 6 2574 29 234 92 .308 .396 .382 111
11 Billy Hamilton HOF 61.1 41.8 14 0 2164 40 914 .344 .455 .432 141
12 Carlos Beltran 62.3 40.4 15 7 2064 334 306 47 .282 .360 .496 122
13 Andre Dawson HOF 60.6 41.0 21 8 2774 438 314 109 .279 .323 .482 119
14 Jim Edmonds 57.3 41.0 17 4 1949 393 67 50 .284 .376 .527 132
15 Jim Wynn 53.1 42.0 15 3 1665 291 225 101 .250 .366 .436 129
16 Willie Davis 56.8 36.8 18 2 2561 182 398 131 .279 .311 .412 106
17 Cesar Cedeno 49.7 40.1 17 4 2087 199 550 179 .285 .347 .443 123
18 Vada Pinson 50.2 38.1 18 4 2757 256 305 122 .286 .327 .442 111
19 Chet Lemon 52.0 35.5 16 3 1875 215 58 76 .273 .355 .442 121
20 Larry Doby HOF 47.0 38.0 13 7 1515 253 47 36 .283 .386 .490 136
21 Kirby Puckett HOF 48.2 35.8 12 10 2304 207 134 76 .318 .360 .477 124
22 Johnny Damon 52.1 31.4 18 2 2769 235 408 103 .284 .352 .433 104
23 Max Carey HOF 51.1 32.2 20 0 2665 70 738 109 .285 .361 .386 108
24 Fred Lynn 46.7 36.5 17 9 1960 306 72 54 .283 .360 .484 129
25 Dale Murphy 42.6 39.0 18 7 2111 398 161 68 .265 .346 .469 121

Lofton rates slightly below average against the average Hall of Fame centerfielder.  Again, a player whose value is roughly that of an average Hall of Fame centerfielder received 18 votes out of 569.  This is a problem not only for the traditional values voters, but also the new breed who embrace using advanced metrics.  Two darlings of the metrics crowd are Larry Walker and Tim Raines (who has gotten massive support for his election).

Player WAR/pos From To G PA H 2B 3B HR SB CS BA OBP SLG
Larry Walker 69.7 1989 2005 1988 8030 2160 471 62 383 230 76 .313 .400 .565
Tim Raines 66.2 1979 2002 2502 10359 2605 430 113 170 808 146 .294 .385 .425
Kenny Lofton 64.9 1991 2007 2103 9235 2428 383 116 130 622 160 .299 .372 .423
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used

I do not see much of a difference between these players.  Lofton's performance is in line with Raines, so I do not truly see the difference there.  Lofton played in the same era as Walker, which makes it questionable that the shadow of steroids affected Lofton for playing in this era.  Simply put, the voters forgot about how valuable Lofton was and illustrated how they fail to understand, at times, what makes a player exceptional.

Thus ends my love song for Kenny Lofton.  Let us never speak of this again.  

2 comments:

Joe Reisel said...

Tim Raines played in an era in which many fewer runs were scored. His career OPS+ is 123, whereas Lofton's is 107. At the season level, Lofton had one season with an OPS+ greater than 140; Raines had three. And in general, Raines' typical year was as good as Lofton's best years. Lofton was an outstanding player; a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate; but Tim Raines is clearly a superior candidate.

Jon Shepherd said...

Lofton was the superior defensive player. I think many over value the bat of Raines in relation to the glove of Lofton.