By In Stuff

Ballot 14: Jeff Kent

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Jeff Kent

Played 17 years with six teams

Five-time All-Star and MVP winner hit 377 homers, most ever for a second baseman. 55.2 WAR, 26.3 WAA

Pro Argument: One of the best offensive second basemen ever.

Con argument: Wasn’t a great all-around player.

Deserves to be in Hall?: No idea.

Will get elected this year?: No.

Will ever get elected?: 5-10%

* * *

Let me admit this right up front: Jeff Kent has me stumped. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I think it’s the shape of Kent’s career that is at the heart of my bewilderment. It also could be that just about nobody liked Jeff Kent.

Kent was a so-so player until he approached 30. He was a mediocre second baseman who couldn’t run who popped a few home runs. His core numbers were .269/.324/.455 … he was 5.2 wins better than average … and that was over 2,700 plate appearances, so we’re talking an established player.

His comps entering age 29 were:

  1. Kelly Johnson
  2. Dave Nilsson
  3. Neil Walker
  4. Kelly Gruber
  5. Mike Lowell
  6. Bill Hall
  7. Gene Freese
  8. Todd Zeile
  9. Bret Boone
  10. Carlos Santana

OK, so that was Jeff Kent. Fine player. The most WAR any of them had for the rest of their careers – understanding that Neil Walker and Carlos Santana are still playing – was 19.1 by Bret Boone. And Boone’s ascendance, you might recall, was a shocker.

From that point on, Jeff Kent hit .295/.365/.516 with 299 home runs, he won an MVP award and he compiled 44.9 WAR which is about as much as the rest of the list COMBINED.

To add to the confusion, Kent had that extraordinary turn during one of the more complicated times in baseball history.

And so, yeah, it’s just hard to me to get a handle on Jeff Kent’s career.

I guess I should say here: Kent was famously outspoken about PEDs – he at one point called for blood testing. I don’t know exactly what that means but it doesn’t seem fair to talk about his wild 30s without mentioning it. And his 30s WERE wild, they are more or less unprecedented in baseball history. His 299 home runs from age 29 on is 25th on the all-time list. It came out of nowhere.

Now, there have been other players who emerged in their 30s – Raul Ibanez, Minnie Minoso, Andres Galarraga, Hank Sauer, etc. But you can usually pinpoint a REASON. Ibanez had not really been given a chance. Minoso was in the Negro Leagues for much of his younger days. Galarraga got Coors Field. Hank Sauer had the war and bad luck to deal with.

With Kent, it’s all very hard to understand.

Of course, it’s the writer’s JOB to try to and understand. We can start here: Jeff Kent was an intense ballplayer. I always thought it was telling that the only autograph he’d ever gotten as a kid was John Wayne’s — he never even thought about a getting a baseball player’s signature. “I never watched baseball on TV,” he told Sports Illustrated. “It’s slow and boring. I’m not a fan. Never was.”

He was, instead, a perfectionist … and an angry one. He would smash up everything in sight after a strikeout. He was so humiliated by errors that he couldn’t even see straight afterward. He played in New York for all or parts of five seasons, and the combination of the New York spotlight and his own self-destructive exactness were a terrible combination. “I didn’t hate New York,” his wife, Dana, said. “I just hated what it turned Jeff into. It got to a point where anger was consuming him. An unhealthy point.”

At the end of his run in New York, the Mets were so frustrated with his second base defense they moved him to third. He was traded to Cleveland and they tried him at first. Nobody seemed to think he could play second base every day. Nobody seemed to think he was worth very much. It was messy, and Kent was miserable … and then in November 1996, the Tribe traded Kent home, to California, to San Francisco near where he had gone to college at Cal.

And it was like starting over. The Giants made him their everyday second baseman. Dusty Baker immediately put him fifth in the lineup, right behind Barry Bonds. By late May, Bonds was moved up one place to third, and Kent was moved into the fourth spot. He was the Giants cleanup hitter. It was an extraordinary mark of confidence for a player who had not resembled a star up to that point in his life.

He had never hit more than 21 homers or driven in more than 80 RBIs.

That first year, he banged 29 home runs, drove in 121 and finished eighth in the MVP voting.

The next year, he hit 31 home runs, drove in 128 and finished ninth in the MVP voting. Those 128 RBIs were the most for a second baseman since Rogers Hornsby 70 years earlier.*

*It didn’t hurt to have Barry Bonds walk 130 times in front of him.

And two years later, his crescendo year of 2000, he hit .334 with 41 doubles, 7 triples, 33 homers, 114 runs, 125 RBIs. And he won the MVP award.

In 2002, he hit 37 home runs.

Kent’s explanation for his sudden rise was comfort and confidence – he said he’d always tried to do what a team asked of him. When the teams asked him to be a scrappy second baseman, he tried to be that — tried to cut down his strikeouts and put the ball in play and all that. It didn’t work all that well. But when the Giants (and later the Astros and Dodgers) cast him as a power-hitter, he loosened up, tried to drive the ball, his strikeout totals rose but he slugged .500 or better for eight straight seasons.

In the end, Kent ended up with the most homers for a second baseman – by a sizable margin. His 1,518 RBIs are second only to Hornsby as is his .500 slugging percentage. That suggests Hall of Fame.

By WAR though … well, everyone has different feelings about WAR, right? His 55.2 WAR is 17th all-time for second-basemen, and he’s smooshed between Joe Gordon and Billy Herman, both Hall of Famers but both elected by Veteran’s Committees decades after they finished playing. There are three second basemen – Lou Whitaker, Bobby Grich and Willie Randolph – who have more wins above replacement but are not in the Hall of Fame. None of them got much consideration from the writers (for that matter, neither did Gordon and Herman).

So what you have here is a mystifying borderline case. He’s unquestionably one of the best-hitting second basemen in baseball history.

Then again, he wasn’t an especially good second baseman – and if he was playing left field his offense would  not be good enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.

Then again, he was probably a better second baseman than his reputation – Defensive WAR suggests he was just about average and was actually above average until his last three seasons when he really shouldn’t have been playing second base.

Then again … oh, you could go round and round like this forever. If you’re a big Hall of Fame guy, Jeff Kent fits in. If you’re a small Hall of Fame guy, he is left out. And in my Hall of Fame … heck, I don’t know. He wasn’t one of the dozen best players on this ballot, and I’d put Whitaker and Grich in first, so I guess that’s my answer.

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74 Responses to Ballot 14: Jeff Kent

  1. Nickolai says:

    Different positions I know, but it’s a shame to me that Jim Edmonds received zero HoF consideration but Jeff Kent will probably get substantial support. I’m a Big Hall guy and would lvoe to see both in there, but they played at pretty much the exact same time and Edmonds was a better player in pretty much all ways.

  2. Keith K. says:

    If in fact Kent didn’t use PEDs, then he is a strong data point in favor of the argument that the increased power numbers of the Selig era was due at least in part to factors other than PEDs, especially in regard to players with historically anomalous power surges after age 30.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Kent is exactly one data point on whatever scatter chart you’re trying to build. When you find a data point way out of line with other non PED performances it’s called an outlier. It’s proof of nothing. It’s statistically insignificant.

    • invitro says:

      The increased power numbers were certainly in part due to Coors Field and other new ballparks, among other reasons. I don’t think anyone says that PEDs were the only cause, do they?

      • anonymous says:

        People say all kinds of things about PEDs.

        Certainly – to use one example – when you look at things like the PED-related argument that people were making for McGriff, it seems difficult to escape the conclusion that some people do attribute the change in offensive environment exclusively to PEDs.

      • KHAZAD says:

        As well as two expansions in five years and a postage stamp strike zone.

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          Watering down the competition has had aa huge affect on the game. Can you imagine Ruth and Gehrig playing a full 162 games, with diluted pitching, and a lower pitching mound?

          • Doug says:

            Well, I mean… the point of a lot of advanced stats, but especially stuff like OPS+ and neutralized batting, is to attempt to find ways to estimate what that would look like so you don’t have to imagine it – to quantify things like park effects and the offensive environment and the level of performance relative to the competition. Obviously those statistics have varying degrees of success but this is something that we can put numbers on. We can try to do better than imagining it. And I think, by most ways of looking at the numbers, the best hitters of the 1990s and 2000s were extremely good hitters by any standard, in the same way that the best pitchers of the 60s and 70s actually were extremely good pitchers.

          • Donald A. Coffin says:

            With a potential population of players at least 5 times as large as in the 1920s and 1930s, with better training, nutrition, and medical care, with better-maintained ballparks, with probably better coaching, but only twice as many teams, how do we get to “diluted pitching”? With no uniformity of the height of the mound before 1969, how do we know that the mound was uniformly higher? Without ballparks like Baker Bowl and Ebbetts Field…

            I do not understand the persistence of the notion that competition has been “watered down.”

    • McKingford says:

      It seems so crazy to me that people jump for to PEDs as the explanation for anything anomalous. The most obvious thing that comes to mind about 1998 is that it was an expansion year – and not only that, the second expansion in 5 years. I mean, Roger Maris broke Ruth’s record in 1961 despite never having hit 40 HRs before and subsequently only reached 30 HRs one more time the rest of his career. But people don’t assume steroids for Maris, they point to the fact that it was an expansion year!

      Well, does it really seem so crazy that a guy who hit 49 HRs in his first full season might one day go on to break Maris’ record, especially in an expansion year?

  3. shagster says:

    Guy was a ‘red ass’ player. Pete Rose mold. Impression in Bay Area is he made Bonds a better player back part of Bond’s career simply by pushing ‘Team’ on him. Sometimes visibly. He didn’t believe in taking a day off, so neither should Bonds. To Bond’s chagrin, Kent could back it up. Which put him back in Bond’s grill.

    And here’s a favorite term … ‘clutch’.

    If definition of Hall is big, he should go in it.

  4. Doug says:

    Kent certainly is a difficult case. For me, I think, he falls just under the line, even though I tend to prefer a big hall. He certainly wouldn’t be the worst 2B but he was just a little too one-dimensional, and had a little too short of a peak, and played at a time when the offensive numbers were a little too inflated, for me to really get behind his candidacy. But, man, could he hit. I mean, he was fantastic. A ferocious hitter. Such a good complement to Bonds in those Giants lineups, no matter how much they hated each other off the field. The guy played angry and it worked for him so well.

  5. Wes Tovich says:

    He is a Hof just looking at the numbers etc. Was he a Roider? big peak in the 30s suddenly that didn’t age? Who knows? I wouldn’t be sad if he was put in.

  6. Vegas says:

    I think the MVP year plays large into people’s case for Kent, at least for those valuing peaks and awards. But it is hard to see why Kent won the MVP in 2000. Todd Helton had the slash line triple crown that year, leading the NL in BA, OBP, and Slugging as well as leading the NL in hits, doubles, total bases, and RBIs (which MVP voters typically love). Kent’s highest ranking was 4th in RBIs, 5th in hits, and 6th in BA and OBP. Helton also had more home runs then Kent (42 to 33) and more walks. Kent did have 7 more stolen bases. Even on defense, Helton created more value then Kent (dWAR and Rfield).

    Maybe Helton got discounted because the Giants had best record in NL and Colorado was around .500. Maybe he got discounted for Coors Field effect, but on advanced metrics (which writers had limited access to at the time), Helton had higher bWAR and OPS+ which should take into account the park effects. Of course Andruw Jones, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds all could have claim for MVP that year as well.

    I am a big Hall guy, but Kent falls right on my boderline. Kent was a terrific player and a great hitter, but I agree with Joe – Whitaker and Grich in before Kent. Plus, in about 5 years, his title of “most HRs by 2B” (another big part of HOF narrative) will be taken by Robinson Cano.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      Helton got the screw in 2000. He should’ve won the MVP.

      • KHAZAD says:

        He was only the second person ever to get 100 singles, 100 extra base hits and 100 walks in one season that year. (Gehrig did it twice)Along with the answer to my trivia question on the Walker story, one of the two most underrated players of the last 25 years.

    • Sadge says:

      A couple of things to add about Kent’s 2000 season and MVP. First, they moved to AT&T Park (Pac Bell at the time) that year so home ballpark factors would change over the previous years at Candlestick (I haven’t looked them up, though). Second, they were a division winner with 97 wins, 15 games ahead of Helton’s Rockies. Voters for MVP were likely influenced by that.

  7. invitro says:

    I give Jeff bonus points for going on Survivor and not totally sucking. From wikipedia: ‘When he was voted off, Kent claimed that the million dollar prize was “six hundred grand by the time Obama takes it”.’

    Also from wikipedia: “Since 2011, Kent has served as a spring training instructor for the San Francisco Giants. He also coaches his sons’ Little League teams, and in 2014 he became a volunteer assistant for Southwestern University’s baseball team. In 2011, Kent donated $100,000 and raised awareness to help reinstate the Cal baseball program, which was being cut for cost-saving purposes.” — Not too shabby for a guy that doesn’t like baseball?

  8. Jackson Greer says:

    Kent always reminds me of how strangely the 2002 Giants were constructed. They had basically no players developed from their farm system getting significant playing time. Their starting lineup at the end of the season was:

    CF Kenny Lofton – Trade from the White Sox at the deadline in 2002
    SS Rich Aurilia – Trade from the Rangers in 1995
    2B Jeff Kent – Trade from Indians in 1997
    LF Barry Bonds – Free Agent from Pirates in 1993
    C Benito Santiago – Free Agent from Reds in 2001
    RF Reggie Sanders – Free Agent from DBacks in 2002
    1B JT Snow – Trade from Angels in 1997
    3B David Bell – Trade from Mariners in 2002

    No drafted or IFA signings, and the only one who wasn’t an established player when the Giants acquired them was Aurilia, who was in AAA.

    The rotation wasn’t much more home grown either. Jason Schmidt, Kirk Reuter, and Livan Hernandez were all acquired by trade. Russ Ortiz and Ryan Jensen were drafted by the Giants, but Jensen didn’t pitch an inning in the playoffs.

    The Giants’ top 4 relievers were all established players when acquired (Robb Nen, Scott Eyre, Felix Rodriguez, and Tim Worrell. Primary bench players? Shawon Dunston and Tsuyoshi Shinjo.

    I can’t think of any other quality team so void of any players that were developed by the organization.

  9. Darrel says:

    Man I wish I could get a handle on Joe’s steroid policy. At first blush it appears he doesn’t care if you played with the needle still stuck in your arm cause as long as the numbers were there he’s voting for you. Then we get a paragraph about Jeff Kent where he intimates that the late career power surge might be due to the “complicated times” he played in and in doing so casts a sideways glance at Kent’s numbers. As if somehow they can’t be trusted and we should be skeptical of them.

    None of this is to say that I think Kent is a HoF’r. I’m a small hall guy and he doesn’t measure up for me. Being the all time HR leader at 2B is a pretty compelling argument though. If you’re on the HoF is a museum side then how do you tell the story of baseball without the leading HR hitter at a given position. Kent certainly puts those story of baseball folks to the test.

    • Karyn says:

      I don’t think Joe was at all trying to say Jeff Kent was (or might have been) using PEDs. There’s very little evidence to suggest that he was. The ONLY evidence is a surge in hitting for the second half of his career–which Joe explains in this article. Kent was trying to play the roles other teams asked of him–put the ball in play, give yourself up to advance the runner, etc–that are often asked of 2Bs, often seen as all glove, no bat types.
      Joe had written elsewhere that other factors besides PEDs affected the rise of hitting, including a smaller strike zone, smaller parks, etc.

    • moviegoer74 says:

      “At first blush it appears he doesn’t care if you played with the needle still stuck in your arm cause as long as the numbers were there he’s voting for you.”

      I don’t think this is remotely close to the position Joe has staked out on PEDs over the years.

      • Darrel says:

        Yes it is. I’ve never heard a single doubting word from Joe about whether Bonds and Clemens used PEDs. This point has been conceded. These 2 guys are always at the top of his ballot anyway. You may not like the point stated as I have but that does not make it untrue.

        • invitro says:

          Right. Joe has stated over and over that PEDs are no factor at all in his HoF voting. I will say, though, that I think I remember when Bonds & Clemens were on their first or second ballots, many years ago, that Joe ranked them about #5, counting a hair off for the PEDs. Any other long-time readers here remember anything like that? 🙂

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          I disagree with Joe’s stance on PEDs, but at least he’s consistent and genuine about it. He’s not condescending about it, he’s not self-righteous, and he’s not secretive about his stance. Joe is down-to-Earth and sincere in his beliefs about PEDs. I wish more BBWAA writers were as humble as Joe. I get tired of being talked down to by other writers who think fans are too stupid to understand a HOF ballot and the impact of PEDs.

  10. Marshall Vance says:

    I think it would be very interesting and very helpful for someone to illustrate what HoF standards would look like based on certain criteria. For example, I *think* I’m a “small hall” type, but I would be satisfied with, say, the top 1% of players being elected. That means there should be roughly 7-8 players elected each year (25-man rosters times 30 teams is 750, 1% is 7.5).

    I also think I’m a “peak” rather than “longevity” type. I prefer to evaluate players based on WAA for their 10 best seasons only.

    I’m not sure how to go about ranking players based on peak WAA, though. How does Kent compare to the rest of the players on this ballot?

    • Karyn says:

      I think your math doesn’t work, as Hall of Fame players have long careers and will thus be on many years’ rosters. Am I misreading you?

      • Alter Kacker says:

        Right. Induct 7-8 per year? The writers have a hard time electing 1 or 2. My own preference would be something like the NFL hall — a minimum of three “recent past” players picked by the writers, plus at least one old-timer, plus at least one “contributor” (manager / GM / owner / ump / writer / broadcaster / etc.) The old-timers and contributors should be elected by me. The first contributors elected would be Vin Scully, Marvin Miller, Bill James and Buck O’Neil. (I would insist that 2/3 of new honorees should be living, recent past players, so it would take a few years to get all 4 of them in.) Now that I’ve perfected the Hall of Fame, let me at the Electoral College. . . .

      • Alter Kacker says:

        And by the way, I think Jeff Kent is a Hall of Famer.

      • Marshall says:

        Well, I’m not sure what the right math would be. Supposing we agreed that the top 1% of players should be elected, how many would that elect per year? I don’t think 1% of anyone who ever played MLB is correct, but nor do I think the top 1% of players to get at least 8000 PA either. Basing it on roster slots in MLB seems to make sense to me.

        • Karyn says:

          If you set the Career Batters page on Fangraphs to 0 minimum plate appearances, you get 17,662 items. If you set it to 100 PA, you get 8,984 items. There’s what, 168 players in the Hall of Fame as hitters? If that’s right (and I don’t guarantee it is), I think you’re closer to wanting 1% of every guy who swung a bat than you think.

          • invitro says:

            That sounds about right to me, except the 17,662 sounds like it includes pitchers. I’d guess that the current HoF rate is about 2% of all players, no minimums. The HoF is really not very exclusive when you start limiting to fellows who were a regular for at least two years, or something like that. I’d guess about 25% of guys who played the minimum 10 seasons get in. (C’mon… someone do the correct math for these things… :))

          • invitro says:

            Alrighty… I checked my player database, over the years 1876 to 2000. I count 14600 players. Of these, 2483 played at least 10 seasons. And there are 217 MLB players in the HoF. That’s 1.5% of all players, and 9% of all players with at least 10 seasons.

            As an example, here are the 38 players who debuted in 1982 and played at least 10 seasons. They include 2 HoFers: Boggs and Gwynn, unless I missed someone. Sorry for the bb-ref pids, that’s how my data comes :(.
            +———–+———–+—–+
            | min(year) | pid | yrs |
            +———–+———–+—–+
            | 1982 | barrema02 | 10 |
            | 1982 | basske01 | 14 |
            | 1982 | bellira01 | 17 |
            | 1982 |*boggswa01 | 18 |
            | 1982 | boydoi01 | 10 |
            | 1982 | brockgr01 | 10 |
            | 1982 | bushra01 | 12 |
            | 1982 | castica01 | 10 |
            | 1982 | davisst02 | 13 |
            | 1982 | dayleke01 | 11 |
            | 1982 | doranbi02 | 12 |
            | 1982 | eichhma01 | 11 |
            | 1982 | eisenji01 | 15 |
            | 1982 | francju01 | 16 |
            | 1982 | garresc01 | 10 |
            | 1982 | gottji01 | 14 |
            | 1982 |*gwynnto01 | 19 |
            | 1982 | hawkian01 | 10 |
            | 1982 | heatone01 | 12 |
            | 1982 | henketo01 | 14 |
            | 1982 | johnsho01 | 14 |
            | 1982 | jonesdo01 | 16 |
            | 1982 | kittlro01 | 10 |
            | 1982 | mattido01 | 14 |
            | 1982 | mcgeewi01 | 18 |
            | 1982 | mooremi01 | 14 |
            | 1982 | mosesjo01 | 11 |
            | 1982 | nunezed01 | 13 |
            | 1982 | o’bripe03 | 12 |
            | 1982 | ortizju01 | 13 |
            | 1982 | petrage01 | 12 |
            | 1982 | pettiga01 | 11 |
            | 1982 | phillto02 | 18 |
            | 1982 | redusga01 | 13 |
            | 1982 | slaugdo01 | 16 |
            | 1982 | terrewa01 | 11 |
            | 1982 | violafr01 | 15 |
            | 1982 | wilsogl01 | 10 |
            +———–+———–+—–+
            38 rows in set (1.35 sec)

          • invitro says:

            And there are 744 players who played at least 15 seasons from 1876 to 2000, and 29% of these are in the HoF. (So maybe that’s what I was thinking of… :))

          • Marshall says:

            Thanks for taking a look at that. Like I said, I’m not exactly sure myself. I guess my broader point is that it would be nice to have a tool where you can set your own parameters (e.g., how exclusive, peak vs. longevity, WAR vs. WAA vs. traditional counting stats, etc.) and see whether someone makes the cut.

            As Joe has pointed out numerous times, so much of HoF “worthiness” comes down to the subjective criteria of the individual voter (or fan). It would be fun to be able to build your own HoF by setting the parameters at the levels you prefer, and seeing who is in/out.

    • invitro says:

      I know you asked for best 10 seasons of WAA, but if you’d like, Kent is #13 in WAA, a hair more than Sheffield. (The top five of Joe’s ballot are in order by WAA; #6 Edgar is #7 in WAA, and #7 Walker has 10 more WAA than Edgar.)

    • steve says:

      I’m Small Hall and 1 or 2 players a year is maybe 1 too many.

    • shagster says:

      That assumes there are HOF players every year. Sort of like, X number are born every year, Y number passed, so mathematically speaking there’s a function for Z. HoF. The thing is, to me, HoF is more akin to genetics. Nothing, nothing, nothing, then BANG. Variance. There is no ‘number’ for every year. The irony is that as the X get bigger, the standard for HoF gets higher. There are more comps. Water everyone down. Including those already in. Which, in ?theory? means the HoF entrants should get SMALLER over time … as each new entrant has to distinguish themselves with LARGER comps. Thing is, the HoF is alive. It belongs to that current generation. So straight numbers fail. The ‘story’ — the non quant bit — becomes important. Do steroids matter? Does pain in a** matter? Does clutchiness with man on 2nd, 9th inning,WS matter? I think they do. Put Jeff Kent in. Make sure Schilling gets in ahead of Jeff. Keep PEDS out — they hide the story. Don’t get me wrong. They too are a story. But as pointed out in earlier comment, keeping them out IS the story. Many fewer of us would know about the White Sox if Shoeless Joe were in. Same for Rose. Not only do we know they’re out. We know WHY they’re out. As a dad, if PEDS can be anything, let those players and that lesson be that gift. Thank you Barry, Roger, etc. No PEDS.

  11. Bryan says:

    Neutralized his position by the quality of his defense +117 fielding runs vs -109 positional adjustment or -42 fielding runs vs +44 positional adjustment, average base runner -2 or -16 run/dp, very good hitter 285 or 297 batting runs, somewhere around the 10th best player at his position of the expansion era and had an excellent mustache.

    Keith Hernandez is the first of each numbers, Jeff Kent is the second. 377 HR is a lot of HR for a second baseman and 162 HR is a low number for a first baseman with an excellent career and some people consider them very different quality candidates just for that reason.

    • Mike says:

      The mustache negates the defense/base running deficiencies.

      • invitro says:

        I was wondering how many comments would get in before the first mustache comment. (I had the over/under at 10… it was about 25, so I lost big-time, and will have to shave my neck beard. 🙁 )

    • Brian Schwartz says:

      I think those Keith Hernandez numbers really show that the positional adjustment to WAR is too large for first basemen. Hernandez has a case as the best fielding first baseman in history, and his defense is not even worth 1 win over his entire career. Guys like Mark Grace and John Olerud wind up with negative defensive value.

  12. invitro says:

    Here is a fun list of some of the more entertaining episodes in Kent’s career: “Remembering Jeff Kent’s great but very angry career”, http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Remembering-Jeff-Kent-s-great-but-very-angry-car?urn=mlb,136081 . It’s from 2009, by David Brown, who some people might know as a writer of some pretty funny articles on Yahoo.

  13. Crazy Diamond says:

    Most HRs by a 2B? MVP? Solid counting numbers all around for a 2B? Seems like he belongs. Admittedly I’m a Big Hall guy and I also care more about counting stats than about peak, which is why I think guys like Kent and others belong. Everybody hates the guy, it seems, and that almost certainly hurts his chances. HOF voting can be a real popularity contest, unfortunately, and it looks like Kent is on the wrong side of that.
    I will say, though, that it’s stunning to me that Lou Whitaker (who was clearly superior to Kent) and Bobby Grich (who was probably superior to Kent) both were ignored while Kent is still being considered. That’s complete nonsense.

    • invitro says:

      It shouldn’t be stunning. Just look at their HR’s and MVP finishes. (FWIW, Whitaker finished 8th once in MVP, and *that’s it*. Nary a vote in any year other than 1983. This places Lou #756 in career MVP shares.)

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        For a 2B, I’m looking much more at career value. Sweet Lou had great counting stats for a 2B, though his peak was obviously not comparable to Kent’s peak. In the end, though, Lou had terrific career numbers that stack up very well against his contemporaries.

  14. “One of the best offensive second basemen ever.”

    Joe, are you sure you also didn’t mean, “One of the most offensive second basemen ever”?

  15. J Hench says:

    Kent was acquired by the Mets in the David Cone trade (along with Ryan Thompson) and there always seemed to be a little bit of extra pressure on him as a result of that. Combined with his own intensity, you could understand him being a little frustrated (and fans being frustrated with him).

    His performance in New York looks worse in retrospect than it actually was. Other than his 37-game stint with the Mets post-Cone trade in his rookie season, Kent had seasons hitting .270/.320/.446, .292/.345/.471, .278/.327.464, and .290/.331/.436. OPS+ of 101, 110, 111, and 105 – not HOF, but pretty good for a 2B. And don’t forget that two of those years were shortened by the strike, so his counting numbers (like WAR and HR) are reduced as a result. He had 14 HR in 107 games in ’94, 20 in 125 games in ’95. He was a good hitter. His fielding reduced his value, but his offense was always pretty good, mostly due to good power. I don’t think his performance in SF came totally out of nowhere, though it was certainly a lot better than he had been to date. I think of Daniel Murphy as a decent comp; yeah, no one expected him to hit .345, but he always had an above average hit tool.

    I still think he doesn’t quite measure up as a Hall of Famer, but mostly because there were a lot of guys at the time who had huge hitting numbers and the fact that Kent happened to be standing at second when he had them instead of at 3B or in LF doesn’t make him stand out enough from that crowd.

  16. Rick Rodstrom says:

    One of the reasons that Jeff Kent had trouble in NY is that the Mets traded David Cone for him. Cone was the Mets best pitcher, an All-Star and a fan favorite, and he would go on to win a Cy Young Award and throw a perfect game for other teams. Meanwhile, Jeff Kent with the Mets was just an average player. There is nothing a fan hates more than for their team to trade a star for a prospect and then have that prospect turn out to be a bust; it makes the team look stupid and cheap. For Mets fans, it was like trading Tom Seaver for Steve Henderson all over again, and Kent took the brunt of the abuse. Being a bit of a jerk anyway, Kent did not take it well. Nobody shed any tears when Kent was traded away to Cleveland. It was a shock when Kent finally did become a star all those years later, but it did make trading Cone away seem less horrendous in retrospect.

  17. Mike says:

    As much as we talk about on base percentage and WAR and advanced statistics that try to measure the complete player, a large chunk of the voters look at how many home runs and hits a batter got over his career and not much else. The common theme here is how many guys up the middle get very few votes. How does Jim Edmonds fall off the ballot? I’m not saying he’s an inner circle hall of famer but he was a darn good player for a long time. same with Whitaker, Trammel, etc.

    • Anthony Calamis says:

      I’d actually argue it’s very split right now, which is exactly the problem. It’s caused nobody to get in quickly ’10-’13 and caused a huge backlog.

  18. invitro says:

    Trivia time. Having a season with 200 hits, 40 doubles, and 30 stolen bases is not a real big deal. Having two of these seasons is a bigger deal: it’s been done by Cobb, Shoeless, Speaker, Sisler, and Cuyler. A pretty good club of old-timer Hall of Famers! Well, only one man has had THREE of these seasons, and he did it three years in a row. I’m posting it here because he’s a second baseman, and not in the Hall of Fame. Name him!

    • KHAZAD says:

      I am a fan of the little guy. He will be in the Hall someday.

      Back at you – It is very difficult to get 200 hits AND 100 walks. Five men have done it more than once. Four of them are Hall of Famers, (Ruth, Gehrig, Musial and Boggs) while the fifth one unfairly fell off the ballot in his first year. Who is he?

      • invitro says:

        That is an excellent question and hint too, BUT… I haven’t given up and done a database search, but while hunting player-by-player I found a guy who did it twice, but he’s not eligible for the HoF ballot quite yet. I’ll keep thinking.

        • KHAZAD says:

          Sorry, that is the guy. It was late and I had brain cramp that confused him with another player about the HOF stuff.

          I do think he and my other underrated player (from the other article) will not even be discussed seriously when their time comes and will get the Kevin Brown treatment.

      • Anthony Calamis says:

        Olerud missed this by 3 H/4 BB in 1998.

    • sbmcmanus says:

      The “not in the HOF” “clue” is misleading. I assumed this would be some moderately obscure 1930s player or something, but it’s actually a current active player so of course he’s not in the HOF.

      • invitro says:

        Aha! It was meant to be misleading, I wanted it to be a shock that he wasn’t with the old dudes, but actually playing RIGHT NOW, not only eligible to extend his set of three seasons, but to make it four in a row in 2017! Can you tell I’m excited for Astros baseball…? 🙂

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      Just a guess, but Jose Altuve?

  19. MikeN says:

    Joe, if you had this blog then, would you and other sabermetric folks have lambasted the trade for Kent and the decision to play him so much in cleanup spot as an everyday player?

    • Doug says:

      There have definitely been Giants fans – especially, but not exclusively, the sabermetrically inclined ones – who’ve spent plenty of time ripping our hair out over some of Sabean’s moves. You can’t deny that he’s a great GM at this point, and most likely a Hall of Famer himself, but there have been plenty of times when it was really difficult to see what the heck he was trying to do. Generally, over the long term, it worked out. But, man, it did not always seem like it was going to.

  20. Crazy Diamond says:

    Best mustaches in baseball since 1900: okay go!

  21. Dave B says:

    While I don’t agree with Tom Verducci’s stance on PED users, I had independently arrived at the same conclusion about Fred McGriff. His career numbers look to me like someone who had a normal aging curve but got passed up by the PED users, so that his adjusted numbers look much worse.

    • Doug says:

      Well. I’m not sure that I agree with that. What we know is that, statistically, McGriff’s offensive numbers from 1995 on were not generally impressive compared to the offensive environment he was playing in (especially when you take account of his deficiencies as a defender). So the question that you have to ask is: how much of that inflated run environment was the result of steroid use, and how much was the result of other factors? And it’s hard for me to reach the conclusion (as see some of the threads above) that PED usage was the sole significant, or even necessarily the primary, reason for the offensive explosion. So I’m a little skeptical of the idea that McGriff’s career arc is best explained by not using steroids.

  22. To answer Marshall’s request from above, this tool does allow to set a threshold and a peak vs career tradeoff. It doesn’t do arbitrary traditional stats but can account for those by allowing Bill James’ HOF monitor and HOF standards to be one of the metrics.
    http://tangotiger.net/hofselector/

  23. John Autin says:

    Kent is one of the hardest HOF cases to analyze. He has no single “hook” beyond the raw hitting numbers like HRs, RBI and SLG, which have to be viewed in context. For instance, he slugged .500, but the combined MLB slugging for his career was .420, nearly the highest 17-year figure ever. So if you measure SLG relative to their era, six HOF second basemen rate above Kent: Hornsby, Lajoie, Gordon, Robinson (!), Gehringer, Doerr.
    — If Kent became the 19th modern HOF second baseman, he’d rank well under the median in bWAR (12th), WAA (14th), and bWAR per 162 games (15th).
    — His strength was hitting, but he’d rank 7th in OPS+ among HOF 2Bs, due to context adjustments and his modest walk rate.
    — He doesn’t fit neatly into the “peak or longevity?” dichotomy. His 6-year peak was his SF years, averaging 5.2 bWAR. He had two 7-WAR years, which is tied for 11th-most — but his best year (7.2 WAR) is outside the top 50 by 2Bs. Never led his league in bWAR, and placed top-10 just twice. His three 5-WAR years is tied with Robby Thompson, Julio Franco, Lonnie Frey and Tony Cuccinello. And his five 4-WAR years is only half what Whitaker and Randolph put up.
    So I can’t make a decision without doing more work than a meaningless opinion is worth. I end up with this: My own HOF would have Whitaker, Grich and Randolph in place of Mazeroski, Schoendienst and Fox. And in *that* group of 18, I don’t see a single one who was clearly worse than Jeff Kent. All 18 would top Kent in at least one of bWAR, WAA, and bWAR/162G.

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