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Monday, March 05, 2012

Kenny Lofton

Eligible in 2013.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 05, 2012 at 03:43 PM | 83 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 05, 2012 at 04:08 PM (#4074420)
HOVG player, IMO. Nothing to be ashamed about, either.
   2. DL from MN Posted: March 05, 2012 at 04:30 PM (#4074450)
He's just on the other side of the borderline for me, but really close. Unlikely to make my ballot anytime soon.
   3. Stop Oppressing Zonk by Investigating His Heroes Posted: March 05, 2012 at 04:58 PM (#4074490)
Not a voter, but I'm always surprised just how close Lofton is to Brock -- until you add in defensive numbers. Normalized for era, I think most would agree that Brock was a better offensive player (depending on how you break down Brock's ~75% success rate vs Lofton's 80% rate in SBs). Lofton obviously has the big edge on defense - especially if you can just overlook the last 1/3 of so of Lofton's career.

I know the HoM hasn't elected Brock, either -- but if I were a voter and I tried to make the case for Lofton, I'd think you'd want some justification on why Lofton but not Brock. You have to be a really, really big believer in dWAR to make that case, I think, because offensively -- I'm not so sure Brock doesn't have a clearly better case.

I'll be very interested to see the ballots for this years voters and in particular, see the relative rankings of the two of them... I have a suspicion that there might be a bit of confirmation bias at play -- i.e., that Brock wasn't as good as his HoF career and thus gets dinged, while Lofton is generally viewed as somewhat underappreciated and gets a boost. Of the top of my head - I think you'd almost have to have them back-to-back -- and the only means of separation is how you view defensive analysis and whether/to what extent you give Brock a boost as a compiler.
   4. Davo Posted: March 05, 2012 at 05:41 PM (#4074541)
I'm not a voter--so ignore away!--and I realize that my position is not really *rational* in any specific way....

...but I treat "leadoff hitter" as its own position, like "shortstop" or "closer."

And for essentially his entire career--hell, over the past 20 years--Kenny Lofton was the best leadoff hitter in baseball.

And it's not like it's a fluke, the way Jack Morris was the best starting pitcher of the 80s or Bill Freehan was the best catcher from 1963 to 1974. I'm sure if we could find some fair way to divide the numbers, Kenny Lofton would rank as one of the top 20 leadoff hitters in the game's history.

I realize one can easily make this absurd. "Kenny Lofton belongs in the Hall of Fame because he was the best 'leadoff hitter' of the past 20 years? Well, Brad Ausmus was the best good-glove, no-bat catcher of the past 20 years. Does he belong too?" And I acknowledge that my case doesn't come with a great deal (or any, really) statistcal support.

But I think it's important to value players who got the absolute most out of their specific skillset. I support Kenny Lofton for the same reason I support Ozzie Smith--Ozzie gave his teams as much value as was physically possible for a shortstop who could only rarely hit the ball out of the infield. And Kenny Lofton did the same--he was as valuable as an outfielder with single-digit home run power could possibly be during the Sillyball era.
   5. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 06:25 PM (#4074586)

Not a voter either. In response to zonk in #3, Lofton was a slightly better offensive player largely because of a higher OBP (even after adjusting for offensive environment), although this is outweighed by Brock's advantage in playing time. Looking at bb-ref, Lofton has about 520 runs from the offensive side of the game (including baserunning and taking into account playing time), compared with 538 for Brock. This is despite a 2000 plate appearance advantage for Brock.

However, Lofton benefits both from playing a more difficult position and from doing it better than Brock. Just the positional difference alone is worth 153 runs in Lofton's favor, and I don't think that's very controversial. Lofton was CF and Brock was a LF.

Lofton also gets another 163 runs as compared to Brock from being a great CFer whereas Brock was a poor LFer. This is where there's more room for debate.

Either way, though, I think it's easy to make the argument that Lofton was better than Brock. It's just not clear he's better enough to merit being the Hall.
   6. The District Attorney Posted: March 05, 2012 at 06:41 PM (#4074591)
#4: The simplest counter-argument there is that if the Indians had hit Jim Thome leadoff, it probably would have made very little difference to the team runs scored, whereas if you didn't have a catcher, you'd have a lot of passed balls (to coin a phrase.) The difference between batting order positions and fielding positions is that you don't "have to have" a leadoff hitter, at least in the sense of someone whose strengths (and weaknesses!) are peculiarly suited to that role.

Speaking of which, it probably goes without saying that when you say Lofton "was as valuable as an outfielder with single-digit home run power could possibly be during the Sillyball era", you are trying to spin a guy's weakness as a strength in a way that is basically impossible to buy.

Those are the best and most direct arguments against your position, but I also think that if one humored your argument a little further and made up the list of top 20 all-time leadoff hitters, it would not be a cavalcade of all-time greats. Sure, you'd have Rickey and Raines... some borderline HOFers like Ashburn and Hack... and then a bunch of guys like Brett Butler, George Burns and Roy Thomas who, despite being very good, it's hard to imagine in the HOF/HOM. Admittedly, Lofton might well be significantly better than top 20. Still, I'd at least make up that list before you cite it. ;)
   7. tjm1 Posted: March 05, 2012 at 07:04 PM (#4074606)
Can we give him bonus points for being one of probably the five best college basketball players to play major league baseball?

Seriously, while I'm not a voter, I can't see how you can vote against Lofton. He doesn't compare with Brock at all - he blows Brock away. He has a better career WAR than Dwight Evans and a better peak.

Who is his competition for "best centerfielder in the 1990s?" I suppose Edmonds was a contemporary and was better. Who else? The start of Andruw Jones' peak just lines up with the end of Lofton's. Bernie Williams was maybe a bit better hitter, but not nearly as good an outfielder. Steve Finley was similar to Williams, but not quite as good.

The way I see it, if Lofton hadn't had his peak starting at the very beginning of his career, and hadn't bounced around as much, he'd be seen as a shoe-in. The guy was a great, underappreciated player.
   8. Davo Posted: March 05, 2012 at 07:19 PM (#4074619)
#6: Haha, OK....So, while I acknowledge that this isn't perfect, I decided to come up with a list of the Top 20 leadoff hitters in baseball history. I used BB-Ref's PI tool, and set the following parameters:

OBP > .350 (LOFTON = .372)
HR < 300 (LOFTON = 130)
RUNS > 1000 (LOFTON = 1528)
SB > 400 (LOFTON = 622)
PAs> 5,000 (LOFTON = 9235)

Obviously, these totals are all cherry-picked, but I don't feel I've done anything egregious to single out Lofton (I mean, I'm pretty sure he fits in the middle of most of my arbitrary categories).

(I started this at 1901, because my first time through left me with a few sluggers from the 19th century--guys like Ed Delahanty, whom I know weren't used as leadoff hitters.)

I then ranked that list by WAR, and got:

1. Ty Cobb (159 WAR)
2. Tris Speaker (133)
3. Eddie Collins (127)
4. Honus Wagner (117)
5. Rickey Henderson (113)
6. Joe Morgan (104)
7. Frankie Frisch (75)
8. Paul Molitor (75)
9. Craig Biggio (66)
10. Kenny Lofton (65)
11. Tim Raines (65)
12. Roberto Alomar (64)
13. Sherry Magee (59)
14. Ichiro Suzuki (55)
15. Johnny Damon (52)
16. Max Carey (51)
17. Brett Butler (47)
18. Chuck Knoblauch (42)
19. Donie Bush (37)
20. Clyde Milan (34)

It's a pretty reasonable list of the best leadoff hitters in the history of the game, Eric Wedge be dammned. (I have to confess I'm not sure how often some of these guys were used as leadoff hitters--I have to imagine Tris Speaker fit the profile of a #3-type of hitter during his era. And I know Molitor spent most of his career as an OLD player, so his time is split between the leadoff spot and others.) But for the most, I'd say it pretty much conforms to popular opinion.

OTTOMH, the list is missing a few candidates (guys whose OBPs were too low because they played in pitcher eras, or whose steals were too low because they played in the 40s and 50s). So I suppose we can add guys like:

Ozzie Smith (64)
Richie Ashburn (58)
Stan Hack (55)
Luis Aparicio (50)
Bert Campaneris (45)
Lou Brock (39)
Willie Wilson (39)
Maury Wills (33)

to it, but I think the point's there. I think the numbers support calling Kenny Lofton one of the top 20 leadoff TYPE hitters of all-time.
   9. PreservedFish Posted: March 05, 2012 at 07:26 PM (#4074624)
I realize one can easily make this absurd. "Kenny Lofton belongs in the Hall of Fame because he was the best 'leadoff hitter' of the past 20 years? Well, Brad Ausmus was the best good-glove, no-bat catcher of the past 20 years. Does he belong too?" And I acknowledge that my case doesn't come with a great deal (or any, really) statistcal support.

But there are so many other issues with this. For starters: is it even true? Craig Biggio was Lofton's superior in the 90s, and Ichiro was his superior in the 00s.

I think the claim is flat out false, and the only way to get it to be true is to engage in exactly the type of boundary-defining trickery that posits Jack Morris as the best pitcher of his era.
   10. Qufini Posted: March 05, 2012 at 07:45 PM (#4074642)
Who is his competition for "best centerfielder in the 1990s?"

I'm pretty sure Griffey takes that crown.
   11. DanG Posted: March 05, 2012 at 07:51 PM (#4074648)
Who is his competition for "best centerfielder in the 1990s?"
Debuted since 1977, 35% career games in CF

Rk            Player WAR/pos OPSRfield    PA From   To   Age    G
1        Ken Griffey    78.6  135    
-16 11304 1989 2010 19-40 2671
2        Jim Edmonds    67.9  131     85  7980 1993 2010 23
-40 2011
3       Kenny Lofton    65.3  107    108  9235 1991 2007 24
-40 2103
4     Carlos Beltran    60.8  121     71  7730 1998 2011 21
-34 1768
5       Andruw Jones    60.4  111    243  8395 1996 2011 19
-34 2102
6       Johnny Damon    51.6  105      5 10693 1995 2011 21
-37 2426
7        Ellis Burks    47.9  126    
-31  8177 1987 2004 22-39 2000
8    Bernie Williams    47.3  125   
-118  9053 1991 2006 22-37 2076
9       Mike Cameron    46.7  105     97  7884 1995 2011 22
-38 1955
10      Brett Butler    46.5  110    
-83  9545 1981 1997 24-40 2213
11     Kirby Puckett    44.8  124    
-13  7831 1984 1995 24-35 1783
12    Andy Van Slyke    41.6  119     24  6495 1983 1995 22
-34 1658
13     Lenny Dykstra    41.5  120     45  5282 1985 1996 22
-33 1278
14       Devon White    41.3   98    135  8080 1985 2001 22
-38 1941
15      Steve Finley    40.5  104    
-12 10460 1989 2007 24-42 2583 
   12. DL from MN Posted: March 05, 2012 at 08:22 PM (#4074674)
Yeah, just want to pile on here. It's Griffey Jr.
   13. PreservedFish Posted: March 05, 2012 at 08:51 PM (#4074698)
And for essentially his entire career--hell, over the past 20 years--Kenny Lofton was the best leadoff hitter in baseball.

I browsed this post at first and didn't even see the extent to which it was overstated. I think it's closer to the truth to say that Lofton was at no point during his career the best leadoff hitter in baseball.

In the beginning he's squeezed by Rickey Henderson. His prime (94-99, 780 Games at 114 OPS+) is easily trumped by Biggio (899 Games at 132 OPS+), and contested by Knoblauch (854 Games at 121 OPS+), even Brady Anderson (837 Games at 122 OPS+). I suppose Biggio hit #2 at some points during this stretch. Alomar was transitioning out of the leadoff role by the end of this. But the best you can say is that Lofton had a claim to the title.

Soon after that you have Ichiro rather conclusively taking the title, and Carl Crawford, Jose Reyes and friends waiting in the wings.

About once a week someone on BTF looks up the career WAR lists and comments on his surprise at how well Lofton ranks. A lot of that is his defense, which doesn't enter into this little discussion.
   14. Davo Posted: March 05, 2012 at 09:04 PM (#4074708)
I guess it's just my way of saying that, when it comes to debates about value (Hall of Fame, MVP, etc), I give bonus points to unusual players--specifically, players who didn't hit for value. 2001 MVP, I'm voting for Ichiro! over Giambi, because Ichiro was a right fielder who hit 8 home runs--every other part of his game had to be perfect (whereas Jason Giambi is just boring. A slugging first baseman who can't run or play the field. Yawn.)

Same here. I suspect Rafael Palmeiro and Kenny Lofton have similar Hall of Fame resumes. But the degree of difficulty for a player like Lofton to produce that kind of value is just so much more impressive to me. In order to produce that much value when you can't hit home need to be an A+ in just about every other possible measurable aspect of baseball.
   15. DL from MN Posted: March 05, 2012 at 09:05 PM (#4074710)
11 wins of that WAR number is defense. WAR has Bernie -12 wins on defense. Otherwise Bernie is +5 wins on offense and positional adjustment. Was Lofton really better than Jim Edmonds and Mike Cameron in CF?
   16. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili (TeddyF.Ballgame) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 09:10 PM (#4074713)
Personally, I'd draw my in-out line between Jones and Damon on that list above. That 60 WAR line seems ever more useful to me, because I keep eyeballing lists like this, drawing kneejerk conclusions about who belongs in the HOF and who doesn't, and then finding out I've unintentionally set my cutoff right there.
   17. lieiam Posted: March 05, 2012 at 11:13 PM (#4074760)
With the whole discussion about Lofton and centerfielders, I wanted to throw my "uber-stat blender" results out there.
This includes 6 different systems that use a baseline of replacement player or bench player.
I've got 3 WARs, 2 WARPs, and WSAB.

Recently I did this for everyone who played ANY past 1980.
Anyway, I won't blather on but will simply list the leaders (note that Dawson and RSmith show up as corner outfielders
in how I broke things down). Oh, and I kind of lazily filled in the blanks for systems that I didn't have some of
the more recent years.

Anyway, here goes (oh, and don't worry about the numbers themselves, that's just the number I get from my system).

LYNN, FRED 29.21
OTIS, AMOS 27.22
OLIVER, AL 25.85
   18. Walt Davis Posted: March 05, 2012 at 11:21 PM (#4074765)
I'm going to save time and declare everybody wrong. :-)

Yes, Lofton's war is heavily defense-dependent. But "only" 11 wins of that are Rfield the rest is positional adjustment.

Lofton vs. Cameron -- Lofton barely has any Rfield advantage over Cameron but has 19 more WAR. Please, this isn't even close. OBP matters remember.

Lofton vs. Williams -- yes, if you pretend they were both average defensive CF, Williams wins. They weren't. Lofton might not have been 11 wins good but he was good; Williams might not be 12 wins bad but he was below-average. And are you really saying that an average-fielding Williams with 60 WAR wouldn't be worth considering?

Lofton vs. Beltran -- Lofton has a 4.5 win Rfield advantage ... and a 4.5 WAR advantage. That means their offensive contribution has been equal. Now Lofton has 1500 more PA which is huge so Carlos will most likely pass him in offensive output although as a RF. Yes, I'd take Beltran in a second but the fact that Lofton is that close OFFENSIVELY to Beltran is what surprises me.

Lofton vs. Andruw -- Andruw has a nearly 15 win Rfield advantage but is 5 WAR behind. Similar to Cameron, Lofton was much more valuable offensively than Andruw.

Lofton's problem is pretty much the same problem all the non-Griffey types have -- there were a lot of good CF in this timeframe. You can clearly make cases for Griffey, Edmonds, Beltran and maybe Jones on a peak case (although that's all defense). Is the 3rd-4th best CF of his era worthy of induction?

Also please understand the nature of measurement error. There is nearly as much chance that Lofton was under-credited as there is that he was over-credited. Unless you can show bias there's little reason to put any more faith in Lofton's +11 than Cameron's +10 or Beltran's +7 or Bernie's -12 or Damon's +0 or Edmond's +9.

And, if I did my math right, he's currently 4th in oWAR on that list with Beltran likely to pass him. His is NOT a defense-heavy case, the man has 54 WAR without defense. That requires serious consideration.

Or do we toss out the baserunning value too?
   19. Jittery McFrog Posted: March 05, 2012 at 11:26 PM (#4074767)
Was Lofton really better than Jim Edmonds and Mike Cameron in CF?

Well the numbers have them pretty close, over ~2000 G careers. And is that so hard to believe?

Lofton was

1) one of the fastest players in the game
2) able to stick in centerfield for his entire long career, through age 40, while playing for multiple teams.

(He also looked like a good fielder to me, but I guess that's not really something to put much stock in.)

A question for HOM voters:

If you took Lofton's BRef defensive numbers at face value, would you vote for him? Who would you rank him near?
   20. OCF Posted: March 05, 2012 at 11:49 PM (#4074776)
A few comments about the list Dave Malvolio generated in #8:

Perhaps the most problematic of your criteria is the restriction to <300 HR.

One thing that gets you is "before 1920." And your top four names were Cobb, Speaker, Collins, Wagner. In terms their own times would have understood, they were power hitters. They batted in the middle of the order, and they drove in plenty of runs.

But then: is there any reason you can't have a leadoff hitter hit home runs? One name omitted from that list because he had over 300 HR was Bobby Bonds. While Bonds wasn't a lifelong leadoff hitter, he did bat leadoff quite often, and had some memorable seasons, scoring as many as 131 runs in a season.

Another celebrated power-hitting leadoff hitter was Brady Anderson. Checking him against your criteria: OPB .362, check. HR 210, check. Runs 1062, check. PA<5000? That was a seriously redundant criterion; how are you going to score 1000 runs without at least that? (Anderson had 7737). The only thing he's missing is the 400 SB, and he had 307 of those.

But that raises another question: what if you relax the SB criterion? Do you really have to steal bases to be a top-notch leadoff hitter? Dom DiMaggio has your 1000 runs scored, crammed into just 10 years. And a .383 OBP. But he didn't steal bases. And what about the AL players who came just after DiMaggio - collectively the "Eddies". Checking up on a few of them:

Ferris Fain: career too short, just 595 R.
Roy Cullenbine: didn't really score runs - didn't bat leadoff.
Johnny Pesky: 867 R.
Eddie Joost: 874 R.
Eddie Stanky: 811 R.
Eddie Yost: the rest fell short on career length, but Yost had the career: 1215 R. I should add that all of these guys had the required OBP, and more.

Then, just going for pure OBP, how about the superior 1980's descendant of the Eddies: Wade Boggs? Boggs had 1513 R (in 10740 PA), only 118 HR, and a career .415 OBP. He didn't steal bases, and he wasn't a good baserunner in any other way - but anyone on base as often as that is going to score runs.

Now, Joe Morgan. Of course Joe Morgan would have made a fabulous leadoff hitter. But (at least with Cincinnati) he didn't bat leadoff. He batted mostly 3rd, and was a fabulous #3 hitter. Which raises the question of why Pete Rose didn't make your list? Answer: it's the stolen bases again. Rose had 2165 R and a .375 lifetime OBP, but he didn't steal bases. Go look at the Reds' lineups from the mid-70's. What would you have done? Bat Morgan leadoff and Rose 2nd? Bat Morgan leadoff and Rose 6th? Or leave well enough alone and bat Rose leadoff? I'd probably opt for the "leave well enough alone" camp, although I might have put Morgan 2nd instead of 3rd.
   21. theorioleway Posted: March 05, 2012 at 11:53 PM (#4074778)
I thought entering this I would be one of Lofton's biggest supporters, although I now think he is borderline (although I think he is on the "in" side of that line). While Lofton does quite well with the B-R and FG systems, he absolutely craters with the BG system. As indicated above the key is with his defense. Lofton doesn't quite rank in the top 80% of CF defensively, and in the BG system it is practically impossible to end up with a negative defensive value. So in a lot of ways it depends on how wide you believe the defensive spectrum can work. I personally lean more towards the B-R and FG systems, but when in doubt, regress towards the mean. I end up seeing a good comp for Lofton being Max Carey.
   22. OCF Posted: March 06, 2012 at 12:08 AM (#4074779)
One thing that could have been said and probably was said. (And maybe it was Bill James who said it, although I'm not sure of that):

In the early 90's, Deion Sanders was drawing an enormous amount of attention. (For one thing, he lived to draw attention.) Sanders was skilled enough to survive in MLB, and he was very, very fast. One year, Sanders had an XBH line of 6-14-8. Anyone who can do that is certainly fast. But for all you remarking on the speed Sanders had and trying to make that cover more facets of value that it really can, why not turn your attention to a baseball player who really could do all those other things; and the baseball player to look at would have been Kenny Lofton.


Can we give him bonus points for being one of probably the five best college basketball players to play major league baseball?

How did Tony Gwynn compare to Lofton?


The 1996 Indians scored 952 runs; 132 of them were by Lofton.
The 1997 Indians scored 868 runs. Lofton wasn't there - he spend that year in Atlanta, then came back to Cleveland the next year.
The 1998 Indians scored 850 runs; 101 of them were by Lofton.
The 1999 Indians scored 1009 runs; 110 of them were by Lofton. That was the year Manny had 165 RBI.
The 2000 Indians scored 950 runs; 107 of them were by Lofton.

Of course those rosters were fabulous collections of offensive talent and Lofton was fortunate to have the privilege of leading off for them. But he did do that well.
   23. tjm1 Posted: March 06, 2012 at 02:21 AM (#4074800)
I'm pretty sure Griffey takes that crown.

Of course it is. Brain cramp/east coast bias.

   24. tjm1 Posted: March 06, 2012 at 02:47 AM (#4074804)
How did Tony Gwynn compare to Lofton?

Lofton was probably good enough to play in the NBA - he held the all-time steals record at Arizona for quite a while before Miles Simon broke it. Gwynn was a standout at SDSU against much weaker competition. I'd think Dick Groat, Danny Ainge and maybe Chuck Connors are the guys here who give Lofton the biggest competition. Only Groat was remotely in his league as a baseball player. Carl Yastrzemski played college basketball, too, but I don't think he was anything special as a basketball player.

One point of interest - not really in his favor or against him as a HOM candidate, but more of a "what could have been" kind of issue - is that Lofton was at Arizona on a basketball scholarship, and didn't play college baseball until his junior year. This probably slowed his progression to the majors, as he was a rookie at age 25. In the post-Jackie Robinson era, very few players of his caliber have reached the majors that late.

Also, I think that the fact that Lofton stuck around so long past his prime has made people forget what a great centerfielder he was in his prime. He wasn't Andruw Jones or Devon White, but he had great range, and tremendous leaping ability at the wall. Also, unlike most of the other top outfielders who are really fast guys with no power, he could throw.

I think the issue with Lofton is that he was extremely valuable as a base stealer, but not quite at the Henderson/Raines level. He wasn't as good a hitter as those guys, but he was a better outfielder -- much better than Raines. He isn't a guy like Evans where the mainstream media long ignored his key skill. Instead, he's a guy who's skillset was diverse, and where a lot of the contribution comes from something we statheads mostly ignore - base stealing - but which the mainstream media talk up a lot.
   25. TDF, trained monkey Posted: March 06, 2012 at 09:06 AM (#4074852)
I'd think Dick Groat, Danny Ainge and maybe Chuck Connors are the guys here who give Lofton the biggest competition.
You're missing at least one other.
   26. DL from MN Posted: March 06, 2012 at 09:59 AM (#4074873)
> the man has 54 WAR without defense

That falls into the "not quite enough" category for me. I'm not saying Lofton wasn't better than Bernie (he was). I'm just questioning the "better than Mike Cameron defensively". I always thought Mike Cameron was top-notch with the glove, it's hard to be much better than him.
   27. DL from MN Posted: March 06, 2012 at 10:00 AM (#4074874)
Bob Gibson was a very good basketball player.
   28. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: March 06, 2012 at 10:04 AM (#4074877)
There's also pitcher Chris Young, who played two years of basketball at Princeton and was first team All Ivy once and second team once. Went for 20 points and six boards against Kansas as a sophomore, 22 points and four rebounds against UNLV the same year.

His game wasn't suited to the NBA - he was a 6'10" center whose offensive game was best 15-20 feet from the hoop - but he was one heck of a college basketball player. Young's basketball stats.
   29. just plain joe Posted: March 06, 2012 at 10:52 AM (#4074905)
You're missing at least one other.

One more, right-hander Ron Reed played a couple of seasons for the Pistons back in the sixties.
   30. Jack Sommers Posted: March 06, 2012 at 11:45 AM (#4074943)
Lofton's post season record was very poor. If your prone to giving some players a bump for post season value, then you have to nick Lofton's value at least some.

He was a guy that teams always wanted for the post season, but inevitably, he had mostly bad or mediocre series at best.

In fully 10 of his 20 post season series he failed to register even a .300 OBP. In 4 others he was at just .333, well below his career avg.

He only had about 6 really good playoff series, out of 20 played.

20 Series, 95 games, 438 PA's, and most of it was poor.

   31. Davo Posted: March 06, 2012 at 12:12 PM (#4074960)
#30: It is really striking, especially because lead-off hitters just--per reputation--are always considered even more important to a team's success in the playoffs.

I'm reminded of Rickey Henderson in the 1989 ALCS (Oakland vs Toronto):

Game 1: 0 for 2, but draws 2 walks, adds an HBP, and steals two bases in an Oakland victory.
Game 2: 2 for 2, draws 2 walks, and steals 4 bases! Oakland wins
Game 3: 1 for 4 with a double, a walk and a stolen base. Scores 2 runs, but Oakland drops their only game.
Game 4: 2 for 4 with 2 2-run homers; also adds a walk. Oakland wins.
Game 5: 1 for 3 with a triple, a walk, and a steal. Oakland wins the series.

All told: He reached base 14 times in 23 plate appearances (6 hits--4 for extra bases--7 walks, 1 HBP), stole 7 bases without being caught, and scored 8 runs. Just total domination in every game.

...Kenny Lofton never really did that.
   32. Tippecanoe Posted: March 06, 2012 at 12:32 PM (#4074977)
Dave Winfield was on a Big Ten Champion Golden Gophers hoops team. He was also a prominant participation in a big brawl.
   33. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: March 06, 2012 at 12:37 PM (#4074980)
I'd think Dick Groat, Danny Ainge and maybe Chuck Connors are the guys here who give Lofton the biggest competition.

You're missing at least one other.

One more, right-hander Ron Reed played a couple of seasons for the Pistons back in the sixties.

Plus Gene Conley. And Lou Boudreau was a very good college hoopster, and played in the NBL (forerunner to the NBA) after being ruled ineligible for college after signing with the Indians.

edit: Also Tim Stoddard, starting forward on the 1974 NC State National Champions.
   34. Sunday silence: Play Guess How long season lasts Posted: March 06, 2012 at 12:42 PM (#4074989)
I guess it's just my way of saying that, when it comes to debates about value (Hall of Fame, MVP, etc), I give bonus points to unusual players--specifically, players who didn't hit for value.

Pete Gray says "Hello."
   35. Mr. Hotfoot Jackson (gef, talking mongoose) Posted: March 06, 2012 at 12:55 PM (#4074999)
I seem to recall Steve Hamilton of "folly floater" infamy played in the NBA, or could have*. Don Kessinger was an all-American hbasketball player at Ole Miss. Cotton Nash had a couple of cups of coffee with the White Sox & Twins; before that, he played in the NBA & ABA.

Edit: Yep; Wikipedia says he played 2 years for the Minneapolis Lakers.
   36. Jittery McFrog Posted: March 06, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4075010)
That falls into the "not quite enough" category for me. I'm not saying Lofton wasn't better than Bernie (he was). I'm just questioning the "better than Mike Cameron defensively". I always thought Mike Cameron was top-notch with the glove, it's hard to be much better than him.

Lofton: 0.89 dWAR per 162 G, Cameron: 0.80 dWAR per 162. I don't know that I'd call that "much better", more like "about the same, given the difficulty of measuring defense".
   37. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: March 06, 2012 at 01:03 PM (#4075014)
So Lofton's got some stiff competition. Even throwing out guys with trivial MLB careers like Ainge and DeBusschere, there remains Groat, Conley, Reed, Winfield, Stoddard, Boudreau, Gibson, and Gwynn.
   38. Ebessan Posted: March 06, 2012 at 03:54 PM (#4075306)
Robin Roberts, too.
   39. tjm1 Posted: March 07, 2012 at 03:41 AM (#4075665)
So, with basketball, I'd probably stick with Lofton, among guys who had really substantial MLB careers. There is a general consensus that the level of baseball play has gone up over time, but I would argue that the difference in the quality of basketball in the late 1980s compared to the 1960's and before is huge. In Boudreau's era, they didn't even jump to block shots. College basketball probably talent probably peaked around Lofton's era, as shortly after that, players started to go directly to the NBA, or stay in college only one year. Maybe the overall level of basketball talent available has counteracted that trend, but I think at least in terms of top level talent, era right before Garnett and Kobe went to the NBA was probably the peak.

So, I think it's fair to say that there needs to be a big era adjustment for Lofton versus anyone other than Gwynn. Lofton played against much tougher talent than Gwynn. I can't actually find a stats database for college hoops that goes back more than about 10 years. My general impression is that Lofton was as good a point guard as some guys in his year who were 1st round picks and had long NBA careers, and my only inference from the fact that he wasn't drafted is that he had made it clear he planned to play baseball. Gwynn was drafted, but with a 10th round pick, and the NBA draft was cut to 2 rounds by Lofton's time. Winfield was a 5th round pick.
   40. bjhanke Posted: March 07, 2012 at 07:45 AM (#4075687)
In general, comparing other people to Lou Brock's career is dicey at best, because Brock has the huge WS credentials and a very long career. Without them, he would have had a lot slower time getting into the Hall. I think he would still have been elected, and by the BBWAA, but not like he was. Also, starting in 1966 (Brock was still young then) Lou played in a ballpark that was a horror to try to hit home runs in. Lou had decent power, especially for a leadoff man (Bill James summed his non-WS candidacy very well by saying, approximately, "He got himself into scoring position constantly, in an era where getting two hits behind you was anything but a given."), but that aspect of his game gets forgotten because it didn't show in his ballpark. The same is true of Eddie Yost and anyone else in Griffith, Old Comiskey, or the Astrodome (Wynn, Cruz). I think Lofton is a good borderline candidate, but Lou Brock is a poor place to start making comparisons. Tim Raines is a much better place to start. - Brock Hanke
   41. toratoratora Posted: March 07, 2012 at 12:26 PM (#4075894)
Gibson was a Globetrotter back in the day when that meant something.
Cat could hoop.
   42. Ron J Posted: March 07, 2012 at 02:21 PM (#4076064)
With regards to leadoff being a separate position, sure there are exceptional power hitter who would score a ton of runs in the leadoff spot, but their teams would not be best served by batting (say) Babe Ruth leadoff. His power is of greater value further down the lineup.

Bill James had a good example of this (from a study reported in his 1992 Baseball Book)

He took a generic team. Ran 100 seasons with Rickey Henderson (using career averages through 1991) as their leadoff hitter. Then ran 100 seasons with Willie Mays (career average) as the leadoff hitter. And a third time through with Steve Sax (1991 stats as the leadoff hitter)

Then 100 seasons with Henderson batting 3rd, then 100 seasons Mays batting 3rd. (Replacing 1991 George Brett as the #3 hitter)

Leadoff Stats

.       AB  R   H  2B 3B HR RBI  BB SO  SB CS   BA  OBP  SLG ATRS
Rickey 644 144 189 31  5 19  56 114 85 116 25 .293 .400 .446 745
Willie 679 134 205 32  9 42  89  80 96  23  6 .302 .375 .561 736 

Batting 3rd
.      AB  R   H  2B 3B HR RBI  BB SO  SB CS   BA  OBP  SLG ATRS
Rickey 607 119 178 29  5 17  96 107 80  99 21 .293 .399 .442 708
Willie 638 119 192 30  8 40 130  75 89  21  6 .301 .374 .561 708 

ATRS = average team runs scored.

Now the point of the study isn't to show Henderson was as good as Mays. They're rated as equals in CF defensively for purposes of the study. Mays had much better in season durability, Mays has a decline phase built into his stats and Henderson doesn't. It's just meant to compare them offensively using the best sim available (Dick Cramer's) and to look at the influence of lineup position.

When both batted third the teams scored the same number of runs (despite Mays driving in a lot more runs and scoring as many). When they both batted leadoff, Rickey's teams scored 9 more. It's not a profound difference, but it is a real one. Mays has a big advantage in isolated power and that less when they're batting leadoff because a leadoff hitter is going to have more PAs with nobody on (and not just because of that first at bat. Bottom of the order hitters tend to be poor at getting on)

   43. just plain joe Posted: March 07, 2012 at 02:51 PM (#4076108)
edit: Also Tim Stoddard, starting forward on the 1974 NC State National Champions.

AFAIK Stoddard and Lofton are the only two players to have appeared in both the World Series and the NCAA Final Four. Ironically enough they both graduated from Washington HS in East Chicago, IN (obviously not at the same time).
   44. theorioleway Posted: March 08, 2012 at 02:34 PM (#4077022)
Brock re #40: I'm sorry, I don't quite understand what you are concluding--are you saying Lofton was better than Brock and Brock is not HOM worthy so there is no reason to compare them, whereas how he compares to Raines, who is HOM worthy, will help figure Lofton's worthiness? Or that the ballpark factors/timeline differences between Brock and Lofton are too broad to breach, and that Raines' and Lofton's situations were more similar?
   45. tjm1 Posted: March 08, 2012 at 02:49 PM (#4077044)
Either way, Lofton is ten times the defensive outfielder than either Raines or Brock was. Isn't Richie Ashburn probably the most similar player to Lofton, in terms of ability, and what his skill set was? Ashburn drew more walks, Lofton stole more bases and had a bit more power, but they're very similar players.
   46. theorioleway Posted: March 08, 2012 at 02:56 PM (#4077054)
Ashburn is a good comp, and I think Max Carey is as well. Similar hitting profile, stole lots of bases, and played a great defensive CF.
   47. DL from MN Posted: March 08, 2012 at 03:06 PM (#4077067)
Ashburn played during a mini-deadball era and Lofton during an offensive boom. That affects their relative value.
   48. tjm1 Posted: March 08, 2012 at 03:58 PM (#4077126)
Yeah, Ashburn and Lofton have very similar career WAR values (Lofton's is 7 wins better). Lofton has better-looking offensive numbers. Ashburn has a better OPS+, but Lofton probably comes out a bit ahead because of the stolen bases.
   49. tjm1 Posted: March 08, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4077128)
Also, Ashburn played in the 50's - that wasn't really a mini-dead ball era. The 60's were, but 1962 was Ashburn's last year, and that was the year hitting started to go down.
   50. DL from MN Posted: March 08, 2012 at 07:51 PM (#4077274)
True enough, but the 50's weren't exactly known for high run scoring. Probably akin to the 80's.
   51. tjm1 Posted: March 09, 2012 at 01:21 PM (#4077565)
An interesting note - I sort of alluded to this already - but among players with at least as high a WAR as Lofton, only Edgar Martinez and Lofton himself debuted as old as 24. I may have missed one of the old-timers, but certainly none of the modern players did. That doesn't really affect anything in terms of whether he deserves to enter the HOM, but it's a sort of interesting fact. I don't think you could find two really good players who were much more different from one another in other respects.
   52. bjhanke Posted: March 09, 2012 at 04:18 PM (#4077789)
RE: #44. No, first off, I claim that Lou Brock is a deserving HoF member. What I am saying is that the credentials that got him there are odd enough that comparing them to Lofton's credentials doesn't work. Raines' credentials are a lot more like Lofton's in terms of strong and weak points than Brock's are. I think that Raines, as well as Brock, should be in the Hall. I just would not start a Lofton comparison with Lou. I'd start with someone like Raines, who presents the same sort of credentials as Lofton does. - Brock Hanke
   53. James Newburg Posted: March 15, 2012 at 12:44 AM (#4081163)
Let's talk about Kenny Lofton's 1994 season. For those who adjust strike seasons up to 162 games, his 1994 comes in at 11.0 rWAR. He was the best player in the American League. If you're looking for a peak candidate with career bulk, then Lofton should be solidly on your ballot.

But was Lofton really that good in 1994? I was 11 years old during that season and cried the day the players went on strike. One of my most vivid memories of that season was the peak performance of Frank Thomas. I had to see how baserunning, position, and defense not only erased the Big Hurt's 67-point OPS+ lead over Lofton, but left him two full wins behind when prorated to 162 games.

It's a parallel of the Biggio/Griffey comparison that Bill James made in the last Abstract. Thomas leads in batting runs, 106-53, but Lofton closes the gap with everything else. Baserunning, ROE and DP events halve the margin, with Lofton adding 17 runs and Thomas taking away 9, making it 97-70, Thomas. Lofton gains another 3 runs for playing CF while Thomas loses 11 for 1B/DH, so it's 86-73, Thomas. Finally, Lofton's defense in CF was +19, while Thomas was -11 at 1B. Lofton takes the lead, 92-75. Add 23 runs to each player for replacement level and the final score for RAR is 115-98 for Lofton when adjusting to 162 games.

The baserunning and positional estimates seem quite reasonable, so the only way to say that Thomas was better than Lofton that year would be to argue that Lofton was an average defensive CF.

   54. lieiam Posted: March 15, 2012 at 11:12 PM (#4081932)
Well, I have to agree that Lofton had a pretty awesome 1994.
But I think Baseball Reference WAR gives his season more value than other "uber stats".
That doesn't mean that it's incorrect to do so, but it makes me skeptical.
Of the usual 7 uber-stats I tend to reference, brWAR is the only one that has Lofton higher than Thomas.
I included Griffey and probably should have included Belle as well...

FRANK THOMAS 7.3 6.3 6.7 27.6 19.4 9.3 7.6
KENNY LOFTON 7 7.7 5.1 23 13.2 7.9 4.9
KEN GRIFFEY, JR 7.2 6.6 5 21.6 12.5 7.2 4.8

Ugh, sorry that looks so bad.

Anyway, I do think Lofton is a pretty serious candidate for the Hall Of Merit... It'll just take a few years for the glut to clear out...
   55. OCF Posted: March 23, 2012 at 03:20 AM (#4087285)
The 1996 Cleveland Indians: lifetime WAR earned by players on the major league roster of that team. (Totals not quite complete, as 2 or 3 of them may not be retired quite yet.)

71.4 J. Thome
66.7 E. Murray
66.6 M. Ramirez
65.3 K. Lofton
59.4 J. Kent
51.5 O. Hershiser
46.9 D. Martinez
42.5 B. Giles
42.3 O. Vizquel
40.6 J. Franco (does not include NPB)
37.4 A. Belle
27.4 G. Swindell
26.8 J. McDowell
26.0 K. Seitzer
22.8 C. Nagy
18.7 T. Pena
17.6 J. Burnitz
16.0 C. Baerga
13.2 S. Alomar
11.5 E. Plunk
11.4 J. Mesa
11.2 P. Assenmacher
11.0 B. Anderson (pitcher)
11.0 K. Mercker
59.2 others

The total is 874.4.

I'm not claiming this is a record, since I haven't made a systematic search. But it's not going to be easy to top.
   56. John DiFool2 Posted: March 23, 2012 at 09:32 AM (#4087371)
Holy Mackerel.
   57. theorioleway Posted: March 24, 2012 at 11:02 AM (#4088184)
What about the 1995 Indians? While they didn't have Kent, they did have Dave Winfield, Orel Hershiser, and Dennis Martinez. And they actually were better than the 1996 team, as they won more games and made the World Series.
   58. OCF Posted: March 24, 2012 at 01:27 PM (#4088266)
Note that Hershiser and Martinez were on both teams and you'll see them counted in post 55.

Net changes from the 1996 Indians to the 1995 Indians:

Add Dave Winfield (59.7), Ken Hill (22.0), Bud Black (19.7) and Olson (13.7). Net +115.0

Subtract Kent, Franco, Swindell, McDowell, Seitzer, Anderson, and Mercker. Net -202.0

Change many in the "others" category for many in the "others" category. The '95 team had a higher class of "others" including David Bell, Dennis Cook, Mark Clark, and John Farrell, but the less-settled '96 team had more of them. Net +1.4.

That gives a sum for the 1995 team of 788.6. So for these comparisons we should stick with the 1996 team.

   59. theorioleway Posted: March 24, 2012 at 06:09 PM (#4088449)
Man I totally missed them on the list...smooth
   60. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: March 24, 2012 at 06:24 PM (#4088460)
Add Dave Winfield (59.7), Ken Hill (22.0), Bud Black (19.7) and Olson (13.7).

Strangely, I met two of these people last night.
   61. Davo Posted: March 27, 2012 at 11:59 PM (#4090836)
It's not a winner, but I did the research, so I might as well post them, as a good second-place candidate.

The famed 1989 Texas Rangers:

ryan 84
palmeiro 66
kevin brown 64
buddy bell 61
sosa 60
moyer 47
kenny rogers 47
franco 41
hough 38
baines 37
sundberg 35
gonzalez 34
scott fletcher 27
wilson alvarez 24
stanley 19
sierra 14
buechele 14
Bobby Witt 13
palmer 10

Add some assorted detritus after this and you get them up to 777.
   62. Davo Posted: March 28, 2012 at 12:18 AM (#4090849)
Oh, it's all silly. The 1928 Philadelphia A's will crush everyone:

Cobb 160
Speaker 133
E Collins 127
Grove 98
Foxx 95
Al Simmons 64
COchrane 51
Jack Quinn 50
Eddie Rommell 42
Max Bishop 36
Rube Walberg 31
Bullet Joe Bush 29
Ehmke 29
Dykes 28
Bing Miller 25
George Earneshaw 18
Sammy Hale 11
Joe Hauser 11
Mule Haas 10

1,040 with that. I can't imagine anyone can challenge it. Having 5 of the 30 best players of all time on your team has its benefits.
   63. bjhanke Posted: April 03, 2012 at 11:32 AM (#4095446)
A quick basketball note: The best basketball player ever to play major league baseball was very probably Dave Ricketts. Dave goes back to the pre-Bill-Russell days, when the constant-running transition game was not yet in the NBA. However, he was a two-time All-American center who was chosen first in the NBA draft. I don't mean "in the first round of the draft", I mean FIRST in the draft. For 2-3 years, he lived up to that hype, and then opted for baseball. He would have been much better off at basketball. As a baseball player, he was a backup catcher.
- Brock
   64. bjhanke Posted: April 03, 2012 at 11:40 AM (#4095469)
I apologize. I had the wrong Ricketts. The basketball star was DICK Ricketts, who was Dave's brother, and who was a pitcher who only got into a few games for the Cardinals. DEFINITELY should have stayed with basketball. - Brock
   65. DL from MN Posted: April 05, 2012 at 07:45 PM (#4099004)

45. Misirlou's got a busy day, he's wearing a vest Posted: April 05, 2012 at 06:18 PM (#4098905)
Lofton's a hard one for me. I noticed his HoM thread way too late to contribute to it, but his case is one of my main concerns regarding WAR. Normally when WAR seems out of whack it's because of the defensive metrics. But Lofton's offensive WAR seems way too high to me for an outfielder with a 107 career OPS+. His speed no doubt makes up some of the difference, but still....

Well, first of all, his running is not negligible. It's about 11.5 of his career 53.8 oWAR. Would a 42 oWAR and 57.5 overall look more right to you for an averaged speed CF with a 107 OPS+? Also, he got 26 runs as a positional adjustment rather than a -120 that a corner guy would normally get. His 107 OPS+ accounts for only about 12.5 of his total 65.8 WAR. That seems reasonable.

46. Booey Posted: April 05, 2012 at 06:36 PM (#4098916)
Well, first of all, his running is not negligible. It's about 11.5 of his career 53.8 oWAR. Would a 42 oWAR and 57.5 overall look more right to you for an averaged spped CF with a 107 OPS+? Also, he got 26 runs as a positional adjustment rather than a -120 that a corner guy would normally get. His 107 OPS+ accounts for only about 12.5 of his total 65.8 WAR. That seems reasonable.

All of that makes sense. I suppose it's mainly just that it's rare these days to see a HoF/HoM case built like his. Other guys who's primary weapon was speed were much better hitters than Lofton (Henderson, Raines). And the ones that weren't are often considered overrated around here (Brock, Ichiro).

47. Misirlou's got a busy day, he's wearing a vest Posted: April 05, 2012 at 06:46 PM (#4098923)
Well, Raines is an interesting comparison. Both have about the same career WAR, but as you noted, Raines was a much better hitter. Neither has an big advantage in running components, Lofton leads 114 runs to 111, or playing time, Raines leads 310 to 281. But Raines was an average fielding (-7) corner outfielder (-105), while Lofton was a great fielding (+112) CF (+26), thus allowing Lofton to more than make up the batting run deficit (306 to 125)
   66. DanG Posted: April 09, 2012 at 11:21 PM (#4102370)
Eleven comps for Lofton. Outfielders with OPS+ 97-117, PA 8000-10500, WAR 45+

Player           WAR/pos OPS+    PA Rfield From   To    R    H  HR  SB   BA  OBP  SLG
Kenny Lofton        65.3  107  9235    108 1991 2007 1528 2428 130 622 .299 .372 .423
Andruw Jones        60.4  111  8398    243 1996 2012 1178 1888 420 152 .256 .339 .488
Richie Ashburn      58.0  111  9736     76 1948 1962 1322 2574  29 234 .308 .396 .382 H
Willie Davis        57.2  105  9822    104 1960 1979 1217 2561 182 398 .279 .311 .412
Ichiro Suzuki       54.5  114  8079    122 2001 2012 1129 2434  95 424 .326 .370 .421
Harry Hooper        52.5  114 10255     77 1909 1925 1429 2466  75 375 .281 .368 .387 H
Sam Rice            51.1  112 10247     56 1915 1934 1514 2987  34 351 .322 .374 .427 H
Tommy Leach         50.9  109  9051     67 1898 1918 1355 2143  63 361 .269 .340 .370
Vada Pinson         49.3  110 10402     
-8 1958 1975 1366 2757 256 305 .286 .327 .442
Tony Phillips       48.2  109  9110     39 1982 1999 1300 2023 160 177 .266 .374 .389
Brett Butler        46.5  110  9545    
-83 1981 1997 1359 2375  54 558 .290 .377 .376
George Burns        45.1  114  8251     70 1911 1925 1188 2077  41 383 .287 .366 .384 
   67. Mike Green Posted: April 10, 2012 at 05:24 PM (#4103196)
OPS+ isn't that useful a marker of offensive effectiveness for an OBP-heavy leadoff hitter, like Lofton or Raines, and particularly so if the hitter was fast. Lofton was obviously not the offensive player that Raines was, but when one takes into account his defensive superiority, it's very close between the two.
   68. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: April 10, 2012 at 10:41 PM (#4103600)

Not a voter, but I'm surprised that Lofton is ahead of Beltran in WAR, despite Beltran also being a great fielder and baserunner as well as a far superior hitter to Lofton. Part of that is having a career almost 20% longer (with more of it in CF), but part of it is that bbref WAR likes Lofton's fielding and baserunning even more than it likes Beltran's. Which is impressive.
   69. Mike Green Posted: April 11, 2012 at 10:17 AM (#4103781)
Ashburn is a pretty good comp. It's funny, if you look at the defensive numbers for Ashburn and Lofton at their peak, the numbers are pretty comparable. However at age 32, Ashburn's numbers fell off a cliff presumably due to injury, whereas Lofton has a nice gentle decline through his 30s (without venturing into the minefield of white guys losing their speed after 30).
   70. DanG Posted: May 05, 2012 at 01:42 PM (#4124185)
Updating the list in [#11] with new WAR. Hunter comes onto the list. Edmonds takes a big tumble. Cameron falls from 2 WAR ahead of Puckett to 5 WAR behind.

Debuted since 1977, 35% career games in CF

Rk            Player WAR/pos OPSRfield    PA From   To   Age    G
1        Ken Griffey    78.6  136      2 11304 1989 2010 19
-40 2671
2       Kenny Lofton    64.6  107    104  9235 1991 2007 24
-40 2103
3     Carlos Beltran    59.1  122     66  7835 1998 2012 21
-35 1793
4       Andruw Jones    57.5  111    233  8446 1996 2012 19
-35 2117
5        Jim Edmonds    56.0  132     37  7980 1993 2010 23
-40 2011
6       Johnny Damon    51.8  105     
-1 10706 1995 2012 21-38 2429
7      Kirby Puckett    47.7  124    
-13  7831 1984 1995 24-35 1783
8       Brett Butler    45.7  110    
-83  9545 1981 1997 24-40 2213
9        Ellis Burks    45.6  126    
-32  8177 1987 2004 22-39 2000
10   Bernie Williams    45.5  125   
-139  9053 1991 2006 22-37 2076
11       Devon White    44.1   98    135  8080 1985 2001 22
-38 1941
12      Mike Cameron    42.8  106     72  7884 1995 2011 22
-38 1955
13      Torii Hunter    39.9  110     57  7410 1997 2012 21
-36 1833
14     Lenny Dykstra    39.5  120     45  5282 1985 1996 22
-33 1278
15      Steve Finley    39.2  104     
-1 10460 1989 2007 24-42 2583
16    Andy Van Slyke    37.3  119     24  6495 1983 1995 22
-34 1658 
   71. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: November 27, 2013 at 11:52 PM (#4607147)
   72. rudygamble Posted: December 06, 2013 at 01:05 PM (#4612258)
Random thoughts on Lofton's perception.

Lofton seems to have four things going against him for perception:
1) Peak seasons in small market
2) Leadoff hitter/OBP types rarely heralded except if high AVG (Ichiro) or amazeballs (Rickey)
3) Played for 9 teams from 35-40 which is viewed negatively
4) Didn't get 3,000 hits (2,428 hits).

There wasn't much he could do about #1/#2.

#4 was impacted because he divided time in college b/w baseball and basketball (first full season in minors at 22, in MLB 25). Might've cost him 200-300 hits. If he was more of a hacker and knocked his 10% BB rate to 5% BB rate (~Ichiro's rate), that could be another 100 or so hits. (5% of 9,000 PAs * .300 = 136 hits). The latter would've made him a worse player but, again, this is about perception.

It's #3 that I'm hung up on. Lofton was a 2 WAR/season player from 35-40. His age 34 season (last w/ Cleveland) was an off year so his leverage was limited in 1995 when he signed a 1 year deal w/ the White Sox ( The Indians had Milton Bradley and Coco Crisp so understandable they didn't re-sign him. In retrospect, signing the deals w/ the Pirates and Yankee were not good ideas if he wanted stability. Little choice but to be a mercenary by the time he was 38.

So here's the question - what happens to his perception if:
1) Cleveland doesn't have a replacement and/or values him like a Biggio/Astros, holding onto him through 40.
2) Sabean re-signs Lofton after 2002 deadline trade and exhibits his standard 'old player love' by keeping him through 40 (he didn't sign 36-year old Lofton, replacing him with 36-year old Grissom in 2003).

In the case above, he ends his career playing primarily for 1-2 teams (Indians and Giants) that went to the World Series (wouldn't hurt if Mesa or Felix Rodriguez held a lead). Ends up closer to 2,600-2,700 hits. Gets more press as he's retiring saying he's the best leadoff hitter since Rickey/Raines. Seen as a non-steroids player.

How much would this scenario have changed his HoF votes? Was he guaranteed one-and-done unless he got to 3,000 hits? Raines and Biggio are getting 50+% votes and Lofton could be perceived similarly (less power, more valuable defense). At the very least, his chances for Veteran's Committee would at least be non-null which is what I think they are now...

   73. smileyy Posted: December 06, 2013 at 02:14 PM (#4612381)
His game wasn't suited to the NBA - he was a 6'10" center whose offensive game was best 15-20 feet from the hoop

I feel like that might be more marketable in today's NBA.
   74. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: December 13, 2013 at 10:26 AM (#4617394)
Copying from ballot discussion thread:

Here's a comparison of Lofton from 1991-2005 in my system and bb-ref's (leaving aside the standard deviation adjustment for now, straight-line adjusting 1994-95 to 162 games, and transposing BWAA and Rep to a pitchers-excluded average):


1991  0.12 
-0.7   0.1  0.2  -0.2 -0.3
1992  0.95  1.0   0.8  1.2  
-1.9  4.9
1993  0.95  2.4   1.4  1.1  
-1.8  6.7
1994  1.05  4.4   1.3  1.8  
-2.1  9.6
1995  0.84  0.9   0.8  0.4  
-1.8  3.9
1996  1.03  0.8   0.7  0.2  
-2.3  4.1
1997  0.82  1.4  
-0.7  1.0  -1.9  3.6
1998  1.00  0.6   0.6  1.2  
-2.2  4.7
1999  0.80  1.3   0.5  0.5  
-1.7  4.0
2000  0.90  0.3   0.5  1.3  
-2.0  4.1
2001  0.83 
-0.6   0.1  0.5  -1.8  1.8
2002  0.88  0.5   0.0 
-0.2  -2.2  2.7
2003  0.88  0.5   0.5  0.3  
-2.1  3.4
2004  0.45  0.0   0.0 
-0.5  -0.9  0.4
2005  0.59  0.9   0.4  0.9  
-1.3  3.5
TOTL 12.09 13.7   7.0  9.9 
-26.2 57.1
TXBR 11.97 14.4   6.9  9.7 
-26.0 57.4 


1991  0.12 
-0.4   0.0  0.2  -0.2  0.0
1992  0.95  1.1   1.0  2.0  
-2.4  6.5
1993  0.95  1.9   1.3  1.8  
-2.6  7.6
1994  1.05  4.7   1.2  1.7  
-2.7 10.2
1995  0.84  0.8   0.6  0.9  
-2.3  4.6
1996  1.03  1.4   0.9  0.4  
-2.7  5.5
1997  0.82  1.7  
-0.3  1.7  -1.7  4.9
1998  1.00  0.7   0.8  1.8  
-2.6  5.9
1999  0.80  1.8   0.5  1.1  
-2.1  5.5
2000  0.90  0.1   0.5  0.4  
-2.3  3.4
2001  0.83 
-0.4   0.1  0.1  -2.2  1.9
2002  0.88  0.7   0.1  0.4  
-2.4  3.7
2003  0.88  1.1   0.5 
-0.1  -1.9  3.4
2004  0.45  0.5   0.2 
-0.3  -1.1  1.4
2005  0.59  1.1   0.5  0.5  
-1.4  3.5
TOTL 12.09 16.8   7.9 12.6 
-30.6 68.0
TXBR 12.09 16.8   7.9 12.6 
-30.6 68.0 

So we're definitely looking at the same player here, but BB-Ref just likes him a little better across the board. Part of the 3-win gap in batting wins may well be due to reached-on-errors, which I don't include but BB-ref does (though it no longer breaks them out from batting wins). The baserunning wins are close enough; BB-Ref definitely likes Lofton's defense a little better than I do, and I'd be strongly inclined to trust my system over theirs on this--their fielding runs, from TotalZone, are one (just one) of the inputs in my FWAA, and if I'm lower it's either because the other systems weren't quite as impressed or simple regression to the mean to reflect the greater uncertainty in Retrosheet-based defensive statistics.

Finally, there's a 4.6-win gap in replacement value. BB-ref is using 600 total position player WAR per season; I use 2.1 wins per 162 games per position player, which works out to 536. So 3.1 of those 4.6 wins are because BB-ref uses a lower global replacement level, and 1.5 are because it values CF during Lofton's career a tiny bit more than I do.
   75. Mr Dashwood Posted: December 19, 2013 at 12:54 PM (#4620945)
I took my own advice in the 2013 ballot results thread, and I decided to replace BB-ref rField with the fielding runs that Lofton was credited with in Fielding Win Shares, Humphrey's Defensive Regression Analysis and the Wyers'-influenced Baseball Prospectus' FRAA. Since there is some controversy between Lofton's value and that of Bernie Williams, I have also done the same for the latter.

I made some small discoveries that are of interest, and so I shall post a series of comments in relation to this over the next few days.

To start with, let me just offer the contrasting career-total 'rfields' of the relevant systems, which were entered into the BB-ref system and then a simplistic calculation that added up the BB-Ref WAR components turned these into a new pseudo-BB-ref WAR.

........BB-Ref rfield   BB-Ref WAR   FWS runs   WS WAR   DRA   DRA WAR   BP FRAA   BP WAR
Lofton     104            67.9         215         81     30.3  62.5      
-6        58.9   
-139           49.5         193        84.7    -61   59.3      -15       63.9 

None of the three other systems disputes that Lofton was the better fielder. But they differ wildly on just how much better he was, with BPro and Fielding Win Shares in particular narrowing the gap quite a bit. I have something to say about this, but that will be for a later post.

In half of the systems the advantage Lofton gains from his fielding does not make him the superior player in terms of the other components of WAR.

Thus, to be absolutely certain that Lofton was significantly superior to Williams, one has to accept that TotalZone is without doubt a better method of calculating the value of fielding than any other system. I certainly am not willing to concede that point.

Also, we can see the radically different value that the different systems attach to fielding in general. And that will be the theme of my next post.
   76. Mr Dashwood Posted: December 20, 2013 at 11:30 AM (#4621658)
Limiting the discussion to the total 'defensive runs' of both Lofton and Williams, we see in the figures in my post above a wide disparity in the absolute value attributed to fielding by the different systems.

Just dividing by ten we confront the fact that BB-Ref rfield and Fielding Win Shares see that over the course of a career the effect of fielding on a player's value is in the order of tens of wins. By contrast, DRA sees a 3-6 win range, and under BPro's system a player has to be fairly extreme to get even the effect of a single win on his career fielding.

And this gets to the heart of why I think systems of averaging fielding ratings are mistaken. The different fielding systems are calibrated differently. Without some adjustment for scale, the effect is to give too much weight to rfield and not enough to FRAA.

One has to start by roughly estimating how much fielding ought to be worth, and then deciding on that basis how to calibrate the different systems.

Turn around the traditional linear weights perspective, which were calculated on the basis of batting events, and look at the game from a defensive perspective. A team has to get 25/27 outs in a typical nine-inning game. The individual player in the field creates a .26 positive value one he is involved in a ball in play ending in an out. In the 2004 AL, the average in-play hit was worth around .5 runs, so for every BIP hit allowed, a player needs to make two outs. But, as Mike Emeigh noted in the 2014 Ballot Results thread, a certain amount of both those in-play events needs to be credited to the pitcher. The maximum positive value the defenders can accumulate is also around 6-7 runs in a nine-inning gain, all of which has to be shared around the entire team. The negative value is more problematic, in that it is different for each game, but using that .5 and averaging the BIP hits to about 4.1 per game, one gets into the 2-3 runs per game. So a defensive team earns about 3-5 runs per game played, which must be divided between pitchers and fielders. Using a 30:70 split per BIP in favour of the pitcher, an individual fielder (excluding pitchers and catchers) achieves a positive value of around .17 per game, which over 150 games is about 25 runs.

Range factor— that old, outdated statistic — has some help to offer here. In 2004, regular centrefielders had RF/9s of between 3.03 and 2.34 (that's Bernie Williams, BTW; Lofton was almost in the middle at 2.75). We also know that Zone Rating indicates a median regular centrefielder might make around 80 per cent of the plays in his vicinity. Without taking the pitcher's contribution into account, that means a centrefielder playing 1200 innings to an average standard is going to be worth around 40-45 runs across the course of a season. If we split that 70:30 in favour of the fielder, that's about 30 runs. If we split that 30:70 in favour of the pitcher, that's about 13 runs. The discrepancy between 25 runs and 13 runs may represent the greater frequency of plays on the infield plus outs on the bases. For the purposes of this exercise, we have a range of value to consider.

Staying with the 2004 season, and using Bernie Williams instead of Lofton because the former played a full season in centre, where Lofton did not, Williams was worth an absolute value of around +10 runs to his team, using his RF/9 and his RZR to help calculate that. That is approximately -3 runs below average. His actual outcomes in different systems were

B-Ref rfield (DRS, not TZ): -20
Fielding Win Shares: 5
DRA: -13
FRAA: -8
UZR: -25.2

Now, I'm not proposing that -3 Runs is correct. For reasons that will become clear in subsequent posts, I don't believe it is as easy as that. I am just trying to establish some parameters here as to what number ought to look right. What interests me is that the PBP numbers, represented by DRS and UZR, seem to overstate the runs impact of fielding quite dramatically if the linear-weights/ZR influence calculation is to be considered accurate. They are much closer to a percentage below average. And since the ends of Lofton's and Williams' careers overlap with the arrival of UZR and DRS, PBP systems will be the subject of the next post.
   77. rudygamble Posted: December 20, 2013 at 11:59 AM (#4621684)
Interesting points/analysis 74/75.

So the breakeven on defensive runs saved for Lofton and Bernie is about +95 Runs:

Lofton - RAR (632.9) - Fielding (114.1) = 518.8 Runs Above Replacement Minus Fielding (but includes positional adjustments)
Williams - RAR (459.4) - Fielding (-154) = 518.8 Runs Above Replacement Minus Fielding (but includes positional adjustments)

Some simple math checks on Lofton vs. Bernie:

Putouts/9 IP - Lofton 2.55, Bernie 2.55
Assists/9 IP - Lofton 0.26, Bernie 0.12

PO/9 has a modest positive correlation to TZ (35% based on 121 CFs in my sample). It's not a perfect indicator of CF fielding but, at the very least, does not confirm Lofton's superiority. The assists/9 appears to be a clear advantage for Lofton and perusing the CF at the top/bottom of this metric, this seems legitimate (e.g., among the bottom on recent CFs include Bernie, Pierre and Damon).

I believe an assist is worth about 0.8 runs saved and this Assist difference of about 70 assists (actual delta of 75 remove a few since Lofton played longer) is worth about +56 runs (without factoring in whether runners took an extra base on Williams more than Lofton).

If you buy into the above, then the breakeven is +39 runs over ~1900 games which is saying Lofton was about +.02 runs better per game.

Based on Lofton's scouting reports and watching a lot of Bernie, I think Lofton easily was worth more than a run every 50 games with just the glove. I would guestimate him closer to a run every 20 games which is a +95 for the career.

So my take is that Lofton was a more valuable player than Bernie but agree that their gap in rWAR and fWAR could be exaggerated.

   78. Mr Dashwood Posted: December 21, 2013 at 01:07 PM (#4622178)
Ranking Lofton's PBP ratings, best to worst, compared with two non-PBP metrics:

2005   2005   2003   2004
2003   2003   2005   2005
2004   2007   2007   2003
2007   2004   2004   2007
2006   2006   2006   2006

This is the kind of information we normally look at in the context of PBP metrics, and then we think this looks fairly good. We are making progress. Both measures agree on three of the five seasons, which is not true of Fielding Win Shares and BPro's FRAA. There's a bit of subjectivity about UZR and DRS, at least in the sense that they require human observers to place the ball exactly in a zone. We know from Colin Wyers' work that this can lead to errors. I am going to look at a different sort of problem, though.

Team    R     AB    H     2b   3b    HR   ROE   BB     TB    RC
NYY    808   5649  1532  304   28   182   54    445   2438   791
Lg Ave 808   5615  1511  300   27   185   63    537   2420   806

Here we have two teams batting-against lines, one the 2004 Yankees and the other the 2004 AL 'Average'. RC refers to an estimate of batting events' run value using Runs Created. We see here that the Yankees were effectively a league-average team. However, in terms of DRS and UZR, which are calculated against a postional average, the Yankees were anything but average in fielding:

DRS: -64 runs
UZR: -69.4 runs

The DRS total excludes pitchers and catchers, for whom there is no UZR.

What this means is that the 2004 Yankees' Defence-Independent Pitching statistic needs to counterbalance that many runs in order for the systems to be balanced. Remember, that baseball statistics are basically an accounting exercise, and so the debit on the batting side needs to be balanced on the pitching + fielding side. But, within that model, the pitching and fielding should add up as well, especially where average is used as a baseline.

Using FIP, with a constant of 3.14 (based on the Fangraphs' FIP for Yankee pitching in 2004), to calculate a league average 'Defense-Independent Pitching Runs' we find the following:

                FIP   Runs
League Average: 4.43  712
Yankees:        4.27  686   +26

League Average FIP + League Average Fielding should equal about 800 runs scored against. In fact, the Yankees' defence is being penalised about 25 runs more than it should be, if pitching and defence should balance.

I would suggest that in this case PBP metrics may be overstating the effects of fielding by something like one-third to two-fifths.

This argument doesn't actually hurt Lofton by comparison with Williams much, under BB-Ref WAR systems. Because Lofton is an overall negative fielder during the DRS seasons used in BB-Ref rfield, the gap doesn't narrow much between him and Williams. He has about a 20-win BB-Ref WAR advantage, and Williams only gains about 1.5 wins.

The point here is that in a WAR system defensive ratings and offensive ratings have to balance roughly within a mathematical model of a season. Where should one impose that balance? UZR strives to ensure that above average teams and below average teams, when added together will equal a number very close to zero. But this still omits the pitching component of the ledger.

Pitchers plus fielders should approximately equal the difference between the league average team and the team being examined. If this doesn't happen under a system of fielding runs, then its values may be out of alignment with those allocated to batting runs and pitching runs. This will distort our relative sense of career or single-season value of those very good or very bad at fielding.
   79. Blackadder Posted: December 28, 2013 at 09:10 AM (#4625087)
UZR + FIP does not need to add up to teams runs above/below average; the residual would consist of the extent to which the pitchers on the team gave up balls that were harder or easier to field. Old Yankee Stadium was a pitcher's park, with a 3-year park factor of 97, one year of .95 in 2004. 03*808 is roughly 24, which is the disparity you are seeing. In any case, one team season tells you nothing. I think actually the bulk of the evidence, from e.g. Mike Humphreys' work, indicates that the PBP metrics actually underrate the spread of fielding talent, at least at the very high end, as a result of stringer bias.
   80. 185/456(GGC) Posted: January 21, 2016 at 06:22 AM (#5138962)
I have been thinking about how Lofton stacks up versus another CFer on the ballot; Jim Edmonds. After giving this some thought and perusing Seamheads, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and Baseball Prospectus, I think that Lofton is the superior candidate. But it is closer than I expected. I can see slotting Edmonds higher than Lofton.

If you look at career superstats, only BWar shows Lofton ahead and that's by 8 WAR. FWAR has it as essentially a dead heat. BPro, Gauge WAR, Win Shares and WSAB "like" Edmonds better. When you break it down between offense and defense, Edmonds career numbers come out better; except at bb-ref. I think they value Lofton's baserunning ability more. The defensive systems have less agreement. Fangraphs and bb-ref see Lofton as the better fielder. Win Shares is neutral on the matter. I think you have more faith in BPro's FRaa and DRA. Both see Edmonds as better in CF.

Edmonds played more consistently at an all star level, but I don't think he was better than Lofton at their respective bests. FWIW, I see that JAWS has Lofton ahead of Edmonds, but I think 7 years is too long a period to count as peak, so I didn't factor it into my decision.

I think raw career stats make it harder to see how good Lofton was. His peak was around the strike in 1994 while Edmonds was a later bloomer and peaked about 10 years later. Lofton led the league in WAR in 1994 with 7.2, but it doesn't look as impressive a season as some because he only played 112 games. Assuming he played 154 games (his career high,) that's a 10 WAR season.

There are two ways, I’d change my mind on this.

1.) I’d have to look at peak differently. I’m more concerned with ”how high?” than anything else.
2.) I’d have to be convinced that Edmond’s glove outweighs Lofton’s legs.
   81. Ithaca2323 Posted: January 21, 2016 at 10:44 AM (#5139084)
Since someone else revived it

Oh, it's all silly. The 1928 Philadelphia A's will crush everyone:

Cobb 160
Speaker 133
E Collins 127
Grove 98
Foxx 95

1,040 with that. I can't imagine anyone can challenge it. Having 5 of the 30 best players of all time on your team has its benefits.

The 2005 Yankees say hello:

A-Rod: 118.9
R. Johnson: 104.3
Mussina: 82.7
Jeter: 71.9
K. Brown: 68.7
Sheffield: 60.3
Rivera: 56.6
Cano: 55.1
Giambi: 50.4
Williams: 49.4
Posada: 42.7
A. Leiter: 42.6
T. Gordon: 34.9
Martinez: 28.8
Matsui: 21.3
M. Cabrera: 18.7
P. Quantrill: 18
Pavano: 17
Ruben Sierra: 16.6
Matt Lawton: 15
Mike Stanton: 13.8
Ramiro Mendoza: 11.6
Steve Karsay: 11

Total: 1020.9. I knew there had to be a modern Yankee team with Johnson/Mussina/Jeter/Rivera/A-Rod and enough over the hill veterans to put them in the convo. (I didn't include minor riff-raff like Aaron Small)

There's a good chance Cano and A-Rod can finish the gap.

Granted, some of these players barely played. Cabrera had 19 PA, and Mendoza threw 1 inning. But hey, it all counts.

   82. Delorians Posted: January 21, 2016 at 10:58 AM (#5139108)
Granted, some of these players barely played. Cabrera had 19 PA, and Mendoza threw 1 inning. But hey, it all counts.

I know this is mostly an exercise for fun, but to me, to accurately compare 1928 A's and 2005 Yankees by this metric, players should only get credit for the % of time they were on the team's major league roster. So if someone was traded (or traded for) or recalled from the minors and only spent half the year on the team's major league roster, only half their total should count. I assume this would impact the 2005 Yankees more than the 1928 A's. Maybe you've done this, but I thought it was a valid point.
   83. Ithaca2323 Posted: January 21, 2016 at 12:19 PM (#5139194)

I know this is mostly an exercise for fun, but to me, to accurately compare 1928 A's and 2005 Yankees by this metric, players should only get credit for the % of time they were on the team's major league roster. So if someone was traded (or traded for) or recalled from the minors and only spent half the year on the team's major league roster, only half their total should count. I assume this would impact the 2005 Yankees more than the 1928 A's. Maybe you've done this, but I thought it was a valid point.

It just gets too messy. Should a backup catcher who is on the roster but plays once a week get "full" credit, whereas some mid-season acquisition who plays every day from joining the team get half? Why should 76 innings from Aaron Small count for less than 78 innings from Rivera? Because Rivera's were spread out over six months as opposed to three?

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