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January 21, 2009

The Class of 2014 just grew a 'stache!

Jeff Kent is expected to announce his retirement and, as expected, the debate as to whether or not he is a Hall of Famer has already started. Good friend of the Hall of Very Good, Todd Coppernoll, wrote up this compelling case for Kent's inclusion.

Here it is!

Career Highlights
5 All-Star Games

4 Silver Slugger Awards

2000 NL MVP

Career leader in Home Runs by a Second Baseman

Baseball-Reference comparison...5 of 10 similar batters have been elected to the Hall of Fame (3 are not yet eligible).

Since its inception, the Hall of Fame has had its "magic numbers." 3000 hits gets you in, 500 homers will do it, 300 wins is an automatic. If you can't do that, then be a nice guy, make ‘em love you and they'll vote you in sooner or later. It's a simple formula, play long enough to hit a magic number, or be a smiley guy on good teams... that's all it takes.

Jeff Kent is a player who will test that theory.

He's done something that should get him in by itself, but what he's done is not time-honored and steeped in silly baseball writer tradition... and he is not known as the smiley guy on the good teams. Something's going to give, this one could get messy.

Kent was not drafted until round 20 in 1989, when he was selected by Toronto. A collegiate shortstop, Kent was switched to second base. This is a key fact for this discussion, had Kent not been a second baseman, this article probably would never have been written, as Kent would be remembered as a solid hitter with a nice peak, but little more.

Once destiny lent a hand, Mr Kent went on to hit more home runs than any second baseman in MLB history. One would think that would do it, more home runs than anyone at his position, no failed steroid might take a few ballots, but the writers won't overlook this feat, he's in.

The problem is, that single stat is almost Kent's entire case for induction. He's nowhere near 3000 hits (he finished at 2461), he never got to 500 home runs (finishing with 377) and he doesn't have the warm personality or the defensive credentials that push borderline bats into the Hall.

As a second baseman, he sent 351 deep, 74 more than previous leader, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. Like "Ryno", Kent does have an MVP award, but the only stats he's ever lead his league in are extra-base hits (once), and sacrifice flies (twice). That's not exactly bulletin board material for the voters.

If you compare him to second basemen, Kent looks solid, if you compare him to Hall of Fame bats in general, or even to the best bats of his generation, his case is not overwhelming.

Mr Kent deserves his statistical comparison to his Hall of Fame peers. In this case, where we need power hitting second basemen, the options are limited. Out of necessity, I compared Kent to a group consisting of Rogers Hornsby, Bobby Doerr, Joe Morgan and Ryne Sandberg, there really aren't any additional matches among current Hall of Fame members.

Looking at seasons played (basing one season on 162 games), Kent played 14.2 full seasons compared to 13.7 for the control group. Amazingly, Kent does seem to compare well to the afore mentioned group.

He's in the neighborhood for hits (173 vs. 180) and runs (93 vs. 103), he has a clear edge in homers (27 vs. 19) and runs batted in (107 vs. 91), a surprisingly strong doubles total (39 vs. 32) and an OPS (.856 vs. .862) that's right in line. Offensively, the only place he doesn't match up is stolen bases (7 vs. 22), which is to be expected.

I would have to bet that Kent will indeed be elected to the Hall of Fame one day. I would guess it will take a few years on the ballot, but when the writers really look at his numbers compared to the greats at his position, they will have no choice but to vote him in. As far as my own personal vote, it's much the same. I'm not blown away by Kent's career, but in the end I don't suppose I can deny his offensive impact as a second baseman.

My vote is a very bland yes.

***You can read more of Todd s "Hall of Fame Trials" HERE.***

BallHype: hype it up!


DA said...

I know it's a odd hall of fame resume for a second basemen. We are looking at power numbers and rbi's, not gold gloves and stolen bases. That being said can the two people who voted no on the poll please explain to me the thought process as to why Jeff Kent(he of the soup strainer) isn't hall worthy?
I'm not being a jerk, I'd just like to hear the logic behind it.

joel kirstein said...

Hi Todd, I agree that Jeff Kent does have enough going for him as you astutely pointed out to get into the HOF. The fact that his reputation as a dick to the press and his teammates doesn't help his cause, but the fact that there are a number of different types of second sackers in the HOF works to his advantage. Both his longevity and his offensive productivity are his leverage for induction. He'll take his lumps from the BBWAA who will not vote for him just to mete out some payback. He is a luke warm candidate as opposed to more dimensional second sackers like Alomar and Biggio. Biggio is a lock for first year induction.