Is Jeff Kent a Hall of Famer?

Posted By on January 21, 2009 3:19 pm

Now that he has retired, this is certain to be a hot topic on the baseball airwaves and blogs over the next couple days. Without delving too deeply into his numbers — I have five years to figure it out — I’d say that Kent is close, but no sure thing.

One thing I’m sure of is that any decision on his Hall of Fame status ought be determined solely by what he did at the plate, without the phrase “for a second baseman.”

Because he wasn’t a second baseman. He was a guy who played second base.

The whole reason that defensive positions come into play when analyzing a player’s offense is that it says something about a guy who puts up good offensive numbers at a traditionally defensive position. Thing is, that really should only apply to players who are actually, you know, good defensively. Kent was never much of a second baseman. He was a miscast first baseman or third baseman. As a first baseman, he’d look a lot like Steve Garvey, a borderline HOF candidate.

(Baseball-reference compares Kent mostly to some of the best offensive catchers of all time. Those guys are in the Hall of Fame because they were good defensively, too.)

Comments

6 Responses to “Is Jeff Kent a Hall of Famer?”

  1. Mark says:

    Was Jeff Kent a great defensive secondbasemen? No, but he was more then just a firstbasemen playing secondbase. The UZL data available at Fangraphs shows Jeff to have actually been an above average defensive 2B in his last Giants year (2002) and his two Astros years (2003 and 2004). He did stink in all four of his Dodger years so perhaps these last four years of his career he was by then a firstbaseman playing secondbase. But to say this is correct for his whole career is simply false.

    Jeff actually started his career playing as much thirdbase as secondbase but ended up at secondbase because he struggled much more with the long accurate throws required at thirdbase then he did with the range required at secondbase.

    Should Jeff’s defense be including in evaluating his canidacy for the Hall of Fame?

    Absolutely. Subtact however many runs you figure his defense differed from an average secondbasemen from however many runs you figure his bat added compared to an average secondbasemen and see where you are.

    My judgement is that the runs Jeff’s offensive produced even when adjusted downward for his defense was in the top 50% of secondbasemen already in the Hall of Fame. Therefore, in my opinion Jeff Kent is indeed a Hall Of Famer and should go in as a Giant.

  2. Jessie says:

    I think his offensive numbers will get him in, but I agree with you, when people think of the “best ever second basemen,” I think they’ll still think Joe Morgan, or Ryne Sandberg before the name Jeff Kent even flashes in their mind.

    I think you’d even have to put Roberto Alomar above Kent.

  3. Jessie says:

    I think being one of the best offensive weapons at your position makes most people forget about defense when mulling over Hall considerations. Mike Piazza is a perfect example. He threw so poorly that people had to wonder if he should have tried throwing left handed…but few will doubt he belongs in The Hall. Frank Thomas is another example of this. BR/BR/It goes the other way as well. Omar Vizquel and Ozzie Smith were wonders in the field that no one will soon forget for their defensive prowess but no one is going to mistake them for A-Rod or Jeter when it came to swinging the bat.

  4. Jeff Fletcher says:

    Mark, my point was just that he doesn’t get any “bonus points” for being a second baseman. Being a little above average part of your career and terrible for part of your career is not Hall of Fame defense. If he gets in (and I’m not saying he won’t) it should be based solely on his offense. Whether his offensive production (in relation to other players of his era) is Hall-worthy is a matter of debate.

  5. Mark says:

    Jeff,

    I thought you might like to know that Tom Tango agrees with you on < a href="http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/article/sabermetric_neophytes_meet_jeff_kent>this.

  6. [...] Kent’s offensive numbers shouldn’t be taken in context of his position because he was so bad at his position. I had a conversation with A’s assistant GM David Forst about it on Thursday, and he [...]

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