Kenny Lofton played centerfield in the era of superstar outfielders. His career gets overshadowed by the likes of Sammy Sosa, Andruw Jones, Barry Bonds, and Ken Griffey Jr. But that does not mean Lofton was not an all-time great in centerfield in his own right. Sure Lofton was voted out of Cooperstown in 2013, but that does not mean that he should not get a plaque in the Hall of Very Good!
MLB Hall of Fame: The Case for Kenny Lofton
A career .299 hitter, Lofton was a staple at the lead-off spot for any team he played for. Playing the majority of his career in Cleveland, he made six straight All-Star teams from 1994-1999. Considering the outfielders in the American League at the time, cracking the squad is nothing to scoff at.
Another key attribute of Lofton was his ability to steal bases. A success rate of 79.5% for a career 622 stolen bases is very respectable of a lead-off man. Add in that from 1992-1996, he nabbed at least 50 bags each season and even approached 75 bases in the ’96 campaign. The Cleveland centerfielder is recognized as one of the better base stealers of all time.
Looking at his career WAR of 68.4, that registers tenth all-time for centerfielders, better than Andruw Jones, and Hall of Famer Andre Dawson. Now that may be higher than both Jones and Dawson due to the 17 seasons played by Lofton. But his WAR7 (sum of his seven best WAR seasons) is twelfth all-time for centerfielders, still higher than Dawson, but worse than Jones.
Kenny Lofton’s biggest case for the Hall of Very Good is his career JAWS of 55.9, which registers in the ten best for centerfielders.
72% of the time Kenny Lofton should make the Hall of Fame. Let that sink in. But looking at his class, it is a shock why the longtime Cleveland outfielder did not stay on the ballot.
The 2013 MLB Hall of Fame Top Vote-Getters
It is no question that Biggio, Morris, Bagwell, and Piazza are all more deserving than Lofton. However, the argument starts at Tim Raines. Raines’s career WAR is 69.4, a point higher than Lofton’s. But Lofton’s WAR7 of 43.4 is higher than Raines’s of 42.4. The eye-raising statistic was the fact that both players’ JAWS were equivalent. Raines got the Hall of Fame nod in 2017, and Lofton was voted out.
Outside of his six All-Star appearances and four gold gloves, Lofton never had any individual accolades. Looking at Raines, whose case was relatively similar, the former Expo had a batting title and a silver slugger. As mentioned, Kenny Lofton fell short of these accolades because he was in the race for silver sluggers and batting titles with some of the best outfielders of all time. But when talking about the best of the best, nitpicking occurs, and the lack of individual accolades will not do it for Cooperstown.
Kenny Lofton never had any team success either. Two world series losses in his career, one with San Francisco in 2002 and the other with Cleveland in 1995, the illustrious World Series trophy has alluded him.
His playoff statistics are nowhere near as strong as his regular-season statistics as well. From the regular season to postseason, his career batting average drops 50 points in the playoffs. Add in his on-base % drops of almost 60 percent come playoff time, and Lofton’s lack of playoff team and player success made it easier to keep him out of Cooperstown. But he is still good enough for the Hall of Very Good!
Welcome to the Hall of Very Good, Kenny Lofton!
The well-traveled centerfielder had his prime in a very talented era during the 1990s. With advanced statistics such as JAWS and WAR7 that stack up with other Hall of Famers, Lofton’s Cooperstown case might be a tad different if his prime was ten years earlier.
If’s and but’s were candy and nuts, then it would be Christmas all year, and Lofton did play in the ’90s! So unfortunately Lofton fell out of the ballot in 2013. However, the star outfielder still deserves some recognition.
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