Hall Watch 2004-The Second Basemen-Jeff Kent, Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio (Part 2)

Wednesday, November 24 2004 @ 09:19 AM EST

Contributed by: Mike Green

Letís move on to the current Hall 2nd base contenders.

Jeff Kent

Jeff Kent tacked on a solid .289/.348/.538 campaign at age 36 in 2004. Although he has been, in my view, the best of the second basemen of the era, he is unlikely to be recognized as such unless he continues his late career performance for several more years.

Jeff Kent was drafted in the 20th round of the 1989 draft by the Jays. He made stops in St. Catherines, Dunedin and Knoxville in 1989-91, playing some third base and some second base. In Knoxville, at age 23, he hit .256/.379/.418 with 12 homers in 445 at-bats. If one is looking for an Aaron Hill comparable, Jeff Kent might make the list. Anyway, he made the big squad in 1992 and played 65 games, mostly at third (Roberto Alomar of course held the second base job, and was the best in baseball at the time). Kent played well, but the Jays dealt him and Ryan Thompson to the Mets for David Cone. The Mets moved him to second base, and he gave them 3 and Ĺ fine years. In 1996, the Mets moved him back to third base, so Jose Vizcaino could play second. He was traded in the middle of 1996 to Cleveland with Vizcaino for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza. Cleveland moved him back to second, and after the 1996 season traded him to San Francisco for Matt Williams. Kent flourished in San Fran producing 5 Hall of Fame caliber seasons in a row from 1998-2002, and won an MVP award in 2000. He left San Fran as a free agent after 2002 and had 2 fine seasons in Houston. He is presently a free agent.

On to the offensive statistics, repeated from Part 1:

BBWAA Hall of Fame selections

Player        G     AB     H     HR    W     BA     OBP   SLUG  OPS+

Lajoie 2480 9589 3242 83 516 .338 .380 .467 150
Collins 2826 9949 3315 47 1499 .333 .424 .429 141
Hornsby 2259 8173 2930 301 1038 .358 .434 .577 175
Frisch 2311 9112 2880 105 1098 .316 .369 .432 111
Gehringer 2323 8860 2839 184 1186 .320 .404 .480 124
Jackie 1382 4877 1518 137 740 .311 .409 .474 132
Carew 2469 9315 3053 92 1018 .328 .393 .429 131
Morgan 2649 9277 2517 268 1865 .271 .392 .427 132

Veteran's Committee choices

Player        G     AB     H     HR    W     BA    OBP   SLUG   OPS+
Evers 1784 6137 1659 12 778 .270 .356 .334 106
Herman 1922 7707 2345 47 737 .304 .367 .407 112
Doerr 1865 7093 2042 223 809 .288 .362 .461 115
Schoendienst 2216 8479 2449 84 606 .289 .337 .387 93
Lazzeri 1740 6297 1840 178 869 .292 .380 .467 121
Fox 2367 9232 2663 35 719 .288 .348 .363 94
Maz 2163 7755 2016 138 447 .260 .299 .367 84

The Outsiders

Player        G     AB     H     HR    W     BA    OBP   SLUG   OPS+
Doyle 1766 6509 1887 74 625 .290 .357 .408 126
Gordon 1566 5707 1530 253 759 .268 .357 .468 120
Grich 2008 6890 1833 224 1087 .266 .371 .424 125
Whitaker 2390 8570 2369 244 1197 .276 .363 .426 117

The Contenders

Player        G     AB     H     HR    W     BA    OBP   SLUG   OPS+
Alomar (36) 2379 9073 2724 210 1032 .300 .371 .443 116
Kent (36) 1777 6604 1910 302 592 .289 .352 .505 125
Biggio (38) 2409 9221 2639 234 1060 .286 .373 .435 116

Defensively, Kent is the only one of the current 3 contenders who has not won a Gold Glove, but his defensive statistics were superior to both Alomarís and Biggioís. Zone ratings for the three for the period 2001-2004 courtesy of espn.com are:

          2004     2003     2002     2001
Kent .828 .802 .797 .855
Alomar .705 .763 .789 .789
Biggio .796 .779

I have also MGLís UZR in 2003 for Alomar (-27) and Kent (10).

Finally, the Stats Inc. Baseball Scoreboard 1998 provides 5 year double play conversion rates and 3 year zone ratings. Jeff Kent converted 65.1% of double play opportunities during the period 1992-97, and was second behind Bret Boone (min. 250 opportunities) during the period. Roberto Alomar converted 58.2% of double play opportunities, and was below average in this respect. Craig Biggio converted 52.9% of opportunities and was near the bottom of the league. Zone ratings for 1995-97 told a similar story: Kentís was .923; Alomar .911 and Biggio .887 (Stats. Inc. apparently uses a different scale now than they did in 1995-97).

Roberto Alomar won 10 Gold Gloves in 11 years from 1991-2001. Craig Biggio won 4 Gold Gloves in a row from 1994-97. Jeff Kent won none. Subjectively, I agree completely with the statistics in this case. Jeff Kent has a nice, solid pivot, and he hangs in. Alomar makes the occasional spectacular play but bails on the DP. Biggio was a converted catcher, who adjusted admirably to become an adequate second baseman by 1997, but he was not in Kentís league either.

Overall, I would rate Kent as a B+ defensive second baseman. Alomar would be a C+ defensive second baseman, and Biggio a C defensive second baseman.

So, should Jeff Kent be in Hall of Fame? Will he? His performance has been quite comparable with Doyle and Grich to date, and he may have 2 or 3 seasons left. That means, for me, he should clearly be in now, even if his career ended tomorrow. As for his chances, that is more difficult. It is likely that Roberto Alomar will be seen as the greatest second baseman of the 90s thanks to his Gold Gloves, and the 3000 hits heís likely to have when he finishes. If the past is an indicator, that means Alomar gets the baseball writerís vote, and Kentís election will depend on the Veteransí Committee. Iíd guess that Biggio will get more support from the BBWAA than Kent, and later the Veteransí Committee, and that Kent will be out. Now, if he were to find his way onto a champion, and contribute mightily over the next couple of years, the calculus might be different.

Roberto Alomar

Roberto Alomar is the son of long-time major league second baseman Sandy Alomar. He was signed at age 17 by the San Diego Padres, had a season and a half in A ball, dominated double A at age 19, and made the majors at age 20. He immediately hit for a respectable batting average, with average plate discipline. He was fast. On December 5, 1990, he was traded along with Joe Carter to the Jays for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. He developed some power and improved his plate discipline. By 1992-93, he was one of the best hitters in the league, and was a key element of the Jaysí World Series victories. His memorable home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 playoffs was a marking point in the franchiseís history.

After leaving Toronto in 1995, he had 3 excellent seasons in Baltimore and 3 more in Cleveland, with the last in 2001 at age 33. He has had 3 poor seasons since, with last seasonís .263/.321/.392 being a typical performance.

Should Roberto be in the Hall of Fame? Will he? In my view, though he has not been as good offensively or defensively as Kent, Alomar should be a Hall of Famer, due to the quality and length of his offensive prime. He has been one of the top 20 second baseman of the 20th century, and that should be good enough. I figure that two second baseman per decade is a reasonable average. Alomar will definitely go to the Hall- his hit total, his Gold Gloves and his playoff performance in my view, pretty much guarantee that; I just cannot see a second baseman who has won 11 Gold Gloves and has 3,000 hits not being there.

Craig Biggio

Craig Biggioís story is one of adjustment. The Astros chose him with the 22nd pick of the first round of the 1987 draft as a catcher. He tore up A ball for Ĺ a season in 1987, and then dominated triple A pitching for 3-4 months before getting the call to the bigs in late 1988. He caught 3 seasons, and hit well for a catcher. In 1992, the Astros moved him to second base. He flourished and gave them 9 consecutive years of excellent offense. His defence was very poor his first few years, but improved to slightly above average by 1996-97, and then started to decline with age again.

His offence began to decline in 2002. In 2003, the Astros acquired Jeff Kent, and Biggio was moved to centerfield. Halfway through 2004, he moved again, this time after Carlos Beltran was acquired by the Astros. His offence has stabilized at an average level for an outfielder, as he hit .281/.337/.469 at age 38 in 2004.

Should Craig Biggio be in the Hall of Fame? Will he? Biggio has played longer than Lou Whitaker with about the same level of offensive performance, and as long as Frankie Frisch with better performance. He was for several years the best leadoff hitter in the game and a fine second baseman. Overall, though, his defence was not up to their level, in my view, and I make him a marginal Hall of Famer.. On the other hand, I expect that he will eventually make it. He should finish up with 2700-2800 hits, four Gold Gloves, and a name (as one of the Killer Bs).

Iíll be back next week with the shortstops.