Leaderboarding: Hard-hitting second basemen
In honor of Jeff Kent's Hall of Fame case, let's see where he ranks among the best offensive second basemen of all-time.
Earlier in this very space we ran down the Hall-of-Fame pros and cons of Jeff Kent, longtime, hard-hitting second baseman. As noted, Kent's raw offensive numbers are deeply impressive by the standards of the position, but they're leavened somewhat by the hitter-friendly era in which he played. So how do those two dueling considerations play out?
To put Kent and other great-hitting second basemen in context, we'll turn to a statistic we often use here: OPS+. OPS+ is simply the more familiar OPS (i.e., on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) adjusted to reflect league and ballpark conditions. An OPS+ of 100 means average, a figure of fewer than 100 is worse than average and a figure of more than 100 is better than average. For instance, an OPS+ of 110 is a park-adjusted OPS that's 10 percent better than the league mean, while an OPS+ of 87 is 13 percent worse than the league mean.
Now, in this episode of Leaderboarding, let's rank those players who logged at least 5,000 career plate appearances and played at least 75 percent of their career games at second base according to career OPS+.
To the big board ...
|Second basemen, sorted by career OPS+|
|Data courtesy of Baseball-Reference Play Index|
Among the 10 names above you find five Hall of Famers (Lajoie, Collins, Morgan, Gehringer and Lazzeri). As for Kent, as you can see he checks in at ninth all-time, so he could rake even by the high offensive standards of his era. Kent also places fourth on this list in terms of total plate appearances.
Other observations ... Yes, Utley has been that good on a rate basis. Yes, so has Cano. And, yes, Bobby Grich should probably be in the Hall (ditto for Lou Whitaker and his OPS+ of 117). Where's Rogers Hornsby? He was the greatest right-handed hitter of all-time (career OPS+ of 175), but he just misses the "at least 75 percent of career games must be played at second base" criterion.