OF: Kenny Lofton
The Numbers: 68.2 WAR, 55.7 JAWS, .299/.372/.423, 2,428 hits, 1,528 runs, 622 steals, Six ASG, Four Gold Gloves, Five SB titles
In the early-to-mid-nineties, Lofton was in the conversation for best leadoff hitters in the league. The only reason he falls below the average JAWS total for Hall of Fame center fielders is because Willie Mays and Ty Cobb pull the average way up with their 115.0 and 110.0 numbers. Lofton is the ninth-best center fielder in baseball history based on JAWS, but fell off the ballot in 2013 with a 3.2% total. That’s a big travesty.
Raines, who will surely go into the Hall of Fame next year, outstripped Lofton by only 177 hits and played 23 seasons to Lofton’s 17. Rock edges Lofton out by 0.9 WAR. Perhaps playing in the Steroid Era hurts Lofton, but he was never tied to drug use. He came on the ballot the same year as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Also working against Lofton is the fact that injuries really affected his impact past the age of 30. Lofton played over 140 games in a season only once after turning 32. Had he been able to stay on the field, the leadoff man who made the potent Cleveland Indians offenses tick would easily have blown past 3,000 hits. Instead, he averaged only 130 games for his 16 full seasons in the league. Kenny Lofton had the power and the speed to go down as one of the great leadoff hitters of all time, but he ends up on the outside looking in.