The most-deserving players not in the Hall of Fame: Center fielders

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I recently asked 425 respondents to rank the most-deserving players at each position not in the Hall of Fame, ranging from 1 for most-deserving to 10 for least-deserving. With respect to Carlos Beltran, the results for center field might have surprised me most.

Again, I mean no disrespect to Beltran, who recently wrapped an outstanding career and compares favorably to numerous Hall of Famers. My friend Adam Darowski inducted Beltran into his Hall of Stats and ranks the former Kansas City Royals standout in front of Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson, and Roberto Alomar, among others. Still, I didn’t expect such a clear divide here between Beltran and the other nine center fielders on the ballot.

That said, having previously presented results for pitcherscatchersfirst basemensecond basementhird basemen, shortstops, and left fielders, here’s how voting went for center fielders.

Q8 – Rank the following center fielders, ranging from 1 for most-deserving of Hall of Fame induction to 10 for least-deserving

PlayerAverage ranking
Carlos Beltran2.34
Andruw Jones4.19
Kenny Lofton4.46
Dale Murphy4.52
Jim Edmonds4.67
Bernie Williams6.32
Curt Flood6.47
Cesar Cedeno6.63
Johnny Damon7.30
Jim Wynn8.10

[From a survey of 425 respondents, fielded via Qualtrics]

Perhaps Beltran benefits from having a recently-completed body of work. I also wonder if Beltran might’ve dropped a little in the results had I gone with my initial instinct to include Mike Trout as a candidate. I decided against it because Trout’s only in his ninth season. Still, somehow just days past his 28th birthday, Trout’s 71.7 WAR is already better than any man here. It’s also better than Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, or any other center fielder in baseball history through their first nine seasons.

A more detailed breakdown of the voting shows that Beltran wasn’t a consensus first pick. He got the fourth-fewest first-place votes of a position winner after Adrian Beltre (46), Joe Mauer (80), and Lou Whitaker (161), with Andruw Jones and Dale Murphy each siphoning a fair number of votes.


12345678910
Beltran19889582917169315
Cedeno2251935495966626840
Damon162017445763736777
Edmonds2059538671493625179
Flood36222521324644757252
Jones5265806541423026186
Lofton3273727147293734237
Murphy6560534543414443256
Williams16213531495765387637
Wynn3510253229314658186
Total425425425425425425425425425425

As I’ve been saying repeatedly through these posts, I’m struck again about the parity in the results between Jones, Murphy, and Kenny Lofton and Jim Edmonds. I wouldn’t really have a problem with any of these men being enshrined. Murphy’s long been a personal favorite. Jones, Lofton, and Edmonds are all underrated and, unfortunately, look destined to be for years to come.

With the help of filters via Qualtrics, here are some more findings:

  • The 65 voters who rated Dale Murphy the top center fielder ranked Roger Clemens behind Curt Schilling, 4.02 to 3.80, and Barry Bonds behind Shoeless Joe Jackson (and Lance Berkman), 4.42 to 2.35 (with 4.34 for Berkman.)
  • Generally, the more favorable a view that a voter held of Curt Flood — a standout center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals before he sacrificed his career challenging the Reserve Clause — the dimmer a view the voter tended to take of Clemens and Bonds. Because of Flood having such an unusually-wide distribution of votes, we can break it down a little further (rounding to the nearest tenth of a percent for Bonds and Clemens’ totals):
Flood12345678910
Bonds3.64.22.52.72.63.32.52.32.41.6
Clemens3.33.923.32.23.32.122.31.6
Votes36222521324644757252
  • Meanwhile, Bonds and Clemens fared better with the 282 voters who ranked Beltran, Jones, or Lofton first, with Bonds receiving an average ranking of 1.8 from these voters and Clemens receiving an average ranking from them of 1.84.

Beyond this, there isn’t too much else to say. If I field this survey again in the future, I might swap out Johnny Damon and Jim Wynn for Trout and either Reggie Smith (who was on a packed right field ballot) or Fred Lynn. It’s interesting to see a bit more support up top for Cesar Cedeno and Bernie Williams, though there’s a pretty clear division with them as well.

Anyhow, that’s all for now. We’ll finish up with right field tomorrow.

Just getting caught up? Check out results for pitcherscatchersfirst basemen, second basementhird basemenshortstops, and left fielders.

2 thoughts on “The most-deserving players not in the Hall of Fame: Center fielders”

  1. Among retired center fielders with at least 50 rWAR, here’s how they rank in WAR per 650 PA:

    1 Jim Edmonds 4.9
    2 Kenny Lofton 4.8
    3 Andruw Jones 4.7
    4 Chet Lemon 4.6
    5 Jim Wynn 4.5
    6 Cesar Cedeno 4.2
    7 Carlos Beltran 4.1
    8 Fred Lynn 4.1
    9 Willie Davis 4.0
    10 Ellis Burks 3.9

    Flood is at 3.9, Williams is at 3.6, and Damon and Murphy are at 3.3. Flood doesn’t have enough of a career – due to no fault of his own. Williams is probably the best candidate of the four. Damon and Murphy end up at the same WAR/650, but Murphy had a dominant peak that Damon never did.

    All time best center field WAR/650, with a minimum of 40 rWAR? Lenny Dykstra at 5.2! That name surprises me every time I see it. He’s followed by 19th century great Pete Browning at 5.0 – with much shorter seasons. They are the only two above Edmonds. It’s a travesty that he fell off the balott rather than be elected.

    But for whatever reason, center fielders have been held to a much higher standard of greatness by the writers. After Mantle, Mays, and Snider were elected, the writers waited 21 years before electing another center fielder – Puckett in 2001. Since then, they’ve added Dawson and Griffey. Only three center fielders in the past 40 years. While they passed on Edmonds, Lofton, and Jones – all no doubters by HoF standards.

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