Former-Dodger Jeff Kent's Hall Of Fame Odds Are Better Than They Appear

Graham Womack

Jon SooHoo, L.A. Dodgers

At first glance, Jeff Kent’s Hall of Fame odds might not seem that great.

Through 131 known ballots as of Sunday afternoon, the former second baseman, who played his final four seasons with the Dodgers, had received 28.2 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). While it’s markedly better than Kent's other six appearances on the ballot thus far, it remains well short of the 75 percent he needs for induction.

That said, it’s starting to look reasonably possible he  will eventually be enshrined through the second tier of selection, what’s colloquially known as the Veterans Committee.

Earliest Kent would be enshrined: At this point, it’s a foregone conclusion Kent won’t hit 75 percent with the writers. So long as he receives at least 5 percent of the vote each year, he can stay on the writers’ ballot through the 2023 election. That would slate Kent for review in the 2024 election by the Today’s Game Era Committee, which reviews players who’ve had their greatest impact since 1988 and been retired at least 16 years.

Why Kent  could be enshrined: Getting 20 percent of the writers’ vote might sound like a pitiful showing for a Hall of Fame candidate. It’s actually a fairly good indicator that he could eventually go in -- better than 50 percent.

For whatever reason, BBWAA voting has long been a good predictor of future veterans’ selections, even if the trend has bucked somewhat in recent years with picks like Harold Baines, who never got 10 percent of the vote in four years on the ballot, and Ted Simmons, who topped out at 3.7 percent with the writers.

Kent has other factors working in his favor. Adam Darowski has Kent in his Hall of Stats. Jay Jaffe’s JAWS metric rates Kent as the 20th-best second baseman of all-time, with 12 of the men in front of him enshrined. The seven second baseman with a higher JAWS rating who aren’t in Cooperstown are unlikely, for varying reasons, to block Kent’s path there.

Robinson Cano is still playing. Lou Whitaker, Bobby Grich and Willie Randolph fall into different eras than Kent, which matters since the Hall of Fame has, since 2010, considered veteran candidates by the era they fall into.

Meanwhile, Chase Utley will hit the writers’ ballot in 2024 and should stay on for at least a few years. It’s harder to say if this will happen for Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia, though even if they quickly fall off the writers’ ballot, they’re unlikely to hit the veterans ballot for many years, given current rules.

All of this is to say that so much of Hall of Fame voting is about timing, and Kent  might benefit from it as a veterans candidate.

There are other reasons to like Kent’s chances as a veterans selection, from his National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2000 to his place as one of the better-hitting second basemen in baseball history, with his 123 OPS+ 13th-best among all second basemen in baseball history.

Graham Womack has written about baseball for a variety of publications, including Sporting News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Sports on Earth. He lives in Northern California with his wife Kate and their animals.