LGFT*: Kenny Lofton

 

                                                                                                     
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1991 24 HOU NL 20 79 74 9 15 1 0 0 0 2 1 5 19 .203 .253 .216 .469 38
1992 25 CLE AL 148 651 576 96 164 15 8 5 42 66 12 68 54 .285 .362 .365 .726 106
1993 26 CLE AL 148 657 569 116 185 28 8 1 42 70 14 81 83 .325 .408 .408 .815 121
1994 27 CLE AL 112 523 459 105 160 32 9 12 57 60 12 52 56 .349 .412 .536 .948 144
1995 28 CLE AL 118 529 481 93 149 22 13 7 53 54 15 40 49 .310 .362 .453 .815 110
1996 29 CLE AL 154 736 662 132 210 35 4 14 67 75 17 61 82 .317 .372 .446 .817 107
1997 30 ATL NL 122 564 493 90 164 20 6 5 48 27 20 64 83 .333 .409 .428 .837 119
1998 31 CLE AL 154 698 600 101 169 31 6 12 64 54 10 87 80 .282 .371 .413 .785 102
1999 32 CLE AL 120 560 465 110 140 28 6 7 39 25 6 79 84 .301 .405 .432 .838 111
2000 33 CLE AL 137 640 543 107 151 23 5 15 73 30 7 79 72 .278 .369 .422 .791 100
2001 34 CLE AL 133 576 517 91 135 21 4 14 66 16 8 47 69 .261 .322 .398 .721 89
2002 35 TOT MLB 139 611 532 98 139 30 9 11 51 29 11 72 73 .261 .350 .414 .763 102
2003 36 TOT NL 140 610 547 97 162 32 8 12 46 30 9 46 51 .296 .352 .450 .801 106
2004 37 NYY AL 83 313 276 51 76 10 7 3 18 7 3 31 27 .275 .346 .395 .741 95
2005 38 PHI NL 110 406 367 67 123 15 5 2 36 22 3 32 41 .335 .392 .420 .811 109
2006 39 LAD NL 129 522 469 79 141 15 12 3 41 32 5 45 42 .301 .360 .403 .763 95
2007 40 TOT AL 136 559 490 86 145 25 6 7 38 23 7 56 51 .296 .367 .414 .781 105
17 Seasons 2103 9234 8120 1528 2428 383 116 130 781 622 160 945 1016 .299 .372 .423 .794 107
162 Game Avg. 162 711 626 118 187 30 9 10 60 48 12 73 78 .299 .372 .423 .794 107

Provided by "Baseball-Reference.com":http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/sharing.shtml: "View Original Table":http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/l/loftoke01.shtml#batting_standard Generated 8/7/2010.

All-Star Appearances: 6 (1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999)

Gold Gloves (OF): 5 (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996)

Top-10 MVP: 1 (1994-4)

By the time the Astros traded Kenny Lofton, the former college basketball player was rounding into a baseball player. Drafted in 1988 for his athletic tools despite playing only briefly on the Arizona baseball team, Kenny became a polished hitter, hitting .308/.367/.417 with 17 triples and 40 stolen bases with AAA Tucson despite skipping AA. He was already 24, but again, had only been playing high-level baseball for three years. He appeared briefly with the Astros late that season, but was overpowered in 79 plate appearances

The trade that would go down as one of the best in franchise history happened the December after his breakout season. Steve Finley was a fixture in center field, and the Astros were going to move Craig Biggio from behind the plate to second base, where he wouldn't be as subject to injury. The Indians, after living through the Alex Cole Experience, needed a center fielder, and after Sandy Alomar's Rookie of the Year campaign, had a major-league ready catcher to trade. The Indians added a young pitcher to the pot, and the trade was finalized on December 10, 1991: C Eddie Taubensee and RHP Willie Blair for CF Kenny Lofton.

Lofton was given the starting center field job by a club that had lost a franchise-worst 105 games the previous season. Patience was something the Indians could afford, and it paid off with Lofton, who hit .261/.326/.329 in the first half but broke out in the second half, hitting .312/.400/.405 after the break. He stole 66 bases, which led the league. He should have won the AL Rookie of the Year award but instead finished second to Milwaukee shortstop Pat Listach.

Lofton was a great athlete, making leaping catches in center field that few would dare attempt, and stealing bases with abandon. But what set him apart from similar players was at the plate. He could hit for average, yes, but supplemented average with on-base skills, drawing almost as many walks as strikeouts, bringing him more opportunities to steal a base. With Lofton at the top of the order causing havoc, the Indians were forming a lineup that would become, in the mid-90s, one of the best in baseball history.

Lofton was one of many hurt by the 1994 strike; when play ended in August, he was in the midst of what would be his best offensive seasons. He finished with a .349/.412/.536 line, won his second straight gold glove, and finished fourth in MVP voting behind Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey, Jr., and teammate Albert Belle. Next year, in another truncated season, he didn't hit for as much power, but posted a 110 OPS+ (.815 OPS) and led the league in stolen bases a fourth straight season. The Indians won the pennant for the first time in 41 years, and Lofton played in what would be the first of 11 Octobers.That postseason he scored a pivotal run in Game 6 of the 1995 ALCS, scoring from second on a wild pitch, a play that remains one of the most celebrated in franchise history.

After another fantastic season in 1996, Indians GM John Hart made one of his most audacious trades, dealing Lofton, who was one season from free agency, to the Atlanta Braves for David Justice and Marquis Grissom. The Indians were stinging from the departure of Albert Belle to the rival White Sox, and it appeared that Hart was not willing to see a repeat with Lofton. While the Indians would have a worse regular season than the Braves, they came within two outs of a World Series title, and Lofton would return to his old team for less than he had demanded before the 1997 season.  He was 30 years old now, the age when base stealers are usually declining, and although he had a successful offensive season in Atlanta, he was caught 20 times in 47 attempts.

In his second stint with the Indians, Kenny would regain his stolen base prowess, stealing 109 in his first three seasons back with the team. But in the final year of his contract (2001), he had one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, hitting .261/.322/.398 and stealing just 16 bases. The Indians, saddled with an expensive, aging team, didn't make an attempt to re-sign Lofton.

Thus began a nomadic back stretch of a career almost as impressive as his first years. Lofton first took a big pay cut, signing with the White Sox as their center fielder. With Chicago out of the race, he was dealt to the San Francisco Giants, and played in his second and final World Series, making the final out of Game 7. No contender was interested in him, so he signed with Pittsburgh in 2003, putting together another solid season, and was dealt to the Cubs in July. He was in center field in Game 6 of the NLCS when Steve Bartman reached over to take the ball away from Moises Alou. He signed with the Yankees in 2004, and DHed in Games 1, 2, and 7 of that famous series. He would miss the playoffs for the first time since 2000 while with Philadelphia in 2005, but he'd be back playing in October with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006.

His final(?) season started with his 11th different team, the Texas Rangers. With the Rangers out of the race early, he was dealt to another playoff contender, this time the club with whom he had had his best seasons. He arrived in Cleveland a relic of another era; almost all the players on the 2001 team were gone, so he served as a link from past to present glory, and it would have been a storybook ending for the 40-year-old outfielder to end his career finally winning a World Series with the team that gave him his big break and for a city that treated him as one of their own. It was not to be, for Lofton would endure another difficult playoff loss, this time losing the ALCS to Boston after taking a 3 games to 1 lead.

Despite hitting .296/.367/.414 in 2007, no team offered him a major-league contract. Though he hasn't formally retired, and still looks fit enough to run down fly balls, he's finished. But what a career he's had, stealing 622 bases (15th All-Time), stealing an All-Time best 66 bases in a rookie season, collecting 116 triples, 2,428 hits, 945 walks, 1,528 runs scored. He finished his career with .299 batting average (9,234 PA). He ranks high in many franchise career leaderboards, including WAR (5th), Batting Average (23rd), On-Base Percentage (27th), Games Played (14th), At Bats (10th), Plate Appearances (10th), Runs Scored (3rd, behind Earl Averill and Tris Speaker), Hits (9th), Total Bases (10th), Doubles (11th), Triples (13th, the only post-1960 player in the Top 20), Walks (11th), Singles (9th), Runs Created (8th), Extra Base Hits (14th), Times on Base (9th), and is the franchise leader in stolen bases (452), 173 higher than the next-highest player. He's almost a marginal Baseball Hall of Famer, but a no-doubt choice for the Indians Hall of Fame.

*Let's Go Former Tribe.

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