January 3, 2013

Cooperstown 2013: Tim Raines

Sixth Year on Ballot (2012 - 48.7%)

Montreal Expos (1979–1990), Chicago White Sox (1991–1995), New York Yankees (1996–1998), Oakland Athletics (1999), Montreal Expos (2001), Baltimore Orioles (2001) and Florida Marlins (2002)

Career batting average of .294 with 2605 hits and 1571 runs scored. Hit .300 or better seven times. Led the National League in batting with a .334 average in 1986. 808 career stolen bases (fifth all-time) with an 85% success rate. Led National League in stolen bases four times and twice in runs scored. Put together six seasons with more than 100 runs scored. Seven-straight All-Star selections (1981-1987) and two World Series championships (1996 and 1998). Had number retired by Montreal Expos and holds their team record for runs scored, triples and stolen bases.

If the primary purpose of Tim Raines’ baseball existence was to get on base and set the table, then Raines was one of the best ever at his craft. Raines got on base nearly 4,000 times over the course of his career. Once he did get on base, Raines’ speed and base running intelligence gave pitchers headaches. His 808 career steals put Raines fifth all-time, while his 84.7% success rate is good for eleventh all-time. If Raines’ career numbers seem borderline to some, his peak puts him over the top. From 1981-1987, Raines combined for more than 1,700 hits and walks, stole more than 500 bases and put up a .310/.396/.448 slash. At his best, Raines exemplified the greatness that we honor in the Hall.

There is no doubt Raines’ numbers are strong, but are they Hall of Fame worthy? While his on-base percentage is strong, it is comparable to Hall of Fame near misses Keith Hernandez and Will Clark, as well as lesser lights like Tim Salmon and J.D. Drew. Even a more advanced metric like Fangraphs RC+ - which does an excellent job taking Raines’ base stealing abilities into account – ranks him 255th all-time. Attempts to adjust for position hurt Raines too. He spent most of his career in left field, a strong position historically. Raines limped to the finish line, with only one season with 500-plus plate appearances after he turned 33. Even if Raines belongs in the Hall, he may not be the slam-dunk some supporters suggest he is

 Mike Gianella has been writing about fantasy baseball at his own blog (Roto Think Tank) since 2007. He has participated in the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR), is a current owner in the CBS Sportsline and Tout Wars expert leagues, and has won four titles in the CBS leagues. Mike’s work can also be found in the Fantasy Baseball Guide, available on news stands in February 2013. Mike can be found on Twitter at @MikeGianella.


John Sharp said...

Tim Raines was a great player. He belong's in the Hall of Fame.

@OCP22 said...

Loved Rock... just oozed baseball bad assedness... but I think he just falls short of Cooperstown. In his prime, he was one of the best table setters of all-time, up there with Henderson but his prime was too short. He's as borderline as they get.

Left Field said...

wRC+ only rates Raines 255th all-time because if you use the Fangraphs "Qualified" limit, it includes everyone with 3000 or more plate appearances. When you're talking Hall of Fame, you should set the minimum higher. Raines had over 10,000 plate appearances in his career, so if you're going to use a rate stat to compare him to others, they should at least be in the ballpark in terms of number of PAs themselves. Setting the minimum at 8000 brings Raines up to 86th all-time. So, I think you unfairly discounted him based on that comparison. The same goes for SB%. The only guy ahead of him who has even close to half as many SB as Raines is Carlos Beltran. Calling him 11th all-time in that category is quite misleading.

Mike Gianella said...

Left Field:

The "11th all-time in SB%' was a supporting argument. I presented it with the overall steal total to attempt and create a clearer picture of how dominant Raines was in the category, not to denigrate his ability as a baserunner.

In regards to RC+, I absolutely agree that you could use RC instead to paint a picture of Raines' career totals. However, I think rather than diluting my point it emphasizes it. Raines is indeed 87th overall using RC. He's surrounded by some Hall of Famers...but he also has guys like Rusty Staub, Sammy Sosa, and Jason Giambi ranked ahead of him. I think Raines is better than all of those players but - again - some of the same metrics that the saber crowd uses to support Raines' case aren't necessarily his greatest ally.